I’ll be the first to admit that I have an abysmal knowledge of American history (oops). I also have a shocking ignorance about cult films. As a result, before I went to Philadelphia, my familiarity with Benjamin Franklin and Rocky was limited. I also came to the city with some preconceived notions of the city as a being wholly grimy and industrial, with little worth seeing aside from a cheesesteak or two. And like any city I approach with these terrible prejudices, Philadelphia blew.me.away.
Heinrich and I dropped off our bags at our hotel (Loews Hotel, which is an incredible place to stay if anyone’s in Phila. The room is impeccable, the service is top, the location is ideal, and the gym is amazing! And then, there’s that view…) and then headed toward the farmer’s market a few blocks away, where we were told we could find a good breakfast.
We headed toward the market, expecting to find a few produce stalls in a city park (after all, we were in downtown Philadelphia), but what we found instead was a huge indoor market, compete with several diners, delis, meat and cheese shops, produce stands, confectionaries offering traditional and random treats like a chocolate-covered onion (because that sounds like a good combination!), and bakeries like this:After breakfast, Heinrich and I excitedly vibrated onto the street (anyone who knows me is aware that caffeine and sugar are a deadly combination for me!) and coincidentally stumbled upon a Big Bus stop, offering hop-on-hop-off tours of the city. I’d never taken one of these buses before, but seeing as I didn’t know the first thing about the city (clearly), we decided to give it a try.
We squished onto the crowded bus (of course, we had checked into our hotel, wandered the market, and eaten breakfast all before the very first bus of the day departed) and began our tour of the city. We drove through the city streets as our guide regaled us with tales of Philadelphia’s Quaker history and Edmund Bacon (Kevin Bacon’s architect father who was apparently a key figure in Philadelphia’s city planning).
But one name in particular seemed to come up in almost every other sentence: Benjamin Franklin. I didn’t get the borderline obsession with this kite-flying politician. Why was he on the side of practically every building?
Well, my friends, the answer to that is quite simple: Franklin spent much of his life in Philadelphia, and he did everything. No, I mean everything.
It turned out that outside his political successes (like, y’know, drafting the Declaration of Independence!) and his scientific discoveries and inventions (like bifocals, lightning rods, and flexible catheters), he was a tradesman (a printer, who also penned German books for Moravians and founded Pennsylvania’s first German newspaper—because of course he was fluent in German too), a teamster, and a postmaster. Oh, and he founded Philadelphia’s first fire department and world’s first public library. And I’m sure I’m barely brushing the surface. He did it all.
The bus then turned a few corners, and we found ourselves at a landmark I actually recognized (even though I hadn’t seen the movie): the Rocky statue.