The city that never sleeps
Reading time 10 min
When we say New York, we primarily mean the name of the US state where New York City (NYC) is the largest city, the most densely populated city in the United States, a financial and cultural center, and a connection center for the United States. New York is the capital that generally bears less resemblance to American cities, probably because of the large number of foreigners who live there. Because of that, it possesses a particular style, which seems to be unique.
You will notice the weirdness of New Yorkers first. It is not at all surprising to see a police officer at 7 a.m. at zero degrees in the middle of a traffic intersection with headphones in his ears, dancing regulating traffic.
In the subway, at almost every station, performers play and dance to make some money. But they also test whether what they are doing attracts a mass of people who pass the subway every day, rushing from train to train. Young artists, musicians, actors eager to prove themselves are coming to New York to compete with the tough competition that is certainly not lacking.
The center of New York City is Manhattan, an island bordered on one side by the sea and the other by the river. We can say that the principal city rhythm is carried out in the southern part of Manhattan, while northern Manhattan and the mainland parts of New York City mainly are with residential buildings. Although there are shopping centers and nightclubs the atmosphere is a bit calmer. Before embarking on such a journey, be well informed about dangerous parts of the city, such as the Bronx. We avoided insecure areas because of the valuable photo equipment we had with us. It would be too much of a lure for the residents of such neighborhoods.
The city is fantastic. We were most fascinated by the dynamics with which everything takes place. On the other hand, we are aware that this fast pace of life would tire us out after a while.
We took the subway to the last stop in Harlem, which is also the last stop in Manhattan. Once you get to the Harlem entrance, there are almost no more caucasian on the train, and three stops later, we wondered who forced us to go there. Coming out of the subway, we looked around in shock. We felt as if we had suddenly arrived in some other city. We were more than an obvious example of tourists who came to poke their noses where they did not belong. Gathering our courage, we went across the road, but five minutes was enough for us to change our minds and head back to the safer part of town. If we had stayed, we believe nothing wrong would have happened since it was 10 a.m. But despite that fact, we did not feel comfortable.
Namely, Harlem is a part of the city where the population of the black race predominates, but it does not belong to quite dangerous zones such as the Bronx or parts of Queens. Except for this case, we never felt uncomfortable or scared. Not even when we traveled the subway in the middle of the night toward Brooklyn, also outside of Manhattan. When you move away from Manhattan, you become aware of how much it lacks air and light. And this is primarily due to excessive skyscrapers that dominate here.
From the above, we believe that you already have concluded it is easiest to move around the city by the underground train network. The underground, which in London is called the Tube, in Italy the Metro there is called the Subway. It is the cheapest and fastest way to get from one end of the city to the other. The only problem is that the network of subway trains is branched along with Manhattan, but not transversely, so to get from point A to point B, you often have to travel five times the distance than by bus or taxi. In the subway, orienteering is very simple, and a seven-day ticket will cost you only $25.
There are almost no legendary old taxis that we see in movies. They replaced them with new SUVs and luxury sedans. At a time when people are leaving work, it is almost impossible to find a free taxi. You stand by the side of the road, raise your hand, and wait until someone stops, and that can take time. When it finally stops, the taxi driver might tell you that he is not driving on the route you are looking for. The third option is the bus, which is best to avoid due to constant traffic jams.
Hotels in New York are so expensive, and the rooms are pretty cramped, even in three- or four-star hotels. During our visit, we stayed in the Chinatown neighborhood in the recently renovated, two-star Mayor Hotel, where bed and breakfast cost $90. It is very decent and clean, and with a great price just because there is an iron bridge across which a train flies every five minutes.
When it comes to city orientation, we really can not complain. The main avenues have names such as Park Avenue, and all the others go by numbers (for example, 4th Avenue), dividing into east and west, which is much more practical than in Europe. If you try to use a city plan, it will easily fool you. Finding the main attractions is very simple, and on the map, everything seems close, but in reality, the distances are considerable.
If you are a shopaholic, New York City is the right place for you. The center of fashion shopping is in the Soho neighborhood (an acronym for South of Houston Street) in southwestern Manhattan. Just be careful what you buy, because what is currently fashionable there in Europe will not arrive for a while so people might look at you strangely.
