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New York City

March 22, 2006

New York City

New York remains New York – even after September 11th. Despite the gap in the skyline, the city still offers its visitors the special "New York Experience". Awe at the sight of the architecture and images of a multi-ethnic community, immersed in...

New York remains New York – even after September 11th. Despite the gap in the skyline, the city still offers its visitors the special "New York Experience". Awe at the sight of the architecture and images of a multi-ethnic community, immersed in an incomparable cultural life.

The Big Apple is, for most people, Manhattan. There are 843 acres of green in the north, namely Central Park, neighboring the exquisite art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Then there is the grand tangent of Fifth Avenue, the address of the largest department stores and St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's also the ideal way to reach the Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. Be sure not to forget Times Square and Broadway, the embodiment of modern musical theater.

SoHo (South of Houston Street) has transformed from a warehouse district to become home to artists, bars and yuppies in chic lofts. Greenwich Village around Washington Square, with its small shops and restaurants, has always been hip, gay and trendy. South of the financial district, you can get a parade view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island - symbols of the new beginning in a new world.

American Museum of Natural History

Only a fraction of the 36 million exhibits can be put on show at one time in the more than 40 exhibition rooms in the largest natural science museum in the world. The museum, built between 1874 and 1899 in the classical style, houses exhibits on the subjects of natural history, anthropology and ethnology.

For children, the high point of the exhibition is the dinosaur department, while adults are more impressed by superlatives like the Star of India, the largest cut sapphire in the world. The latest attraction is the Center for Space and Earth, in which the history of the earth and the universe is presented using the clearest means possible. Don’t miss the Space Show here. The Hall of Oceans takes you to the depths of the ocean with a replica of a 100-foot long blue whale.

Brooklyn Bridge

In the 19th century, German engineer Johann August Röbling designed the steel construction that connects the two boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. However, its construction was set against a background of tragedy. When the engineer died in 1869 while work was still in progress, his son took over. He then fell ill three years later to leave his wife to finish the job. Brooklyn Bridge remains one of the most impressive structures in the city, as it proudly stretches its neo-gothic pillars towards the heavens.

Manhattanites succeeded in spanning the East River to Brooklyn on two levels: the upper level is used by pedestrians, power walkers, joggers and cyclists, while the lower level is reserved for the motorized members of the public. Tourists like to go on the bridge, giving them a magnificent view of the Manhattan skyline, particularly in the evening when the sun sinks behind the skyscrapers.

Central Park

Imagine you are in New York and have had enough of the hectic hustle and bustle of Manhattan's streets, enough of honking cars, of the noise, of the exhaust fumes. Central Park offers you relaxation in natural surroundings, right in the middle of Manhattan, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

New York's 843-acre "green lung" was created by the landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Clavert Vaux in the style of the English landscaped gardens in the mid-19th century. Today, Central Park is a mecca for joggers, skaters and walkers, a venue for open-air concerts in summer, an oasis for peace and quiet for everyone who wants to escape the hustle and bustle in the city, and last but not least a home for an amazingly large variety of birds. At night, Central Park is the haunt of shady characters and should therefore be avoided after dark.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building, built in 1931, used to be the tallest building in the world (1,250 feet). It kept this record until 1973, when it was overtaken by the towers of the World Trade Center at the southern tip of Manhattan. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 in which the twin towers of the World Trade Center were completely destroyed, the Empire State Building is now once again the tallest building in the city. The wedding-cake-style building became famous throughout the world in 1933 when the film King Kong was shot here.

Today, the Empire State Building attracts crowds of visitors who want to enjoy the fantastic view of New York, which is particularly attractive at night with its millions of lights, from the two vantage points (on the 86th and 102nd floors). Even the marble-covered and highly ornate art deco lobby is worth a visit. Since the lines for the elevators are generally very long, you will have more than enough time to take in the three-story high hall.

Greenwich Village

New Yorkers call it simply "The Village". Its real name is Greenwich Village, not only one of the most village-like parts of New York, but also one of the most lively. In the 19th century, members of the intellectual scene, like the writers Mark Twain, Eugene O'Neill and Edgar Allan Poe, had their homes around Washington Square. Later artists, musicians, students and, in the 1970s, hippies moved in. At this time, the West Village around Christopher Street also began to become a center for the gay movement.

Today, there are countless cafés, jazz clubs, cabaret shows and theaters. On beautiful summer days, the whole village comes together in Washington Square Park to skateboard or enjoy in-line skating, listen to street musicians or comedians or simply to observe the colorful crowds from a park bench.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of the largest collections of art in the world. If there were enough space in the brick building, opened in 1880, visitors could see (but not in one day) more than 3 million exhibits.

