A lovely bit of nature amidst the forest of towering glass and steel.
It wasn’t always that way. Before the park was built there were houses and shops and people living on that land. But when the petition for a green place for the city dwellers was approved, that land was commandeered.
A competition was held for the best park design. Whoever won, got the contract to actually build the park. The construction of Central Park was no mere matter of gardening. No; the whole piece of land was blasted and shaped by the architects. The only original parts are flat boulders of black rock rising above the ground in a few places. The rock is called ‘chist’ and is the solid base all the skyscrapers of Manhattan are anchored in.
But looking at the Park today I would never have guessed about its violent start or neglected past. The trees stand tall and broad throughout the park – people might have planted them, but God is the one who made them grow and they are beautiful.
The park became even more beautiful after the changing weather convinced the trees to swop their emerald hues for golden nuggets and crimson jewels. The fallen leaves mocked the neatness that the caretakers could produce in the summer, because they fell everywhere and in overwhelming numbers, reflecting the autumn colours back up from the ground.
I learned very quickly just to keep my camera around my neck whenever we were in the park. The trees, ponds, pathways and nature in general were all just so beautiful that I kept stopping to get my camera out of my backpack anyway.
The designers wanted to free the city dwellers from the rigid grid system of blocks and squares, so they made sure no path or road in the park runs in a straight line. Their plan succeeded so well that apparently no real New Yorker has not, at some point, gotten lost in the park ; P.
There is a main road going through the park, but its not actually used by cars. It is, however, used by joggers, bikers, bicycle drawn carriages and horse buggies 🙂 . Some of the horses and their buggies look ready for a parade, complete with the horse having a plume on its head 🙂 . The bicycle carriages are really expensive, going from 3 to 5 dollars a minute!(and it was just about big enough for only two people to fit in).
There are always people in the park. Tourists – like us – snapping pictures; people out for a stroll after work; people jogging; people jogging while pushing a baby carriage; people walking their dogs; people strolling while pushing their dog around in a special pet-carriage (I’m not kidding). . .
I think Sundays are usually the park’s busiest days. On our first Sunday we had a picnic lunch there after church and it was grand. The sun was shining and there were Warblers (a kind of small song bird) in the trees. Different types of musicians and artists were scattered throughout the park. Apparently, anyone that wants to, can come and pick a spot in the park to play an instrument or do a little show – as long as no amplifiers are used.
On another day, we discovered the park’s oldest and probably most generally forgotten treasure: an ancient Egyptian obelisk. (Which of you have read the comic ‘Asterix and Cleopatra’? Well, there were these two huge obelisks in front of a palace and Asterix scolded Obelix and told him he couldn’t take them back to the village).
Over a hundred years ago, the Egyptians tried to offer the US an obelisk, but their offer was ignored. However, when a short time later England proudly set up an obelisk in London, New York was overcome with obelisk jealousy. After a hazardous journey the obelisk ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’ arrived at New York and was set up in Central Park amid great pomp. It weighs 220 tons and is 3500 years old. The large weight caused a lot of trouble in actually transporting the obelisk from the wharf to the park. A minister of Egypt recently threatened to take back the obelisk, claiming the Americans were allowing it to be destroyed by the weather. New York staunchly denied this, however, and to prove it they launched a big project to minutely clean the obelisk and to cover it with a protective layer. Look up its story on Wikipedia, it’s actually quite cool 🙂 .
We also did a movie tour through the park. During this tour, the guide stopped at different places and told us what movies had been shot there. It was pretty cool. After that tour we made a point of watching every movie we own that has NY somewhere in it.
The last official activity we did in Central Park was ice skating.
Close to winter an outdoor ice rink is set up in the park. It was a lot of fun to ice skate out in the open. The strangest part was knowing that when we left the ice rink it would be just as cold as when we were on the ice. Back home in the mall there was always heat when we left the rink.
It really was a lot of fun ice skating again for the first time since the sailing trip started. I think Marike enjoyed it the most because it’s a lot like dancing, and she really loves dancing.
It was sad to say goodbye to Central Park that last day of our stay in New York. Bundled up in jackets and beanies against the cold, we walked underneath the trees and had a last look at this closing chapter in our lives. Central Park will always have a special place in our hearts.