Friday, January 18, 2008

Big ships first

(It's gonna be totally random. I could go over the whole thing in chronological order, but usually when people ask you about a period of time when at least three amazing things happened every day, you tend to pick out the Best Of category first. So here is one of my Top 3 experiences over the winter break)

Two storytellers got into a car and went to Boston. And after two days of exploring Boston (Appreciate the adventure. Two words: Minus. Fahrenheit.) we went on to spend the last half a day in Salem.
The first thing you hear in the Tourist Center of Salem is "It's not just about the witches, you know." Well, hearing it after you passed two different witch museums and a couple of statues makes it a bit... hard to believe. We even watched a short movie about the history of the city, about trade and economy and stuff, and we came out of the theater and we thought "Nope, it's really about the witches."
And then they told us that there was a ship in the harbor.
Not just any kind of ship.
A sailing ship.
A real, big one.
You have to know one thing about me: when watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, every female in the room screamed for Johnny Depp - I screamed for the ships (all the way. Give me the Flying Dutchman, and you can have my heart. And any other inside organs you want.) But, Hungary being an inland country, the biggest I could get was still kinda small. Compared to a sea vessel.
Compared to the Friendship of Salem.
I jogged down the streets in the morning sunshine, Lethan following close behind, still amused, I guess, by my sudden rush of excitement (like a 5-year-old in a candy store). We turned around the corner, and I almost broke down the door of the tourist office; we signed up for the next tour, just in time. The office itself was amazing, with small models of ships, and maps on the wall, and books and a real sextant behind glass. For an inland girl who grew up on old and dusty books of sea legends, that place was "kinda near to Heaven".
And still not as near as the ship itself. When our small group walked down to the wharf, the sun was right behind the ship, making it glow with a clear and white light. The salty smell of the sea (even though the water was half frozen over, I could feel it - I guess my nose picked it up because I like it so much), and the seagulls, and the wharf with the lighthouse... and the Friendship. And it was all real.
Yeah, I know, I did know that it's "just a replica" of the original, 18th century ship - but still, it was real. It had bright colors and the smell of fresh wood and paint, and sails, and ropes, and we went on board (and I was grinning like mad). The guide told us about life on a trading ship, and the places they visited and the ports they were in, and the goods they brought back. We went down to see where the sailors slept and where they had the cargo, and the room of the captain.
We had three kids with the group, but I don't think they enjoyed it nearly as much as I did, and I don't blame them. Trading is not as interesting as pirates (unfortunately the pirate museum only opens in April) (one of the kids had a really weird Pirate Mickey Mouse hat on his head with the ears and an earring, on top of a Superman hat. I don't want to know who came up with that idea.) (Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me...)
I didn't really want to leave the ship, but after a while I had to (not till I took nearly a hundred photos, including some with me as captain... yeah I know, women on board, duh)
We walked up to the Customs House, that's really original, left there from the 18th century, and it was like walking through the door and back in time (this is the customs house where Hawthorne used to work) (no, I never really finished reading The Scarlet Letter) (but still, it was amazing). I suddenly became interested a lot of things at once; the list of taxes, the story the guide was telling us, the books on the bookshelves, Hawthorne's pens behind the glass, the stairs leading to the first floor, and the "dusty office museum smell" (totally unhealthy and so smells like home... I mean, the places I spend most of my time since I've been in collage, haha)
The rest of the day we spent with wandering around, visiting some historical houses with another guide (we missed the group tour so he was nice enough to tell all the stuff for just the two of us). The Derby House was my second favorite sight; it was old and full of stories, from Elias Hasket Derby's mismatched eyes in the portrait to the tea papers on the wall of the children's room.
So, by the end of the day, we concluded that Salem is really not just about the witches. It's about the sea and trade and pirates and ships (big ships!) (capital letters. BIG SHIPS. Like this.) and history.
And then we went to see the Witch Museum.

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