they say around here, and by that they mean that Chicago has survived a lot of hardship. To learn a little more about this we went over to Chicago ’s History Museum on Monday. Our hosts had gone to work but had left us a Nice breakfast of yoghurt and fresh fruit. We got the El to the museum just north of the Loop.
There were many interesting things in the museum, but we never found Mrs. O’Leary’s cow’s bell. Never heard of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow? Well, according to legend it was her cow who kicked the lamp and knocked it over and set fire to the hay and thereby to the barn and ultimately to the city of Chicago! The huge fire of 1873 burned down all of the city centre except 4 buildings, 18,000 houses in total so that a third of the Chicagoans lost their homes.
But the broad shoulders that I mentioned earlier made the Chicagoans able to rebuild their city in an amazingly short time. And not very long after that they were able to host the World Fair which meant even more fine buildings for Chicago.
After a couple of Chicago hotdogs we took a closer look at some of these old buildings in the afternoon with Bobbie, who is a born and bred Chicagoan. She had spent a couple of years in Indiana, but those were the longest two years of her life, she said. Bobbie is a Chicago Greeter, a volunteer walking tour guide who shows visitors and tourists round their own city.Tours are free and are personal, so it is only you and the greeter, and you can decide yourself what you’d like to see. We have been on greeter tours in other cities and can heartily recommend it, as greeters just love showing people their cities and know an awful lot about them. You can read more about the Greeter Network and the cities that have greeters here.
Bobbie started by showing us one of the newest additions to Chicago’s cityscape, the Millennium Park, with Frank Gehry’s outdoor stage, one of the tallest fountains in the world and another one showing faces of ordinary Chicagoans spewing water once every ten minutes (see picture) and the funny mirror bean which reflects the city skyline. But the most interesting part of Bobbie’s tour took us into many very different really beautiful old buildings where we would never have gone into on our own. But she was friendly with many of the security guards so we were allowed to sneak peak into many places, for example the fantastic Palmer House Hotel and several other places with beautiful Tiffany (son of the jeweler T.) mosaic decorations. We also went inside the former Chicago Athletic Association sports club, now a hotel in the style (and atmosphere) of an old English gentlemen’s club. We ended up on the new roof terrace which is one of Chicago’s popular bars, the perfect place to have a cold drink and enjoy the view over the city, the Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. And a long interesting chat with Bobbie about everything from the city and its history to Brexit and Trump (whom she was not a fan of).
When we say goodbye to Bobbie we knew a good deal more about the city and what it’s hiding behind the facades. We did, however, go to see one more facade before a nice dinner at Eataly Food Market, namely that of the Chicago Tribune where the owner had all the newspaper’s correspondents send back stones and bricks from all the world which have then been embedded in the facade of the building. So here are pieces of the great wall of China, the World Trade Center, the cathedral of Rouen, a Thai temple etc.