Day 5 – Washington DC

breakfastEven though it is Saturday I was still involved in meetings today.  Fortunately it was only from lunchtime so at least I could enjoy the morning with the family. We had breakfast at a local restaurant and then headed into the centre of Washington DC by Metro. It was my first time on the Metro since we have arrived but the rest of them are skilled Metro travelers already. I just followed them around.

escalatorThe Metro station near the hotel has one of the longest escalators I have ever seen. They have timed it and it takes 2 minutes 20 seconds. Looking down it you get quite a strange disorientated feeling. Fortunately I didn’t have the urge to throw myself down (some people apparently do have that feeling) but when walking down it you do get a sense that you might topple over (and no I had not been drinking alcoholic beverages).

We went to see the Library of Congress. You can’t get into the area which houses the 150 million books and papers (they must have a great cataloging and retrieval system to find anything) but you can view the reading room from above. It did remind me of the movie National Treasure where they go to look for the President’s Secret book that is stored in the Library.

libraryThe Library was originally built by Congress funding to house Thomas Jefferson’s book collection which was bought by Congress in 1815 for $23 950. It is a collection of over 6000 books.  Jefferson (at the time) owned the largest private collection of books in the US. The books are on display in the Library but no photo’s are allowed. If one was to take a photo I am sure it would look something like the image included here. Unfortunately some of the books were destroyed in fires over the years and so they don’t have the full collection anymore but they mark the missing books with empty boxes and they are trying to procure the missing ones to complete the original collection again. Jefferson was a great reader and said “I cannot live without books”.  He read a diverse range of subjects from politics to science, religion to astronomy, fiction to history. He was selective about what he read though and understood the effect reading had on people. In that regard he once said “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”  Wise words.

gutenbergThe Library obviously houses numerous famous books but probably the most famous of what it includes is the Gutenberg Bible. It was the first books printed using moveable type and was printed in the 1450s.  There are only 42 of these Bibles still in existance and they are considered the most valuable book in the world.  None have been sold since 1978 and that one went for $2.2m.  In 1987 a copy of the Old Testament Gutenberg Bible sold for $5.4m and that was (and is) the highest price ever paid for a book.  They reckon if one were sold today it would fetch $100m. The real value of God’s Word is priceless though.

reading roomThe Library is magnificent building in it’s own right and photos can’t really do it justice. Marble abounds, stained glass windows, pressed ceiling panels, marble statues.  It doesn’t take long to visit the Library of Congress and I would recommend it for anyone visiting Washington DC.  It is worth the hour or so that you spend. Entrance is free.

As I had to be back for a lunch time meeting with the Germans (appropriate I guess after seeing the Gutenberg Bible), I headed back and fortunately Metro Guide Michael accompanied me so that I didn’t have to worry about when to change and where. Helen and Chloe stayed on and visited the National Gallery and came back to the hotel after lunch complaining about their sore feet. It was also raining the whole day so not only did they have sore feet but also wet feet.

My meetings went on until 6pm this evening and then we went out for dinner. As it was still raining we just went across the road to Mr Chen’s. It was one of the top rated Chinese restaurants in Washington DC. The food was pretty good and I particularly enjoyed eating some vegetables.  When you travel you seem to eat a lot of meat and starch and not enough vegetables. With the rain still falling it is off to bed.

capitol building

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