An oasis in the Jungle

This is the very first article of this blog so welcome.

Today I would like to talk about a city I’ve known for a few years, New York, and its neighboring city, Boston, which I visited this year. This is the first of a series of articles on my Bostonian adventure. Others will follow with more historical content and with many more photos. I would like to give a slice of American life, as a visitor understands it, in my own words, and introduce you into a reality that for most of us is totally unknown.

What they say about New York it’s true, it is the city that never sleeps and never stops. Everything you need is at your disposal 24 hours a day because NY is the city of opportunities, and whomever lives there must never miss a thing.

Perhaps at one time this was true, however it seems to me that in reality now it’s different.

The Big Apple, after having worked there for a few weeks, appeared to me less and less shiny and increasingly grey.

Apart from Central Park, New York’s green haven, every space has been devoured by concrete, both upwards and downwards. After having tried the joys of the New York’s subway during rush hour, I will not complain anymore about public transport in my city, Milan.

New York has an undeniable appeal as a world metropolis, as a blender of different cultures in which a Cuban and a Filipino discuss foreign markets or you can find a Bengali escaping from war as your taxi driver or a crazy Irishman that will drop you anywhere so he can go watch the game.

New York is one of the few places I’ve been where you feel that the city has become an entity so energized, that you can feel her heart beat in a train passing under your feet and in the smell of a hot dog at the corner down the road.

This year, however, I managed to find an oasis in the jungle (because here you cannot talk about the desert). This oasis is located in the northern part of Manhattan, and you must go through Harlem to find such an unexpected treasure.

At the 190th Street stop, on the red line, I exited and saw a park. I started walking into it and finally, after entering countless little pathways and stairs, it revealed its secret: The New York Cloisters. This is an overwhelming complex in which one discovers a treasure, several medieval European works of art in a surprising context.

Alongside jewelry, crucifixes, statues and beautifully engraved bibles there are entire

Cloisters uprooted from ‘Occitan and Catalonia and reassembled for the enjoyment of American visitors.

The first impact was very reassuring for a lover of medieval history like me, I felt at home in a sense. Then I discovered that such an ambitious project was carried out by ‘one great mind’ (with a large financial empire). 

I activated my spirit as an historian and came upon a story that many of the young people from the old country don’t know, which features a man named John D. Rockefeller Jr.

He was the son of the great oil tycoon, main frontrunner of the industrial breakthrough in the US, who purchased a whole area of ​​Manhattan and turned it into a park. In 1935 he donated to the city of New York along with its surrounding land. Mr. Rockefeller also donated part of his personal collection that he had purchased from a great American collector of medieval works.

The complex, built between 1934 and 1939 incorporates 5 cloisters, dismantled stone by stone in Europe then transported across the ocean. It was all rebuilt inside of a unique building designed by Charles Collens and, as if all this were not enough, Rockefeller even bought the land on the other side of the Hudson River to preserve the view from the complex.

The end result is a unique experience of peace and harmony among the cloisters and gardens, in the heart of a giant concrete city like New York, so I cannot help but recommend it.

As I said at the beginning of the article, the rest of the city had a strange effect on me this year. The first impression one has of the city is always overwhelming with its crowded streets, taxis, underground and its citizens, always busy. This time around the city seemed different, not as glamorous and a bit challenging. This may be because I stopped watching the buildings gleam and I began to see all that is hidden in their shadow. I began to understand the price that people pay to live in this city which never stops and her countless attempts, successful and unsuccessful, to make everything a bit less hectic and a little more livable almost like in the Village.

It is precisely on this point that the nearby Boston, a city completely different in structure, habitability and especially its people, comes into the picture. The main means of transportation to the center of the city is no longer the metro or a taxi, but your legs. In fact, Boston has a beautiful old part of town that has everything within a short distance. However when you walk, you find your surrounding full of historic buildings that retrace the footsteps of the American Revolution. One could get carried away by a spirit that in some places feels almost like that of a neighborhood of a small town. This is what I really liked about Boston, the fact that it’s not as overwhelming as New York. You do not have that feeling of having to win it over in order to have the right to call yourself a New Yorker. In Boston you do not go crazy trying to understand how the underground works. If you need help the people are friendly and assist you with a smile and above all, one feels that he can find his place in such a small (huge) city.

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