Indeed, you are trendy there if you are totally different from the others. If you are not interested in fashion, New York also has some of the most extensive technical stores in the world, so if by any chance you do not travel to Hong Kong, you will practically not find better prices elsewhere. People are kind, and if you enter a shopping center, not a minute will pass without someone wishing you good morning.
Breakfast at Starbucks is something you should not miss. Around 8 a.m., you will probably have to line up. But usually, it goes very fast thanks to their approach. So while you are waiting in line, think about what you want to eat because when it is your turn, you need to express your desires quickly without too much thinking. In a place like this, people mostly sit, have breakfast, browse the newspapers or surf the internet. They leave in a few minutes, which is quite a different custom than in our country (Croatia), where people stay in cafes for at least half an hour, or even longer. Here you truly get the meaning of the term – time is money.
People who have not had a chance to visit America are usually convinced that Americans only eat burgers, steaks, and french fries. There is a much generous selection on offer, especially in small bars that offer food in addition to coffee. So we ate some great pancakes in one cute little Shade Cafe in the Noho neighborhood (an acronym for North of Houston Street).
In addition to the fascinating people and customs that you will best experience walking the streets of New York, we recommend visiting Rockefeller Center. A night view of the city from the 70th floor (260 meters high) is definitely not to be missed, especially at Christmas time, when you will have the opportunity to see the most magnificent Christmas tree decorated with Swarovsky crystals. You can enjoy a similar view on the 77th-floor of Chrysler’s tower at 319 meters high. The outskirts of the city are not in your sight. You get the impression that it is covered with an endless sea of lights.
Tourist attractions such as the NBC Studio Tour or the NYPD (New York Police Department) can be interesting, but be aware that you must book a place in advance for these highly sought-after attractions. It is an extraordinary experience to walk or run through the immense central park. If you do not intend to spend two to three hours there and walk five kilometers, then it is better to get off the subway in the central part of the park.
In that part is the Metropolitan Museum. If you want to see it in detail, you need one whole day, but you can do it also in a quicker version in about three hours. So many works of art and cultures from all over the world you will hardly find them anywhere else. From mummies to modern art, it really has it all. The famous Guggenheim Museum is also nearby, which, unlike the Metropolitan, is a museum of smaller proportions, so it will be enough to set aside two hours for sightseeing. Even if you are not a fan of art, we recommend visiting the museum lobby, which with its circular architecture, gives the building specificity.
You must visit
- Statute of Liberty – most iconic sight
- Central Park
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Rockefeller Center & Top of the rock observation deck
- Broadway & Theater District
- Empire State Building
- Times Square
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Grand Central Terminal
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
One of our wishes was to watch the musical on Broadway, but due to numerous tourists before Christmas, it remained unfulfilled, as all the shows were sold out. Therefore, we did not miss a Sunday Mass in Harlem, which is a real experience, because you do not have the feeling that you are at Mass but on a soul-blues concert.
As such Masses are tourist attractions, we advise you to look for a smaller church where there is not much queue at the entrance. The locals have a priority at the entry, and you might happen to stay outside. Just a few minutes before the Mass starts, tourists can enter the church if there is room left, but only for an hour. After that, the visitors are escorted to the exit, and the Mass for the locals gets its true meaning.
The Brooklyn Bridge, built in 1883, is the first suspension bridge in New York and the United States, and by 1903 was the longest suspension bridge in the world. If you find yourself here in the evening, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful view of the bridge, the plenty of illuminated skyscrapers, and the reflection on the water of the East River.
Finally, you have a boat trip to Ellis Island and a visit to the Statue of Liberty, which is beautiful, big, in one word – impressive.
Staying in New York lasted only six days, which is too little for fully tour the city. The city is fantastic. We were most fascinated by the dynamics with which everything takes place. On the other hand, we are aware that this fast pace of life would tire us out after a while.
Upon our return, we realized that it was not a vacation but a real adventure. If you are traveling to New York, do not overload your daily schedule with too many commitments. Two or three will be enough for you. Move not only underground but also on foot, because otherwise, you will miss a lot. And most importantly – enjoy the journey.
TEXT & PHOTO – Lovro Barbalich