The Ranting Ravens - Experiencing Baltimore!
This is part of a series of travel stories, based upon the experiences of me and my wife, on our tour across America. Read more at
Baltimore – Maryland, MD
Baltimore is known for its contribution to Health and Science, especially through the prestigious Johns Hopkins University. With famous residents like Edgar Allan Poe and H.L. Mencken on their Alumni roster, it’s easy to see why it carries the nickname of Charm City. The Cityscape around the inner harbour creates a magnificent panoramic vista. Located close to the American Capitol of Washington DC, this city with its rich history and many war-time relics has long been a popular tourist destination on the East Coast.
Neither of us have reputations of being hopeless romantics, with Neil historically blaming this on being creatively disabled. Nonetheless, we were in America on Valentine’s Day and knowing that nearly everything we did would be new, we grabbed this opportunity to experiment with the correlation between novelty and amore. Much to our surprise, a trip to a remote place like Baltimore, could create surreal bliss. Absent of any major tourist attractions, Baltimore’s only claim to fame is its proximity to Washington. Like the brother of any American president would feel, Baltimore boxed in the shadows of its illustrious sibling and mostly failed to exert its own persona. However, this all changed on the weekend we arrived in a glacial Baltimore….
Reaching religious importance, football reaches ceremonial significance to most Americans. Like zealous disciples, Sundays become a day of praise with hundreds flocking to their cathedrals, misleadingly referred to as stadiums, while the rest worship from home. Superbowl Sunday therefore becomes what Easter is to Christians. This year the sanctuary for the Popes sermon was the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans,and the protagonists of this parable were the Goliath San Francisco 49’ers and the David’ian Baltimore Ravens. Never before have underdogs been so mismatched in a quintessence of combat. We too wanted to drink from this Holy Grail and therefore chose to visit Baltimore the day before the onset of this epic battle.
Draped in purple, the national colours of the Ravens, we were struck by the patriotism surrounding this poor city. Sometimes in poverty we find belief, because this hope retains the promise of a better tomorrow. And sport is often the reliever of despair in dismal circumstances. So too Baltimorians have a ravenous faith in their team, believing that if the Ravens can take flight to the summit of sporting greatness, so too can their spirits and situations be lifted. Having lived in Pretoria through the glory years of the Bulls, we’ve bared witness to devout and exuberant patriotism in the past. Yet, nothing could prepare us for how a poverty struck town, can suddenly bloom in so much purple delight.
It didn’t take long for us to dub Baltimore as the friendly city. Each nook and corner hosted shows of support and welcoming folks. We firstly travelled to the centre of town in search of Café Hun. Featured on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, this little gem is nowadays worldly renowned. After capturing a few picture perfect moments, we strolled down the remainder of the street to discover many more similar trinkets. Packed with little restaurants and shops, this street’s biggest challenge lies in its spoil of choice and thereby the inability of patrons to choose their culinary destination. We really struggled and finally settled on a quaint little restaurant with charming antiqued relics on display around us. The food was good and the Valentine company and wine even better. Moreover, we were charmed by the tales describing how the word “Hun” took origin in popular culture and coincidentally stems from this beautiful city. Warm and nourished we confronted the cold again and made our way to the Inner Harbour.
This area is more commercial and have a scale of franchises, ranging from Mcdonalds, Bubba Gumps through to Barnes and Nobles. We decided our first stop would be the latter, due to the fact that they had an in-house Starbucks, and we were in desperate need of something to warm our beings. Armed with cups of hot chocolate, we escaped the cold momentarily while we browsed through piles of books, before moving the window shopping party next door to surf on a tide of music albums. Despite the cold, we weathered the storm and strolled next to the captivating Pier overlooking the Patapsco River Harbour. We had a close encounter with a Pirate Ship floating in the harbour, which would have made Jack Sparrow proud. We then discovered some tiny specialist shops, where Chantel acquired a flock of new scarves to overcome the American winter.
Our final stop was a visit to “PowerPlant live” which is the hub of the Baltimore nightlife. Also the main tourist attraction, this party central has the ability to entice people from everywhere to flock in to witness their spectacular entertainment events. There was a calm before the storm the evening we arrived, due to the preparations for Super Bowl Sunday the following day. This suited us perfectly seeing that we were able to easily find a spot at the most decorated Pizza restaurant in probably all of America. Delivering beyond expectations, these square-shaped pizzas will probably never be topped, except maybe by the hospitable reception we received. After the gleeful company and great anecdotes we received from our host, service delivery suddenly had a new meaning. It’s a shame that the venue was event-ridden on this specific evening, due to the preparations for the big night to follow, but we caught a glimpse of the spectacle it could be and imagined ourselves front-stage to a power pumping Linkin Park show. This will however have to wait for another trip.
With an hour’s drive still ahead of us, we strolled with gloved interlocked hands back to the car while once again being sprinkled in snow. Our frosty fairy tale soon became a devilish nightmare when we arrived at our car. Our plucky Honda was snowed under. Desperate to find a solution, Neil went searching for a cloth to wipe the windshield, when to his surprise he stumbled upon a portable snow-wiping miracle in the boot. Believing that Jack Frost was smiling down on them by miraculously populating the boot with this device of wonder, Neil soon realised that he was actually the target of Mr. Frosts hoax. Armed with a red herring of a snow remover, Chantel candidly captured Neil’s grunted frustration as he toiled away to clean the windows, just to be faced with continuous icy mockery each time he returned to the same window, to find it glazed shut within seconds. The dance of defeat was beautifully captured on video by Chantel…. Sigh….
Earmarked as stereotypical antonyms of hopeless romantics, we drove back to our Harrisburg home and gave Lindy a call to join us for a few warm-up cocktails, in preparation for the big day on the morning after – Super Bowl Sunday. At a pub overlooking City Island,we unanimously decided that we will be joining the purple flock of Ravens on Super bowl Sunday. Surprisingly we were in the minority since there’s a local derby-driven-hate towards the team from Baltimore, due to the close proximity. Nevertheless, our premier booth has been booked well in advance and we arrived at Aroogas Sports Bar in high spirits, for what would be our first (and probably only) live telecasted Super bowl final while living in America. Lindy joined us and the three of us has our own booth and therefore prime seats to view the action. In America everything is bigger and better, so we weren’t bomb-shocked to be surrounded by multiple televisions to get a “Dolby” viewpoint. We seriously believed that the advertising agencies are in cahoots with the beer breweries and fast food chains, because they just stretched this game out for ages through ad break upon ad break, thereby ensuring some stiff bar tabs all over the country. Fortunately, America is renowned for their movies and they got the big guns to direct and star in these advertisements, making them showbiz worthy. While devouring spicy wings and jugs of beers we were highly entertained by this rare spectacle. Through the juxtaposition of being visiting foreigners, we were provided with an alien view of events, creating a sense of sympathy for ET’s visit to Earth and how oddly daft he must have found our species to be. Watching spectacular ads while the beers flowed and the game commenced, we quickly adapted to our new habitat and got sucked in by the atmosphere. Cheering and jeering as the game went on, we witnessed history as the Ravens came from nowhere to clinch this legendary final 34-31. This bewildering and misplaced splotch of emotions brought us to the brink of tears, while wearing purple. Neil knows he would have had a hard time explaining a story where he once cried, while dressed in purple, with raven feathers in his hair. Nevertheless, we witnessed history in the making, through an event that changed the tide for a luckless city and made them Kings….. even if it was just for the day. We satisfied our thirsts by drinking our part from the Holy Grail of football, and the taste was sweet…..