1849. The Gold Rush. The Golden Days that were meant to change the lives of all the (un)happy people who traveled to California from all over the world, in search for new found wealth.
With its Spanish roots, named after the Catholic ‘Saint Francis’, San Francisco is a city like no else. The name dates back to 1776, the same year as the ‘Declaration of Independence’ was signed in Philadelphia PA, when Spanish settlers came sailing up the ice cold waters into the Bay Area.
San Francisco is honest in showing its heritage to this era; ‘Golden Gate Bridge’, ‘Golden State Warriors’, ’49ers’… The list goes on. It’s kinda’ cool when you think about it, all the history that lives in these names that represents the city’s biggest pride. All of California has its heritage in this, named ‘The Golden State’, but here, in SF, they’ve definitely picked it up a notch.
When arriving here, being of a European origin like me, you really can’t be prepared for what you’re about to experience. You might think you are, but no. When you step outside, in downtown SF, you’re “greeted” by the combination of homeless people, dirty streets and a very distinct smell of weed. For me, and I say this with inner sincerety; I truly HATE that smell. It gets you everywhere, all day. Since they made it legal, this is a signature of this otherwise beautiful place, as well as California in general.
I consider myself being somewhat of a globetrotter, having been in “all” corners of the world, experiencing a vast number of cultures, and I’ve never been close to experience the “craziness” on the streets of this city. When I say craziness, I mean the people wandering them. You never know what to expect, except from the fact that you know you’re gonna run into them, no matter where you go. It’s like a sad act of displaying the actual effects of drug abuse. Most of them are doped up on something, or a combination of different stuff, and they act like they’ve come straight out of the crazy house. Some of ’em actually should be in a “crazy house”, dealing with mental diseases, but because of a change in the economic prospure of the the city budget, they were thrown out on the street.
The biggest reason for the vast number of homeless people here though is the fact that SF offers a climate that is “suited” for a “street life”; warm enough to survive the winter, still not too hot in the summer. Many other states, especially those on the east coast, actually make sure to send a share of their own homeless people here, by bus, with a “promise” of a better living. That’s one heavy load to carry for a city, and I was pretty much godsmacked when I heard about it.
Except from the above-mentioned fact, this is a city that really holds its own, both geographically and demographically. The uniqueness of the incredible sights that comes from the big hill the city is founded on neither can be denied, nor ignored. I might be in some kind of “generalizement” here but EVERYONE (there it was) who’s heard of SF knows the story of how its founding hill defies the city; up and down, east to west, north to south, surrounded by water in (almost) every direction. But, and this is a big BUT, it’s impossible to fully understand the extent of the angles of this hill ’til you get to experience it with your own eyes, and thighs. Yes, you heard me: thighs. Your quadriceps and hamstrings is treated to a workout each and every day, without even have to think about going to the gym. No matter what, these steep angels are what makes this city something completely unique. Combining that with the Victorian heritage in the beautiful architecture of the charming neighborhoods all over the city; well, there really is nothing like it.
From The Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Alamo Square (with the Painted Ladies) and from the warmth during day to the cold of the night, this city is like a variety of culture, landscape and environmental mysteries. If you look at the map, it seems like a fairly easy thing to be able to get around. Well, think again. There are no “short distances” here, and adding the never-ending up’s and down’s to the equation gives you a completely different picture. That’s still a part of something beautiful though, the thing that this old lady uses to flirt with you. To get you interested. You can walk up (and down) the same street over and over again and there’s still new impressions and experiences coming your way; the magnificent views and sincere originality of the combination between the vertical slopes and the horizontal architecture. It gets you every time.
Just don’t think you’ll be rewarded with a nice little downhill walk when you’ve reached the top of one of the streets; she’ll have you work for it all the way down, forcing you too “break” to not end up speeding out of control. This lady always has something up her sleeve.
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