Everyone I have ever talked to about Boston, says “I love Boston. What a great city!” After traversing many of Europe’s great cities for the past few years, I was not sure how Boston could live up to its good name.
Boston is the rare kind of city that left me wanting so much more time to explore. I had to pull myself away from its embrace promising to return to learn more of what it had to teach me. It is a city with a huge personality but a population of only 650,000. The people we met when we were wandering the streets, knew when we were lost before we did, and redirected us. Sumptuous food beckoned from little dumpling shops in Chinatown to the chattering line of people waiting for a taste of Regina’s Pizza, in the Italian dominated North End. We cooled off in fountain parks teeming with neighborhood kids and lounged in the grass to dry off while gazing at skyscrapers that somehow didn’t cast shadows.
While the flavors, sounds, and neighborhoods in many parts of Boston reminded us of various parts of Europe, the city’s organization felt profoundly different. I have never been able to connect with history as easily as we did in Boston. We have done a lot of guided walks and tours (and everything in between), but Boston was a brilliant storyteller. The Freedom Trail is literally a red brick path that winds through this remarkable city. It tells the story of the birth of our nation while ambling by 16 important sites in United States history. Armed with junior ranger books from the National Parks Department complete with treasure hunting questions for Paul Revere’s House and the promise of a romp on Bunker Hill, we saw the city with ease.
The Freedom Trail is just one of the stories that revealed itself in this magnificent city. As we wandered off the trail for one reason or another, we discovered many other stories that deepened our understanding of ourselves and our nation. The New England Holocaust Memorial stunned us into silence as we walked through the six glass towers with memories of what we learned of the war in Europe swimming in our heads. As we rested encircled by the Irish Famine Memorial, we thought of the dock in Cobh where we stood just a few weeks ago, and we could feel the story building across oceans. Eventually, we made our way to Lexington and Concord and the impressive storytelling continued. As we walked through the beginning stages of the Revolutionary War step by step in Minute Man National Park, we knew something special was happening. We were becoming part of the story.
As the voice of Frederick Douglas and the Black Heritage Trail intersected with the developing Native American Trail, we knew we could listen forever and not hear all the perspectives that make this city, and this country, what it is today.
What one storyteller thinks of as an ending, another may view as the beginning which means the story continues …