First impressions of Brooklyn
I continued walking towards iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Such an impression it makes! It’s size, lenght, height, everything! I somehow was lucky enough to choose to walk there on a very unsure weather, the clouds looked like if it was going to rain (altrough it didn’t) so maybe that was the reason for the bridge to be rather empty. Not many bikers, even less people walking on it, perfect for me. The first thing which amazed me that the pedestrian part is actually floored with wood.
Sometime ago we had one of Warsaw’s bridges burned down causing two year closure of one of the main roads in the city and making the traffic really worse. The reason was the wood in construction catching fire. I hope it won’t happen to Brooklyn Bridge, it looked so great. Further I walked the views were becoming more and more breathtaking In the middle of the bridge I coud observe both Brooklyn’s and Manhattan’s skylines. The bridge’s construction itself is fantastic too, all those lines, poles, towers and those hudge cables. The symmetry, the beautiful geometry, amazing complexity, all those would make every photographer want to walk it back and forth taking unfinished number of pictures. I imagined the sunlight being on the both sides of the bridge in the suset and sunrise. That is definetly a great place to admire NY, a view that one remember’s forever and it’s absolutely undertood why it’s one of main attractions and why every day thousands of people come to walk it (it almost 2 km long). Below the pedestrian level 6 lanes for cars and vehicles of any kind made the bridge walk noisy, not letting you for a minute forget that you’re in a hudge, busy city. The vehicles make the pedestrian crossing tremble just a little, so you can not only hear but also feel the traffic below you. You can just close your eyes, feel the trembling, the city bustling and being so lively.
As I got off the Brooklyn Bridge I walked a little in Brooklyn, but the neighberhood didnt really look so interesting (sorry Brooklyn, I’ll be back!), so I decided to jump in the first bus arriving at the bus stop which I was walking by. Bus took me as far as south side of Wiliamsbourg. I got off at the last stop and landed in the middle of New York city’s Jewish communities. It was full of chasidic looking people and I guessed also conservative. Women were sourranded by large numbers of kids, both women and kids dressed a little like amish people or like a variation of Little House on the Prarie farshion, often wearing those unusual caps and in general covering their heads, wearing long sleeves, tights and covered shoes (which was a big sacrefice regaridng the heat outside). With my long, rather modest dress and a chal covering my arms (from the sun mainly) I didnt really look so much different from the locals. Men were all wearing black, beards, typical payots, robes, cloaks and hats, always with a straight white shirt. Men were rather ignoring me, woman were smiling to me as they passed by pushing strollers with kids, holding hands to others. It was calmer than Manhattan, the traffic was low, the housing was not more than two-three storey buildings. I didnt rush. I got a coffee in a kosher bakery and walked around some more until I decided to cross under the Wiliamsbourg bridge. I read later that the jewish neighbergood of south Williamsbourg had one of the highest birthrates of all the neighberhoods in the US.
I also read some testimony of tourists who wandered in there and felt unwanted, saying that locals were looking at them with hostility. It wasn’t hard to believe, as I saw the place was clearly conservative, but on the other hand I imagined loud tourists with selfie sticks wearing rather much more provocative clothing than I did and suddenly it seemed to me more possible. I didnt feel any hostility, so I can’t really say I felt any discomfort there. In places like that I always try to look as little different and offensive as possible. I wouldnt walk in there waring a bikini, same thing with churches, temples of any kind or libraries. It’s not a matter of letting others on decide what I’m wearing, it’s just pure respect that I decide to pay to people. I’m going on “their terrain”, why shouldn’t I follow their rules? Would I like others to respect my rules? Yes. Whould I expect it? No. But it’s clearly my liberal views, I can’texpect conservative or religious (or both) communities to share my point of view. I highly recommend all people traveling the same attitude. It can spare some misunderstandings and makes meeting people more available. And traveling is about meeting people, not about the number of tagged airports or stamps in a passport, right?
I noticed that this neighberhood was clearly not wealthy and not fancy (I’ve later did some reading and it turned out that it was one of the lowest income disctricts aroud here). Almost all shops were jewish, with Hebrew names next to english ones, food stores and restaurants were kosher. Everything looked pretty slow and traditionnal. I was also suprised to see an ambulance with hebrew letters on it, maybe they had a healthcare of their own in here?
Jewish district in south Wiliamsburg – polish readers woulud appreciate an easter egg in this photo: Brooklyńska Rada Żydów / it’s a reference to a polish rock band’s song entitles “Borroklyn’s Jewish Council”
As I approached the other side of the Williamsbourg bridge I saw more and more streetart (here’s s picture of the two I most liked)
I walked under the gigantic and busy with traffic cast-iron construction (noisy as hell!) and walked into the neighberhood that I knew was considered to be very popular with hipsters, models and artists. Not crowded, low, maximum three-four storey buildings and rather quiet at this time of the day (not counting the numerous construction works all around). I walked towards the East River and came across a beautiful waterfront. Between the majestic bridge and a high industrial building I found a farmers garden. The industrial building was, as I learned the old Domino Sugar refinery. It was being renovated (maybe to make some loft apartments, with riverwiev, that would cost a fortune?).
The garden/farm is a community project and sells all kinds of products grown on it. I saw squash, turnips, kale, tomatoes, eggplants, fennel, herbs, beautiful flowers and many others. The place is called The Farm on Kent, uses no pesticides or chemicals, everything is organic and nice. At that time of the day foodtrucks (yes, according to the internet you can taste the food grown on the farm there!) were closed and not many people wandered around, even despite of the place being one of rare green terrains around.
I decided to have a peak in a hipster bar, at least place that was described that way online. I went to one and got dissapointed. Yes, it was full of people (finally a change after rather empty streets) but people looked very normal and regular 😉 They were all, without any exceptions working on thin Macbooks. The view was werid, in Europe that never happens that a group of people would have phones or computers from the same company. Here everybody had a Mcbook Air. And of course, everybody had an iPhone next to it. Everybody was staring at their screens and not socializing at all. No beards, tatoos, funky clothes, vintage accessories. Definetly if Wiliamsbourg was a hipster neighberhood I had to look for those somewhere else. All I could find in here was an Apple store in a live enviroment. The coffee was good, but that was it. Later on I visited one more place which was the same. Maybe the true hipsters don’t go out before the evening falls? I liked the neighberhood. Clearly being not a fancy wealthy place some time ago Wiliamsbourg was becoming more classy, I read about property prices going up quick. The housing was not that dense as in Manhattan, there were even some trees 😉 No fancy tenement houses, just simple biuldings with no ornaments, plain doors and unpainted walls. Much streetart, many young couples with kids.
As I was walking up closer to Greenpoint I saw more and more polish places. Polish bar was deserted and empty (no one at the counter, so probably closed at 16:00 when I took a peek inside). Not far away polish bakery with a photo of a little girl in a traditional clothing and an ad of polish newspaper. Both images looked ridiculous, fake patriotic-folklore mixed with bad taste. The bread may have tasted good, I wouldn’t know. I was just a few days away and not that homesick to try. I promised myself to get back in there and to walk through Greenpoint being the biggest polish community in New York. I came back to the hostel to sleep, jetlag was taking its toll on me.
To be continued…