Saturday, March 5, 2022

[BIRMINGHAM] An Impromptu History Refresher

Alabama came out of the blue. In my itinerary at least. Knowing that I would be spending a week in Atlanta to apply for the Bahamas visa, I wanted a short weekend getaway that wouldn’t be too far. Searching for random routes on Megabus, only Alabama fell within that category. Either I go to Birmingham or Montgomery. In the end, the destination with the more suitable travel time and schedule won. Off to Birmingham we go then. The problem? What is there to see in Alabama?

I honestly had no idea. I only visited Birmingham’s Wikitravel page the morning of my sightseeing while in between shifts. After logging out, I packed my big suitcase to prepare for checkout, to be left there at the accommodation for pick up later. My backpack, I decided to bring with me along with all my valuables. March is already cool and pleasant spring in the south, and what I thought would be a chilly walk ended up being a refreshing stroll despite the sun hiding behind the clouds most of the time.

There was no itinerary per se, just wandering around like I always do. Reaching the first overpass south of Fountain Park, I followed the highway towards the direction of the inner city and just stumbled upon random buildings here and there. First came, though, a cemetery. Too morbid for a chill morning, I know, so I said pass. Across the street is a sneak peek of Birmingham’s skyline, which isn’t much compared to other American cities, but imposing nonetheless, perhaps due to the lack of other attractions to see.

What came next were two sports stadiums and an events venue, all three of them huge but not that aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. We get it, Alabama. You love sports and random events. It was only when I passed by BJCC heading farther south that the attractions became more and more interesting as they took a turn from large yet dull event venues to buildings housing works of art. Reaching a big green square, you will find the Birmingham Museum of Art and Southwell Auditorium flanking it to the north.

This seems to be the centerpiece of the city and from here on your sightseeing will mostly be composed of high-rise buildings subscribing to different architectural styles. You have the city capitol to the west which looks like most other capitols I’ve seen in ‘Merica. Some statues here and there. Skyscrapers made of brick that go all the way back to the city’s rather young historical foundation. A couple of churches here and there as well as a theater with ALABAMA bordered by flashing light bulbs at the façade.

I guess that’s how you go about classifying cities here in ‘Merica. You have the huge megalopolis which can be chaotic and defo crowded. And then you have the sleepy medium-tiered ones which seem like perfect relocation options if you are already retired and simply trying to live your life away from the fast lane. Birmingham is just like that in my book. Some other cities that come to mind that I can compare are Albany and Buffalo. Now it seems clear to me what all those pop song lyrics about growing up in a small town and moving to the big city to chase one’s dreams are all about. Maybe it's not about the size but the overall vibe?

Another thing that stood out in my pedestrian tour of Birmingham is its role in civil rights movements. There are certain roads that are littered with colorful info boards describing some of the related historical tidbits in detail. What you get is a city that is well-aware of its history as well as the sacrifices its inhabitants had to make to get them where they are now. And I guess that’s one thing I appreciated about Birmingham. It’s like a living testament to ‘Merica’s contemporary history along racial lines. If you need to brush up on that topic, then Birmingham is not a bad place to start your journey to enlightenment.

But yeah, I was bored. Maybe because I went out on a Sunday and the city was pretty much dead? Oh well, perhaps I will never know. But that’s enough Alabama for me for the time being. From here, you can head back to Atlanta with Megabus or go farther north to Memphis, Tennessee. Don't forget the time difference between Alabama and Georgia. That weirded me out for a bit back there until I realized it.

[BIRMINGHAM] An Impromptu History Refresher

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