The Miami metropolitan area is located in the state of Florida and has a total of 5.5 million inhabitants. However, only 500,000 people live in the city, as Miami Beach, for example, is counted as a separate town with 89,000 inhabitants. We stayed between Miami and Fort Lauderdale in Pembroke Pines (160,000 inhabitants). In the end, all cities have a similar flair. One reason is the American habit of building streets in a checkerboard pattern. This makes getting along in the cities easy, but the number of traffic lights is utopian. This and the inferior public transport are just a few reasons, why traffic jams occur even on ten-lane roads. Still, the Americans seem to not know about roundabouts.
The most famous attraction is probably the shore in Miami Beach, as seen in countless movies and series. Since we came from the Caribbean, the beach was nice, but had nothing on St. Maarten or Barbados. Additionally, Tes and I like quiet, secluded beaches. At Miami Beach, I therefore disliked the skyscrapers standing right behind you and the sea made from sunbeds, looking like laying batteries for tanning-willing people. Incidentally, I’ve rarely seen so many sculpted faces and bodies – as if people were trying to confirm my prejudices from TV shows and movies!
Other attractions include the Venetian Pool, which is unfortunately only opened during the summer months, and Jungle Island, an over-sized water park, that was closed due to Hurricane Irma. As the country is quite young, there are only few historic/ interesting buildings. For an architecture enthusiast, the numerous museums (Contemporary Art, Lowe Art, History, Science, etc.) are likely among the most beautiful buildings in the city. For a change, we spent a day in the Everglades and Key West. My favorite were still the Wynwood Walls, showing street art at its finest.
Seen in Key West
An important part of the American lifestyle is shopping. There are malls everywhere, but they got almost exclusively the same stores. We walked through Dolphin Mall and Sawgrass Mills Mall. Each feels like a day trip. After all, there are innumerous shops in the gigantic buildings and the products are immensely cheap compared to Europe. This applies to electrical goods, clothes of all kinds and meals; at least if you want to permanently feed on fast- and processed food. As soon as you look for “real” food, prices go up. Incidentally, the pricing in America is always advertised without VAT. However, how many taxes you pay depends on the county – not (!) the state. Incidentally, you never know how much you exactly pay at the cash register.
Through previous visits, I remembered the Americans as open-minded people, that like to fire up a conversation. That had not changed. Whether while watching crocodiles, while observing a parking lot brawl or at the promenade in Miami Beach, the locals like to start conversations – very cool! The best ones, however, I had with the sellers in the shopping malls. I was informed how shitty a seller-job really is, was advised by a transsexual on the personalization of flip-flops and got a brief Hitler impression from a suitcase seller (his ironic idea of Germany). Everybody was somehow happy to meet a German – that was cool, too! The self-centered behavior of the majority of people, however, I experienced as tiring. People stare at their cell phones, pay no attention to the outside world and behave as if they were the only people around.
This was my third visit to the USA, as I´ve been to Boston (MA) and Cleveland (OH). So Tes could get a few impressions of the world power as well, we planned a one-week stopover. The United States of America has a unique position throughout all my travels: It’s the only country I enjoy to leave. Exactly that´s what every passenger of our canceled flight to Europe told me, while waiting at the airport. Everyone was annoyed and reported the same thing: It starts when you enter the country. The paranoid way you are received as a visitor is anything but welcoming: Unfriendly border guards, that let you feel their situational superiority, long queues at the counters and the need for body scanner … the first few hours in the country are not pleasant.
A Cuban sandwich
During my stays, I noticed more things that somehow spoil my visit: I gain weight, although I eat little. After the meals, I feel bad and am listless, exhausted and annoyed for no reason at the same time. Turning on the TV in the evening is hardly doable, as the broadcasts are beyond idiotic. Above all, the advertising is unbearable. An commercial for medications (that persuade you of any complaints) follows the next, interrupted by ads for lawyers, who persuade you to think about something to sue somebody. Even outside the flicker box you are constantly flooded with advertising, always the same way: You need the most expensive brands, otherwise you look like shit! You need the latest toothpaste, otherwise your smile will look like shit and you need followers, so everyone thinks you’re popular and not shit! I often thought about the youth, while seeing this “propaganda”: What is it like to grow up in such a world – do you believe this shit?
Although the Wynwood Walls have only been built in the last ten years, they are among the biggest tourist magnets the city has to offer. On every wall, every garage door, simply everywhere, you will find beautiful artwork, also called murals. Artists from all over the world have “immortalized” themselves, but the graffiti are painted over by new artists every few months. The space was made available by an investor, who focused on bringing upturn to the district. Meanwhile, you can find cafes, snack bars and bakeries in the area, that was famous for drugs 20 years ago. When it comes to art, however, pictures speak more than a thousand words. In addition to the gallery below, you’ll find some murals from Wynwood on my Instagram profile.
During our visit to the Everglades, we had to choose between observing crocodiles on a hovercraft or a boat ride with chances of spotting dolphins and manatees. We decided for the second option. After all, you see countless reptiles on the way to the National Park. The wild animals chill on the roadside, while people are fishing only a few meters away. We even discovered a turtle in the ditches next to the road. During the ninety-minute tour through the national park, I got some swimming dolphins in front of my lens. We were also able to watch different birds and chicks in the mangrove landscape. Unfortunately, we did not see any manatees.
The turtle in the ditch
Lying by the roadside
From Miami, it is about 180 miles to the southernmost point of the United States: Key West. The highway ride takes you along the island chain of the Florida Keys right into the sea. Nature is beautiful and reminded me of the Caribbean. On both sides of the road, there are countless people fishing or doing water sports.
Key West looks like any other medium-sized city. The biggest attraction is a brightly colored pin that marks the southernmost point. We spend exactly two minutes on site, then headed back to Miami. The drive is a lot more beautiful than the destination.
Half way to Miami, we drove past two, about nine-year-old boys, that were trying to stop the traffic on a bridge. At the next opportunity, I stopped at the roadside and walked to the children. After about 200-300 meters I reached the bridge and encountered drops and a small puddle of blood on the ground. The children had vanished. Immediately, I ran cross the bridge and searched for the boys. Meanwhile, they had received help in a small restaurant and the medic was already on his way. One boy had a laceration, because the other had hit him in the face with a glass bottle. The reason: He did not know what would happen. Overall, the situation was not bad and only a few stitches needed. One thing, however, pissed me off: This happened during rush hour. Hundreds of vehicles crossed the bridge while the kids were searching for help. Not one had stopped. The greatest country in the world? At least we got some nice pictures of the trip. Check them out:
For shits and giggles, I took pictures of some street signs in Florida. My favorite is the manual for crossing a street via pedestrian lights. Incidentally, this sign is attached to countless traffic lights … presumably, if you need a thought support or forget how a button works. Otherwise, I mixed up everything I could get my lens on: Advertising to fire a machine gun, a reminder to bring no weapons to the church or to unload your weapon before entering the gun store. Some of them make you smile, others make you think:
Despite some setbacks, we had a good time in Miami, although the city was my least favorite visited spot during the winter. I would prefer to vacation somewhere else. Nevertheless, Florida had a big plus compared to my other visits: I did not hear any gun-shots this time, in Massachusetts and Ohio, this was almost a daily thing.