When visiting Arlington National Cemetery; remember it is a cemetery. Be respectful and don't try to climb or invade the grave/tomb spaces. Be silent or speak in low tones when in areas of mourning such as the JFK Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Remember this is an active cemetery and somewhere everyday there is a sodier buried here.
During our last visit several guardsmen had to remind visitors to be silent or not to touch or climb memorials. People just do not respect rules anymore....
Yes, Arlington is ful of tourists and it's fine to take pictures but do be respectful; these are graves and monuments in a cemetery; not DisneyWorld.
Just like in Washington, DC's Adams-Morgan, artsy areas of Arlington often feature murals, often painted by local artists, to add some colour to otherwise barren walls. This one, on the side of Pica Deli on Washington Boulevard near the George Mason University law campus, was almost good enough to eat with the coffee and cinnamon buns. I didn't have time to go in (otherwise this would be a restaurant tip), but the mural was so well done, it was dessert for the eye.
Arlington is not a city but an urban county of about 26 square miles (the smallest in Virginia) located directly across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. No incorporated towns or cities lie within Arlington's boundaries. I still don't understand exactly the difference and I have no idea why they created county instead of city of Arlington.
This small area of land west of the Potomac River originally belonged to Virginia.
In Washington, DC
At the end of 18th century, the exactly square area of 16 x 16 miles on both sides of the Potomac River (in Maryland west of and Virginia east of the river ) including area of current Arlington County was desiganated for building US capital, the Fedearal City called later Washington, DC.
Back in Virginia (part of Alexandria)
U.S. Congress returned the portion on the west bank of the Potomac River was to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1846. This area was known as Alexandria City and Alexandria County.
In 1920 the Arlington County was established.
During the Memorial Day weekend we observed soldiers adorning each grave with an American Flag. It created a stunning appearance to see rows and rows of graves with flags; it was indeed an amazing sight to see.
Such tall (17 stories), huge apartment buildings, as on my picture, are surely not unique to Arlington. But, I saw them for the first time in the USA just there which was a bad surprise.
Keep in mind that this is NOT typical architecture in both Arlington and in any US city, I visited as for now. Most locals live in never-ending residential neighborhoods full of mostly pretty houses with yards.
I don't like such apartment buildings a lot and I wouldn't like to live there even if they are economic (are they?) and offer additional services (parking lot, security guards, swimming pool, tennis courts etc.). They look somewhat unhuman and simply ugly in my opinion. Although those in Arlington are painted in interesting way and, in contrast to numerous appartment buildings in my part of the world (post-communist architecture), their shape, balconies, entrances and other details are more varied and less ugly.
There is no downtown (centre) in Arlington which is, as I already stated, a county with no city inside. Instead there are two areas which look like a downtown. They are located around key metro stations and along metro lines :
1. between Rosslyn (on my picture) and Ballston - MU metro station (along Wilson Blvd to N. Fairfax Dr = SR-237)
2. between Pentagon and Reagan Washington National Airport metro station (along Jefferson Davis Hwy) - this area south of I-395 is called Crystal City.
From the visitor's point of few it's important to know that most hotels and restaurants are located just in this two areas.
Never ask about downtown Arlington, there is none. Ask about metro station, the airport (National Airport), specific point (Fort Myer, Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon) or street. Keep in mind that there are other, historical names of particular parts of Arlington county in common use like for example, already mentioned, Crystal City or Rosslyn.
This picture was taken in the heart of Rosslyn - commecial and transportation center of Arlington County on weekday just after 8.00 am that is in rush hours. Difficult to believe looking at almost empty wide sidewalk.
Well, at this moment, I discovered again that the USA is a car country with very few pedestrians. The multi-story metro-operated parking lot is located at the same building as the metro station thus drivers are not forced to get outside. Those who arrive by metrobuses or shuttles (like me) get off just in front of the metro entrance and immediatelly vanish inside.
What a contrast with European larger old towns when sidewalks are usually too narrow and full of fast walking folks in rush hours.
This apartment building, on my picture, was placed somewhere close to Rosslyn metro station. It looks at first sight very similar to thousands buildings I see everyday in my hometown, Tychy in Poland or in any other city in the central part of Europe ruled by the former Soviet Union till 1989/1990 (Poland, eastern part of Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia).
Well, the windows are larger and in my part of the world not all the buildings are clean and painted. And, in contrast to Arlington, most people still live in such or similar apartment buildings in central European cities because they can't bear the cost of purchase, hire or construction a house.
As I used mainly public transportation (metrorails and metrobuses) in Arlington, I had many oppotunities to watch locals. It seems that quite many of them leave cars at home and use metro to commute.
MOST EDUCATED IN THE NATION UPPER MIDDLE CLASS
I saw many guys dressed in suits and elegant women, often in a hurry in the morning rush hours and busy talking by cell phones at metrobus stops. Then I saw numerous, 2-story, large and pretty houses with yards (expensive, I suppose) packed one by one. Arlington must be a county of middle and upper middle class, I thought.
