The largest city of Washington State, USA
, and of the whole Pacific
North-West region. As a dark-tourism destination it may only be of minor importance itself, but is a good base from which to head to Mount St Helens
. And it is also rightly regarded as one of the most pleasant cities in the USA and a heaven for foodies.
What there is to see: The city as such does not have much to offer the dark tourist, though a few minor attractions deserve a mention on this website. One is given a separate chapter here:
In addition you can head out to the northern district of Fremont, a bohemian, studenty, funky district that considers itself an “artists' republic”. From a dark-tourism perspective the trip out here is made worth it primarily due to the giant 16-foot (5m) Lenin statue that stands on the corner of Fremont Place.
This bronze Lenin
, weighing a whopping eight tons, is quite unusual in its portrayal of the man striding purposefully forward, lined by flame-like structures, rather than the usual giving-a-speech, pointing-the-way-forward and/or clutching-a-book poses. It is the work of an artist from the former CSSR
and it originally stood in Poprad, Slovakia
After the Velvet Revolution
of 1989 it was toppled and left lying face down on the ground until an American who lived in Eastern Europe at the time rescued the statue, eventually shipping it to the USA
. The saviour of this Lenin himself died in 1994, so the statue is currently owned by his family. But apparently this Lenin is for sale! So he might eventually find another permanent home (if you have $300,000 spare … but you can't have him if you want to melt him down for the bronze). Meanwhile he keeps looking out onto Fremont Place.
When I visited I found him adorned with a purple scarf and what looked like smeared lipstick on his face. His hand pointing down also appeared coloured. So this is in a way clearly an interactive piece of public art.
Lenin's presence here, standing proud in the USA
, i.e. the former arch-enemy of the USSR
, has sparked plenty of controversy, in various forms. It is usually defended with reference to the observation that art has outlived Soviet politics and repression so the statue can be seen as a symbol of freedom rather. But it seems not everybody agrees.
Not far from Lenin is another quirky sculpture: the Fremont Rocket
that pokes up into the sky on the corner of N 35th St and Evanston Ave just a block south from Fremont Place. The main body of the missile is allegedly from an original Cold-War
-era missile that was saved from being sent to a scrapyard. But it looks so fake, so like a fanciful life-size model, that I find that a little hard to believe. Still, it's certainly weird and unusual enough to be mentioned here.
A much more famous work of art in Fremont is the so-called “Troll of Fremont
”. This giant has since 1990 been sitting underneath the northern end of the 1932 Aurora Bridge (which apparently is also a popular suicide spot – cf. Golden Gate Bridge
This giant of a bearded, long-haired monster (or is it just a hipster?) seems to be crawling out from below ground, or from a cave under the bridge, his left hand clutching a Volkswagen Beetle car he seems about to devour.
The Fremont Troll, too, has become a local celebrity and gets plenty of visitors. I had to wait half an hour before I was able to get a picture of him without other people posing next to him or children clambering all over him.
There are yet more notable open-air sculptures in Fremont, such as the two clowns on Solstice Plaza/N 34th St and the nearby group sculpture “Waiting for the Interurban”. The latter depicts commuters waiting for a train (that no longer exists, now it's all buses here) which was erected in 1979. Note the little dog in the middle which has a human face (allegedly modelled on a former honorary mayor). It is also an “interactive” sculpture, in as much as “Dressing the Interurban” has become a local tradition (but rules apply, it's not just an anything-goes type of thing – see fremont.com).
More interesting from a dark perspective is the nearby History House
at 790 N 34th St. This is (was?) a kind of café-cum-community-centre with a mission to preserve/record local history. But amongst the quirky items on display here is also a piece of the Berlin Wall
! Apparently the History House is currently (at the time of writing, March 2016) undergoing a transformation and is temporarily closed to the public. But it promises to be back soon.
Those who get a kick out of abandoned old industrial installations could check out Gas Works Park located about three quarters of a mile (1.2 km) further east. This incorporates the dramatically towering rusty remains of a former coal gasification plant that was closed in 1956.
on Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean
, in the north-west of Washington State, USA
, about a hundred miles (160 km) south of the border with Canada
Google maps locators:
Access and costs: not difficult to reach (at least not by plane, otherwise quite remote); generally not the cheapest of places.
as the main conurbation and commercial hub of Washington State, Seattle is fairly well connected to other cities in the Pacific
region of the USA
and beyond, both by plane, through the Sea-Tac international airport shared with neighbouring Tacoma, as well by road and sea (ferries, but also cruise ships).
