„If you’re going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in your hear, if you going to San Francisco, you gonna meet some gentle people there“ this is probably the most popular song about San Francisco, named ‘San Francisco’ by Scott McKenzie and I couldn’t get it out of my head while sitting on plane heading to this spectacular city.
CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH
In January 1848, near American River in Sierra Nevada a big gold deposit was found by carpenter from Pennsylvania. He was clever enough to keep the secret, but not for long. Nobody trusted him at first, but only till trader Samuel Brannan ran to small town under the mountains, called San Francisco and told everyone about gold deposit near American river. The legend says that he bought up all shovels and axes and the next day, sold them all with big profit. This man became the richest man in California who haven’t mined single gram of gold from the ground. Thanks to gold rush, San Francisco became one of the world’s famous city and that’s the reason, why is it one of America’s most expensive city as well. Golden rush has attracted many people from whole America with a vision of better life and becoming rich.
Well, people of San Francisco are various. To be honest, for the first few hours after my arrival I wanted to leave, this doesn’t happen often to me. First, in metro from the airport a stranger with bicycle call me out for a date, I gently declined. When I got off the metro I was shocked. My hotel was located in the area with lot of homeless people, lot of weird people on wheelchairs or without hands or eyes sleeping on the streets and I didn’t feel safe. I’m used to meet weird people from my visits of New York city but this was too much.
After few days I got used to it, mostly, these people don’t interact with visitors and if they do, they just ask for money. We always ignored them. They’re all around the city, but most of them can be seen in neighborhood called Tenderloin and around Civic center. If you can, avoid this area, but I must say, it isn’t dangerous here, even it looks like it is. During my stay, I didn’t noticed any crime or accident that would have affected my visit. Many of these people are descendants of Hippie era that changed San Francisco in the summer of 1967 and you can still feel in the air the hippie era. Literally :) everyone on the streets smokes marijuana, since for recreational use, up to 28 grams of marijuana is treated as infraction similar to traffic violation and you may get fined max.100 USD.
Hippies changed America. Hippie movement also defined by it’s stand against to the Vietnam war had not only spread over this city, but also over the whole America and all around the world. In January 1967 around 30 000 people gathered in Golden Gate Park as a protest to the ‘love pageant’. The same year, almost 100 000 Hippie people from whole States came to San Francisco and the center of everything was in Golden Gate Park, the summer of 1967 was the ‘summer of love’. San Francisco became the epicenter of the Hippie revolution, freedom of sexuality music and drugs.
THE CITY TODAY
San Francisco has very small downtown that it is not spread so far and if your hotel is located right here, you can literally walk everywhere, even to the Golden Gate Bridge that is little out of the city center. If you are lazy kind of person, prepare yourself for lot of climbing and descending, since the streets of San Francisco are mostly on hills, which makes a lot of angles for nice pictures of this city. Definitely stop by on Union square what is main square of downtown in San Francisco. The square itself isn’t very big, but there’s so much to do. You can have breakfast in local restaurants, beer in local pubs or coffee in cafeterias that are located right here. Wanna do some fancy shopping? Do it here! Shops like Banana republic or Louis Vuitton are located right here. From Union Square it is just few steps away from one of the most visited areas in San Francisco, China Town where you can feel the Chinese atmosphere that is very widespread through whole city. I was very surprised, how many Chinese people are in San Francisco. Lot of hand made gods, toys or traditional food are available for fair prices.
There is so much to see and do in San Francisco. Typical architecture is represented by „Painted ladies“ or Golden Gate Bridge that is actually red is probably the world’s most famous bridge. Cable car or Alcatraz, everything in articles next Sundays!
San Francisco is in California, but it does not mean sunny and warm days. Not in this city. San Francisco is surrounded with Pacific ocean, San Francisco bay and San Pablo bay. This makes weather very humid and cold. Yes, cold. The average temperature in August is 20 degrees Celsius, and 68 Fahrenheit. Forget about swimming in the ocean, beaches are here only for sunbathing and playing. Most of the time here, I wore sweater and jeans and usually, till the noon, the city is covered with fog. I didn’t know about this weather thing, before I started to plan my trip here, and I was pretty surprised. When I hear word California, I imagine sunny beaches, cocktails and tanned people, not fog and sweaters.
HOW TO USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Public transportation is available, but you will not need it, unless you live outside of downtown. Tickets costs 2,25 USD and you pay to driver who gives you ticket. Ticket is valid until the time seen on the ticket, usually around 2 hours and you can use it on any other bus, excluding metro and cable car. To be honest, in my opinion, only weird people and visitors use public transportation. In America, everybody has car and sometimes I couldn’t stand stinky homeless people sitting next to me.
THE GAY COMMUNITY IN TOWN
San Francisco is known for it’s gay culture, as well. The first gay neighborhood in America is right here – Castro. Castro street was named after José Castro who was leader of Mexican opposition in the USA. Nowadays, Castro became something like „Gay Mecca“ due to big gay community living here. Till the 1960 Castro was the district for working class, but during the World War II many gay soldiers came to San Francisco and formed here relationships as a result of hippie era that were promoting immediate pleasure and sexual freedom. We visited Castro during our stay, since it is just couple minutes of walking from city center. This district is full of fancy restaurants, small coffees and gay couples walking streets hand in hand.
San Francisco is special city. Without the gold era, it probably wouldn’t have existed now what would have been pity. Golden era and era of hippies have formed this city to the city you will never find anywhere in the world. People here are free, you can feel freedom in the air. Big community of Chinese people that transformed the part of the city to small China town, so they feel like home, gay district where you can be whoever you want or just American culture that is not so visible here. San Francisco is like small island apart of America. At first, I did not feel here comfortable because lot of homeless people, but once you get use to it there is nothing that would stop you from enjoying this unique piece of the world.
Milan Bardun 2014 – because it is better to travel than to arrive
Image sources: gold era, first black and white image
hippies people on car