I got to know that Arlington residents are among the most educated in the nation and unemployment rate was only 1.6% in Arlington in December 2003, probably the lowest in the region.
Later on, when I already was in Galveston, Texas, on November 2 2004, 68% of Arlingtonians voted for Democratic Party candidate for president (John Kerry) and only 31% for candidate of Republican Party (George W. Bush).
I saw quite many non-white citizenens as well: Hispanic, Black, Asian both on a street and working in local restaurants and stores. The only one Pole, I met and was talking to, during my southern odysey, lived just in Arlington. Quite many people had a little bit strange accent, probably of their native non-English language.
Well, I got to know that about 40% of residents are non-white, over 25% was born outside the USA and over 33% speaks a language other than English at home. It's impossible to see anything like that in Poland and even in the whole Europe..
Traveling around and through Arlington many times during my first days in the USA I noticed that the city grows in different way from place to place, thus the county has two faces.
There is high-density commercial and residential development around Metrorail stations in the Rosslyn (on my picture) - Ballston corridor and the Jefferson Davis corridor (which includes Pentagon City and Crystal City).
In the remainder of the county, that is in the most of its area, there is lower density development with a lot of green space and lovely residential areas full of houses with yards.
Enlarge my picture, taken in Rosslyn, commercial and transportation center of Arlington County, to see three typical features of, not only Arlington, but most U.S. cities:
1. U.S. National Flag - painted on empty side wall of an edifice; I have never seen any other country which displayed so many national flags both in public and private buildings and houses and not in national holidays. Isn't it a sign of patriotism common after WTC attack?
2. Multi-story parking lot - I have never seen any other country with so numerous tall buildings in downtown designated for parking lots. Well, the USA is a car country, no doubt.
3. Huge air-condition instalations and ventilation ducts through which the hot air escapes. They are numerous and this hot air have to make Arlington even more hot in summer. The USA is a country of air-condition which is everywhere.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day every day of the year
regardless of how hot or cold or rainy or stormy it might be
My dedication to this sacred duty
Is total and wholehearted-
In the responsibility bestowed on me
Never will I falter-
And with dignity and perseverance
My standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise
And the discomfort of the elements
I will walk my tour in humble reverence
The best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect
His bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day,
Alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
This soldier in honored Glory rest
Under my eternal vigilance.
Particularly meaningful to the Tomb Guards is
line 6- "my standard will remain perfection"
I was not familiar with this. I kept seeing a small stone or pebble (some smaller than others) on the top of a gravestone at Arlington. Seeing it enough times, I figured it couldn't possibly be an accident or coincidence.
As it turns out, it is an old Jewish tradition. It is part of the act of remembrance. It comes from the tradition of placing large stones atop the freshly buried body so that the grave would be left in peace. This was before the days of coffins. Now it is a symbolic gesture, a way of saying "I remember you."
I was suprised to get to know that Arlington County is among the most densely populated jurisdictions in the USA. The population density is 7,700 persons per square mile. It's more than in a city of Seattle, Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Difficult to believe.
A lot of area is covered by green space of Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Myer, add huge Pentagon building and large areas covered by multilane highways and freeways. Hmm... in some European cities, they started to register homeless people... on a bench, just to give them any address and thus to be able to pay them some public financial assistance. In the USA folks even don't have any identity paper (social security, driving licence or credit card instead). I do suspect that noone is registered to live, say, in the Pentagon Building. Senior Defense Officials' mailing addresses including the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld now (2005) suprisingly belong to Washington, DC instead of Arlington.
More, look at my picture, there is large, empty meadow located in the heart of Rosslyn, by I-66. Very good location for next business. Hmm... I would put there some large sculptures/art to make the place more pleasant for an eye.
These three white boxes, on my piture, are put by the entrance/exit to Crystal City metro station. They contained free advertising leaflets or rather thin books, with real estates and cars offers. It was too late for me, I already hired a car for 30 days and spent a lot. But Urszula had to be interested in a house purchase in lovely neighbourhoods of Arlington as she took one book.
Well, such boxes are not unique to Arlington, I am sure, but despite my 38 days spent in the USA a year before, I noticed them for the first time just in Arlington. It's a very small thing but traveling around the world you may easily notice that there are numerous countries where such kind of advertising is unknown:
1. countries with no or very weak free market, like my country, Poland under communist rulers till 1989, when free market was an abstraction, crazy fantasy or a dream and any advertising (surely except of the communist party) had to be a loss of money
2. countries where locals are poor enough to regularly clean such boxes and use the advertising books as a free sorce of paper or something else.
That's why, I was a little bit proud when I saw similar boxes for the first time in my fast growing country a few years ago.