Interstate 5 runs through Seattle north to south, providing road access to the rest of the entire West Coast all the way to San Diego. In the city centre I-5 intersects with the western end of I-90, one of the main east-west lifelines in North America and the longest Interstate highway in the USA
, running for over 3000 miles (nearly 5000 km) all the way to Boston, Massachusetts.
Within the city, getting around
centrally is easy enough on foot – Seattle is regarded as one of the most walkable cities in the US. For longer distances, such as travelling out to Fremont (see above
) you will need to make use of the city's public transport system, mostly buses.
Accommodation options are plentiful at virtually all price levels, though real budget-end bargains are not so easy to find.
As for food & drink
, few places in America can match Seattle for quality and choice! The waters of Puget Sound and the Pacific supply the city with a wealth of top-level seafood, and the forests of the surrounding lands are a source of exquisite wild mushrooms and game. Fruit, vegetables and dairy products are also of the highest quality – see also below under combinations
Washington State is one of the prime wine-growing areas in North America (second only to California), and to top it all off Seattle is also one of the main epicentres of the craft beer movement, with some of the nation's most legendary microbrews originating from here. Incidentally, Yakima ca. 150 miles (240 km) south-east of Seattle is the centre of hop growing in America, producing over three quarters of all hops grown in the USA
drinkers will be aware that Seattle is also the original home of one of the largest and most successful coffee/café chains worldwide, so worldwide in fact that to me it has taken on the character of cultural imperialism. (When they opened their first branch in Vienna
, and advertised it with the line “bringing coffee culture to Vienna”, I decided that such an insult to the city where European coffee culture began, thanks to Turkish
traders and invaders, centuries before the USA
even existed, would be enough for me to boycott that particular company for the rest of my life.)
Time required: To see just the sights outlined here, a single day should suffice. If you want to explore the city in more depth, you'll need another day or two.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
Seattle is one of the places that can serve as the jumping-off point for trips to Mount St Helens
ca. 150 miles (250 km) to the south. (Portland, Oregon, is another, even slightly more conveniently located city for this.)
is a similar distance/driving time (ca. 3 hours) away to the east.
Places further away in the US would require either very long drives or domestic flights. Seattle is, after all, in the furthest north-western corner of the contiguous USA
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
Seattle is well known as not only one of the most liveable cities in the USA
, but also as a foodie capital
. The latter is especially visible at the famous Pike Place Market
, which is indeed a paradise of high-quality seafood, fruit & veg, and much more. There is even a cheesemaker right on site, not to mention one of the city's many craft beer microbreweries.
Just wandering along the stalls to have a look at the wares on offer is enough to make a gourmet's eyes water with delight. There are both permanent shops with a mix of products for sale as well as “Meet the Producer” (as the market's slogan goes) specialists in particular types of produce from the region, so it's both a 'farmers' market' and a shopping centre. And there are plenty of tempting restaurants in the area to boot.
As a city, Seattle may not quite have the glamour and appeal of San Francisco
, and the often overcast sky or even rainy weather don't help, but it's certainly pleasant enough to explore on foot. Its most famous individual landmark is certainly the iconic Space Needle
– see under EMP Museum
A major attraction for those who are into the subject of aviation, is the gigantic Boeing plant just north of Seattle – the only large aircraft assembly plant that you can visit. There are tours of the plant and they have an aviation-themed museum-cum-visitor-center on site. Boeing's Everett factory, where wide-body planes such as the legendary 747 Jumbo Jet are produced, is generally regarded as the largest building on Earth (by volume, rather than area space).
For the more outdoorsy types, Seattle may also serve as a base for explorations of the surrounding countryside. Washington State has a lot to offer, from the seaways and islands along the Pacific coast, to the mountains of Olympic National Park or the free-standing volcanic peak of Mt Rainier, which is often clearly visible from the city.
For places forther afield see under USA
- Seattle 01 - Space Needle
- Seattle 02 - downtown
- Seattle 03 - Mt Rainier in the distance
- Seattle 04 - Aurora Bridge
- Seattle 05 - in Fremont
- Seattle 06 - Lenin statue in Fremont
- Seattle 07 - controversial but brightened up
- Seattle 08 - the famous Fremont Troll
- Seattle 09 - Fremont rocket
- Seattle 10 - piece of the Berlin Wall
- Seattle 11 - gasworks park
- Seattle 12 - monorail
- Seattle 13 - it is quite a foodie place
- Seattle 14 - the famous Pike Place Market
- Seattle 15 - regional seafood galore
- Seattle 16 - brass piggy
- Seattle 17 - flying squid sculpture
- Seattle 18 - brewing in progress