In reality, one quarter of the collection is on show with masterpieces from almost every cultural area among the select works of art. Visitors will be as likely to find Egyptian, Roman and Greek art as examples of European art from the Middle Ages or exhibits of American handicraft. Visits should also include a tour of the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing (opened in 1987) with its roof garden, from which you can enjoy a fantastic view of Central Park.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

A highlight not only for lovers of art but also for architecture enthusiasts is the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, which devotes itself exclusively to modern works of art and exhibits 5,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and installations. In addition to a small but very select collection constantly on show, names like Kandinsky, Picasso and Klee appear as representatives of classical modern art. Visitors also have the opportunity to see exhibitions that usually change every quarter.

The building (known by New Yorkers as "The Wedding Cake") was designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Inside the museum, a single corridor wends its way up to the sixth floor. Today there is not enough space to exhibit all the works. Consequently, a branch has been opened in SoHo (Guggenheim Museum SoHo, 575 Broadway) which is well worth seeing.

Statue of Liberty

The 150-foot high Statue of Liberty, on its giant throne base, greets visitors to the metropolis from far away. Between 1892 and 1924 in particular, she welcomed millions of immigrants arriving in New York by ship. The statue itself, a present from France given as a symbol of friendship, embarked on its own long sea journey across the Atlantic to America in 1884, dismantled into small sections and packed in 200 boxes. A year later, on October 28th, 1886 she was unveiled in all pomp. The internal framework of the statue was designed by Gustave Eiffel, father of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi completed the rest.

Since the renovation, you can now venture inside the statue again. However, it is no longer possible to walk round the lady's crown since you are not allowed beyond the base. The crowds are nevertheless still huge and visitors require patience, particularly in the afternoons, as the waiting times for the ticket booths for the ferry, on the ferry itself and at the statue are massive.

SoHo

SoHo ("South of Houston Street") covers the block between Houston Street, Broadway, Sixth Avenue and Canal Street. This district is known for its high-density cast iron buildings, which are still in excellent condition. The sometimes sumptuous decorations on the houses - the pillars, gates and arches – are all made completely from cast iron. The fire escapes in front of the façades are particularly characteristic.

In 1900, several major fires raged in the warehouses in this district. New York's fire brigade named it "Hell's Hundred Acres". In the 1960s, students and artists fought to keep the iron houses (now fire resistant) and opened a number of galleries here. The yuppies claimed the area for themselves in the 1980s. Today, tourists, large fashion houses, colorful boutiques, galleries and street traders contribute to the fascinating atmosphere in SoHo. Many museums, including the Guggenheim SoHo (with changing exhibitions of modern art) and a Children's Museum of the Arts, also play their part.

Woolworth Building

The Woolworth Building is surely one of the finest commercial buildings in the world. It was the highest office building in the world (787 feet) when it was finished in 1913. F.W. Woolworth had this pompous monument erected for his chain of cheap stores – the expensive and highly effective advertising event cost $13.5 million. President Wilson opened the 55 floors of the building from Washington with the push of a button.

The Woolworth Building is impressive due to its neo-Gothic style. Architect Cass Gilbert bedecked the individual floors of the building with stone ornaments and gargoyles. The higher up the building, the bigger the ornaments – so that the passer-by on the street can also see them clearly. The Woolworth Building has been named the "Cathedral of Commerce", and from the three-story high entrance hall it is easy to see why. The marble walls and gold/green/blue glistening mosaics create a ceremonious atmosphere – and F.W Woolworth sits beneath the balcony rail counting his pennies.

Ellis Island

The longed-for Manhattan near enough to grasp, the Statue of Liberty in sight – nowhere else has the American Dream been dreamed as intensively as on Ellis Island. From 1892 to 1917, the "Island of Tears” was an outpost for immigration authorities. The immigrants had to endure a tough bureaucratic and medical procedure of 3 to 5 hours before they could continue their journey to New York – or they would belong to the tearful 2% of those deported.

Up to 1 million immigrants a year passed through Ellis Island at that time. The island’s Immigration Museum tells their history in the historical halls. Around 40% of the ancestors of today’s Americans passed through Ellis Island en route to the U.S. 500,000 names are engraved on the 600-foot long Immigrant Wall of Honor in the north of the island. Ellis Island can be reached using the Liberty Island Ferry from Battery Park.

New York Stock Exchange

Behold a temple for the gods of the money market. In the mornings, hundreds of brokers rush between pompous Corinthian pillars to their desks: the New York Stock Exchange, the most important stock exchange in the world. The Roman-style building was erected in 1903 under the direction of architect George B. Post. There has, however, been a stock exchange in New York since 1792. It started simply as a group of men meeting under sycamore trees.

Computer terminals resembling kiosks set the course for the development of the world economy. Under constant time pressures, half-eaten sandwiches are dropped on the floor and most brokers find themselves knee-deep in trash. Unfortunately, the NYSE is not accessible to visitors for the time being. (For up-to-date information on this, consult the tourist information).

© Berlitz Publishing/Apa Publications GmbH & Co KG, Singapore Branch, Singapore

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