It is widely believed that when it comes to tourism, Alabama, alongside Louisiana and Mississippi, is next door to barbarism. And though I won’t deny that, like its western neighbors, the state indeed lacks in outdoor scenery and possesses many idiosyncrasies of the American South, it still has plenty of curious places to visit.
If nothing else, Alabama should be proud for its Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. It was practically the birthplace of the U.S. space exploration program. The U.S Space and Rocket Center, fully dedicated to the cause, covers the history of said program at length.
Overall, there aren’t any big attractions in Huntsville. For example, Bridge Street Town Center, while pretty, is largely unexciting for non-shoppers.
Monte Sano State Park is probably also a good retreat for hikers or bird-watchers, but not so much for travel bloggers.
On the way to Birmingham we made a quick stop in Cullman with the purpose of visiting its renowned Ave Maria Grotto.
The collection contains many recognizable buildings from around the world, mostly of religious function.
We started our acquaintance with Birmingham by touring the Sloss Furnaces, a now-closed iron-producing plant to which the city partially owned its incredible growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
I guess the plant in its present shape could be a perfect site for a photographic session à la noir.
From the decrepit machinery of the once-booming facility it made for a contrasting transition to turn to the cultural scene of Birmingham. I am specifically referring to the Museum of Art, whose collection I can summarize thusly: paintings: weird ones,
and bad ones;
furniture: to look at
and to climb on;
and a few other mildly interesting art forms.
The cultural enrichment agenda took us to the Kelly Ingram Park, whose monuments, despite all sources naming Civil Rights Movement as the cause, appear to be commemorating Holocaust.
Next, we spent a few enjoyable minutes at the Railroad Park. Though in the evening a number of suspicious characters start roaming about the area, the good views of the city still make it a generally worthwhile experience.
Alabama Theater is one of the most identifiable sights of Birmingham. Unfortunately, we could only photograph the exterior of the building.
Cathedral of Saint Paul was another edifice whose interiors were, sadly, out of our reach.
To add to the list of disappointments, the Naked Art Gallery closed prior to our arrival.
Finally, the Vulcan Park, with its strange layout and dreadful statue in the middle, in my opinion did not justify any entrance fee. Even though at the edge of the park we discovered a decent overlook point.
On the way to the Botanical Gardens we spotted a lovely mansion. Perhaps, one of the prettiest buildings in Birmingham.
As for the gardens themselves, it is an OK place to stroll around in the cooler parts of the day, but there is hardly anything to look at.
Before retiring to our hotel for the night, we dropped by the Liberty Park for a peek at the Statue of Liberty Replica. Not overly impressive but solid work nonetheless.
The next morning we found ourselves admiring the very unAmerican (and even more so unAlabamian) stone bridge at the Blount Cultural Park. As the sun was beaming mercilessly even at that early hour, we did not hesitate to move on to the rest of our itinerary.
It included the first White House of the Confederacy,
Alabama State Capitol,
and a few other stately buildings around them.
In the same vicinity, one may also descry the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
and the Court Square Fountain.
I have to admit that Montgomery has a very sweet downtown area. (Of course, my perception of sweetness is in large part reversely proportional to the crowdedness of the place.)
One special part of Montgomery is the Old Alabama Town, a few blocks of historic buildings that have been preserved from demolition for a century or more. I found it fascinating trying to mentally place my every-day life into such a setting. Would I be bored to death?
The village also features a few other community buildings, such as a printing shop, a grocery store, a church, and a school.
Residences of nobility paint a slightly more cheerful picture in terms of evening entertainment options.
I compliment the excellent condition of the village and authenticity of everything, including things that did not necessarily have to be authentic.
As the last stop in Alabama we visited the town of Spectre from Tim Burton’s Big Fish movie. The houses persist in various stages of neglect and are probably hardly recognizable by anyone who has seen the film, me not being one of them.
This concludes our Alabama journey.