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Washington and KDD 2022 visit

During my three-month visit in Boston, Marinka and I went to visit Washington between Saturday, August 13, 2022 and Tuesday, August 16. The conference started on Sunday, so we had a day before to go around. Also we took time after sessions and time before flight on Tuesday to explore Washington.

Washington center seems very clean. Also most of the museums are free to enter, so cheap to visit. You just need to reserve in advance otherwise you cannot get tickets. Some sites charge $1 for a reservation – probably for the people to be more serious.

We checked some Web sites to get a feeling what we can see (The Culture Trip’s was probably the most useful). One of the first things to check is the transportation. We took Uber to and from the airport. As our hotel was close to the KDD venue, we could walk to get close to all the things of interest. Pentagon site was a bit farther but I took a longer run an evening to get around that part. An alternative would be to take WMATA’s 3-day transportation pass for 28 USD. You can also buy more expensive City Cards that include hop-on-off busses but I believe their are not needed (especially when you find out that most museums are offering free entrance 😊).

Our Washington POIs

We did not have time to visit the National Cathedral which was a bit further from the hotel. Also, the Space Museum was temporarily closed (planned to be open in October 14).

Still, we would not visit the Space Museum. In my opinion the best Space-related experience you can get is in Houston’s NASA Center. The second option would be Florida’s Cape Canaveral – but is more children oriented. There the most interested things are large hangars and rocket launchers.

Otherwise, I believe you can get everything from the US culture and everything from all the parts of the US here in Washington.

Saturday, August 13

We landed at 6:36am in Washington, so we directly headed to the hotel (Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown-Convention Center) to drop off luggage and started walking around. We visited the following:

  • The White House: You could also visit it but you need to make a reservation in advance – at least 21 days for the background check. Also, an important person needs to vouch for you (e.g., a member of Congress).
  • Washington Monument and the National Mall: The park around is huge and lifted a bit. Online ticket reservation costs $1 but we were to late to reserve. Still, they offer first-come first-served tickets everyday at 8:45am to anyone. We arrived at 8:15am, waited an hour to get to the counter but guys two places ahead got the last tickets for the day. I decided to get up early Tuesday morning to get the tickets. So we went up on Tuesday (see views from the monument below).
  • World War II Memorial: There are many memorials around. Also, instructions by George Washington to the architect that developed the city was to define structure of a city in way that future memorials could be installed. The rounded memorial lists all the states.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial: Large concrete-based sculpture of Martin Luther watching towards the Jefferson Memorial. The memorial is nicely visible across the lake.
  • Lincoln Memorial: An enormous memorial with the Lincoln’s statue inside. The memorial is directly visible from the Washington Mall. It offers back the great view through the park, directly to the Capitol.
  • Korean War Veterans Memorial: This memorial consists of lists of soldiers killed during the war. Also, soldier-like sculptures in a formation give a special atmosphere.
  • John F. Kennedy center: The center offers artistic shows, operas, and other events, … This year there was a 50-year celebrations. During the walk-in we also found a Slovenian flag.
  • Supreme Court of the United States: The court was closed to public due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
  • First Air Mail Flight Marker: The marker represents a monument to the first regular Air Mail that started to operate in 1918 between Washington and New York.

At that time Marinka went to see the Jefferson memorial and to take a break. I went across the road to a park, where I had a 2-hour meeting via Zoom – ESSLLI 2022 Steering Committee. As I am the organizer of ESSLLI 2023 in Ljubljana, and was not attending ESSLLI 2022 in person, needed to attend the meeting.

After the meeting we walked back through the park, by the Capitol to see the Library.

  • Library of Congress: This is the largest library in the World. The architecture is amazing. Reading rooms are also available – of course limited. There we met Marko Grobelnik and his son Adrian. Therefore we started multiple research-related debates and did not even notice we were left alone in the building after the library closed. When we wanted to exit, the guards intercepted us, examined us and guided us to exit through a back entrance.
  • Ben’s Chili Bowl: During the day we actually did not eat – except some fruit and water. We decided to visit the “The most prominent location for half-smoke is often cited as Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington’s U Street neighborhood, which has long been a center of Black Washington, and was an essential stop for President-elect Barack Obama in 2009.” Half-smoke is a half-pork half-beef hot-dog with chili. It should be a specialty/city-known food. In my opinion, it was not that special. But it tasted good as I was hungry.

Sunday, August 14

After the breakfast in the hotel we went to the conference venue. Marinka had two keynotes to deliver at the conference.

After the sessions I went to:

  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum: Very informative museum with descriptions of happenings before and during the WW II. When reading about sanctions against Germany, political conference, you could draw some parallels to current happenings in Europe and the World in 2022 – war :(. In the museum you can follow life stories, see train trailers people were transported to camps, real shoes and smell of gassed people, … 🙁
  • American History Museum: A large museum where you can see all aspects of developments in the US – nature, transportation on land/see, architecture, science, engineering, army, politics, … I would say a US-connecting museum.

Monday, August 15

After the sessions I visited the US Capitol: The visitor center is located beneath the Capitol. First we were shown a short movie with the history of the Capitol and the democracy development in the US. After the visit you can really grasp the importance of the right to vote in the US – I wish we would have such enthusiasm in the EU. In the second part of the tour we walked through the main halls (connecting both wings) and discussed all the monuments. It is interesting that they need to be positioned all across as the floor broke multiple times already due to their weight.

I wanted to see the Pentagon and some related memorials, so I ran across the river (17km altogether):

  • The Pentagon: It was closed for visitors. Otherwise it is also one of the main attractions you need to book in advance.
  • National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: A memorial next to Pentagon that was under renovation.
  • Air Force Memorial: The memorial sits on a hill with an overlook over Washington and Pentagon.
  • Arlington National Cemetery and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: It is an american-style cemetery with roads between the graveyards. In front of the Tomb there was a soldier walking up and down – it was as serious as London’s guards and people were filming him.

As I was a bit tired I did not pass by US Marine Corps Memorial and Georgetown Waterfront Park, so I headed directly back to the hotel.

Tuesday, August 16

This was our last day at the conference. Our flight was late in the evening, so we had a little time to visit the following:

  • Natural history museum: We walked quite quickly through the museum. You could see many animals, bones, fish, …
  • Spy museum: The museum at first seemed it was not worth a visit. They give you a card at the beginning and the idea is to solve puzzles/play a spy game on monitors throughout the museum. We did not play that game but we read most of the texts and explanations of artefacts. It is really worrying to see what kind of equipment spies used before 1950s (e.g., small cameras, drones, …). We can only image what kind of technology they use today. Hm, …
  • Our flight back was at 10pm from the DCA, Terminal 2. Of course we stopped by at a lounge. As I am a Diners member and have access via LoungeKey, we had 2 free entrances. Except, in the Bracket Room lounge (actually just a restaurant for all the passengers), they offer you $28 deduction to their services. That was more than enough to have a large beer and a portion of BBQ wings 😉.
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