Across Michigan

Michigan was the closing segment of our four-state Midwestern expedition (see the previous posts on IllinoisWisconsin, and Indiana), excluding Chicago, which we saved for last.

As most Americans are aware, Michigan isn’t a big tourist state. It is presently plagued by an array of problems, from crime to dwindling economy, and its geographical location offers little compensation in terms of weather or recreational resources.

So, naturally our expectations for Michigan had been quite low. But in the end that probably disposed us to retroactively assess the overall experience as positive. As always, everything’s relative.

Detroit

We started our morning in Detroit with a breakfast in Mexicantown. There is little to do there in general, but decent inexpensive food was all we were after, and Mexicantown certainly delivered.

001

Next, we swung by the now-abandoned Central Station. I would imagine that it is not the safest place to tour, day or night.

002

Very early we noticed the prominence of graffiti and other wall art in the city decor.

003

004

005

Shortly after, we took a stroll along the River Walk, arguably the nicest spot in the city, and of the few (or, possibly, only) places in the country—Alaska excluded—where Canada lies to the south. Just across the river in this case.

006

Hart Plaza has a few pleasant urban views.

007

008

012

009

As far as art goes, both the “Fist” (a giant boxing arm of Joe Louis)

010

and the Spirit of Detroit monuments are of rather dubious aesthetic value and appropriateness in the current locations.

011

The city center is largely devoid of traffic and people. One can freely walk around without wasting too much time at the lights.

In terms of prominent landmarks, there aren’t any, but a few buildings here and there are worth some attention. For instance, the Book Tower is crowned by some lovely caryatids, which I realize are hardly noticeable from the ground level.

013

The Grand Army of the Republic Building has a unique design.

014

Central United Methodist Church is… well… a church.

016

Overall, the city ‘scapes are fairly diverse yet unpretentious.

015

017

030

For a change of pace, we visited the Elmwood Cemetery. Not outstanding but fairly respectable burying ground.

018

019

020

021

Now, let’s for a minute turn to the sketchier aspects of Detroit, as my narrative has thus far contravened the city’s infamous reputation. Abandoned houses are certainly one of them. There are not as many as in New Orleans, but then I suppose we haven’t seen the neighborhoods with higher concentrations thereof. Somehow staying alive and well seemed more prudent than taking more photos.

022

023

Another example is the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art scene in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood. This is by no means a ghetto, but honky-tonk all the same.

024

025

026

Largely, it can be described as heaps of nonsense, with occasional artsy installations.

028

029

This one is my favorite.

027

One single biggest contributor to our cultural take-out from Detroit was the Detroit Institute of Arts.

047

It boasts an immense collection, spanning from articles of clothing

031

and conventional portraits

034

045

035

to religious triptychs

033

and stained-glass windows.

038

In terms of paintings, here I present a few samples on a progressive scale of weirdness:

041

039

040

044

043

042

037

OK, the last one is simply incomplete.

Besides exhibition halls the building features a few pleasant open spaces and snug nooks.

032

036

There is even a grand room whose walls are adorned with monumental murals by Diego Rivera.

046

From the Institute of Arts we proceeded to the Fisher Building, whose interiors turned out far less imposing than we had hoped.

048

For the final destination in Detroit we chose the Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, a somewhat ragged bar/eatery joint where Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, and many other jazz giants of the 20th century performed on one occasion or another.

049

050

For the afternoon we headed to the Bavarian village of Frankenmuth. Well, its first settlers were of Bavarian descent, but the village has obviously americanized time and again over the last century-and-a-half. Today, German influence is mainly evident in the tourism sector.

Frankenmuth

All things considered, Frankenmuth may still be the loveliest place in Michigan, especially given the bad reputation of many of its southern neighbors.

We started our excursion of the village with Lager Mill, a sizable beer store and museum. We weren’t too impressed by anything we saw inside, but for locals this is probably a major beer supplier, so we aren’t going to question its importance. Plus it looks nice on the out.

051

We roved about the village, taking brief stops here and there, decrying ornate façades, embellished with bay windows and headed by gabled roofs and an occasional high-pitch turret. River Place Shops and Bavarian Inn Castle Shop are among the most distinguished buildings.

052

053

054

At some point we crossed the Cass River via a scenic covered bridge that, frankly, deserves a name of its own.

055

057

056

Perhaps, Frankenmuth’s most famous landmark is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It is a enormous Christmas-themed mall. (Location-wise, it would certainly be a better fit in Santa Claus, Indiana.)

058

059

Even stands with most ordinary Christmas merchandise occupy thousands of square feet.

060

Outside one will find a few more holiday decorations

061

and a cute chapel near the edge of the parking lot.

062

Lansing

The following morning we were passing through Lansing on our way to Chicago. On the account of being in the state capital, we decided to locate and photograph the Capitol building, the sole exception to the city’s otherwise unremarkable tourist offering. Unfortunately, the building was surrounded by fences, road blocks, and construction equipment.

064

This concluded our acquaintance with Michigan, the verdict being “not spectacular but interesting enough to warrant a visit.”

 

The map:

map

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Across Michigan

  1. Oh my. You appear to have passed right by my adopted town of St. Joseph on Lake Michigan (our twin city is Benton Harbor. I actually have lived in both Lansing and downriver Detroit. They are just towns, just cities like most any other (although my daughter is a big Detroit lover who finds the industrial arts there amazing! What you missed my friend was SW and northern Michigan. And to think you drove right though some amazing wine, craft brew and lake country! Our lighthouse is the most photographed on Lake Michigan and our fishing port is very much alive with action! You missed Michigan my friend.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Bonsai. Without a doubt, we often leave out many great things in our trips, usually on account of distance and time. (Well, and money :) And, having searched the photos of your renowned lighthouse, I agree that we should have made a stop there, especially since it was on the way.

    As for beer and wine, we rarely devote too much energy to exploring the respective local markets, not the least because of the time and money concerns that I mentioned. Oh, and because we travel with two children :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s