America through my eyes -Sacramento
Telugu Original : Dr K.Geeta
English Translation: Madhuri Palaji
Sacramento is the capital city of California. This is the city where first and foremost settlements started during the period of “Gold Rush” in Northern California. It’s a very convenient city for transportation. A very fertile land with the conflux of two rivers. This city has a railway transportation facility to other states as well. When Telegraph was not invented, around the 1860s, this was the main region for PONY EXPRESS which delivered posts on horses.
It’s one hundred and twenty miles away from our place. It is about a two-hour drive. If you want to go to Lake Tahoe or Mount Shasta in the north, you have to drive through Sacramento. We have gone in that direction about seven or eight times. Recently, on one Sunday afternoon, we drove through the Downtown main highway adjacent to Sacramento assembly. We were surprised to see the capital city roads with no traffic and people, like it was some curfew. Tall skyscrapers, grand assembly on one side, and Tower Bridge on the other side, like someone painted yellow to the sky. Though it is the sixth largest city in the entire state, there was no buzz at all. But the Old Sacramento which is close by is always busy with people roaming around.
We especially like Sacramento old city. It’s not only a busy and exciting place, but also, the city is just like it was built about a hundred and fifty years ago immensely attracting tourists from many places. But finding street parking here is greatly difficult. A paid parking garage at the corner is little expensive but available. It takes a lot of time to leisurely explore the shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions in those two streets. And to explore and enjoy all the attractions in Sacramento, it will take three to four full days. Whenever we went in that direction, we made sure to stop there and visit each attraction one at a time.
When we went for the first time, we rode the horse wagon in the old city. Though the ticket per family is $10 to ride through those two streets for about fifteen to twenty minutes, the ride is a rich and royal experience. The best breed horses, too, are very tall and strong. Although, it was the first time for me to see horses that were so strong. I was astonished to see them.
Ride on the River:
I told you that Sacramento is the conflux of two rivers, right? One among those is River Sacramento. River Sacramento is born in Klamath mountain ranges which are four hundred miles north from Sacramento, it travels across Sacramento, and meets the sea before San Francisco. The second river is American River flows north-west, reaches Sacramento and meets River Sacramento. Before I tell you about the damage caused by these rivers and how it caused changes to the old city, I will tell you about the pleasant weather now. Sacramento River Cruises run different types of services. We picked the Sightseeing Tour that is economical for the tourists to ride on the river. Ticket fare is $20 per individual. The ride lasts for over one and half hours from 3PM in the afternoon. The lower deck has the dine-in and the upper deck has the seating. The guide explains the tourist attractions along the shore. But a major attraction for kids during this time of the river ride is the train-road bridge that parts to give way to the ships below. It’s a process of about thirty minutes. Kids were very excited because it was their first time. The cruise goes a little beyond the confluence of the American River and Sacramento River and then returns. Watching the two rivers mixing directly by entering in that flow is an incredible experience.
Old Sacramento Historic Tour:-
This is a tour that explains the details about how the people in old times protected the city from the damage caused by the floods of both the rivers. The city, now, is built better. Since we couldn’t get tickets for everyone, I went alone for this tour. Moreover, it was not a tour for kids under ten years old. After buying the ticket for $15 and standing in the line, the guide gave hand fans made of paper to everyone. They also gave a radio set and headphones to each so that everyone can hear her voice. They opened the lock and took us into the opposite building’s garage. The smell of soil surrounded us as soon as we entered that place. It was so strong that many people started coughing, including me. It felt like we really entered the hundred year old history. They seated us there and showed a twenty minute video. That’s the only thing that I didn’t like on the tour. They could’ve shown that video outside and then taken us inside. But the incidents they showed in the video were great. Sacramento is an old city. But, due to the fatal floods that occurred in 1860, the two streets that are close to the shore were extremely destroyed and the buildings mostly drowned till the first floor. Since the buildings were made of wood, they lifted the soaked floors in the two-and-half miles area with jacks by nine feet and left the empty bottom spaces for garages.
They have continued to protect two of those garages until now. And now, we entered one of the garages. While we walked inside, we could hear the sounds of people walking on the roads and sidewalks above. All the floors are standing on these wooden pillars. There is soil everywhere, like there was some archaeological digging. They laid wooden planks to walk. They have put some remains found in this place for exhibition. Looking at this, it terrified me to think about the conditions of those times. Apparently, they have worked for over fifteen years to lift these floors above. The guide said that there was one death in the records of these times but many deaths were not recorded, though. It is very difficult to deal with dangers in this country, especially in older times. Most of the year, the weather is extremely cold and one cannot live through nights like them. While I was exploring that place, I could see many untold stories and my heart cried for them. After coming out of the garage, it took awhile for me to adjust my eyes to the light outside. They took us to another building two blocks away. It looked like an old building in Kolkata on the outside. We entered the garage there, too, and explored the place. In this particular tour, the dusty smell of past history stuck to my body. And when we came out and walked in those two streets of the old city, I felt like I was in the eighteenth century.
We ordered Satya’s favorite Fried Crabs in the Joe’s Crab Shack Restaurant. There are iron buckets half-exposed between the tables to throw the trash. I laughed at their idea of the trash can. Though each crab’s price was more than $20, when we requested for spicy ones, they brought us exactly like the ones we make in India with hot chilli powder. This restaurant is very busy and tasted best among the other restaurants.
We can reach the Tower Bridge by walking via the walkway adjacent to the railway tracks on the river shore. The weather in Sacramento during the day is usually warm. You can walk on the highways without the fear of cold. After crossing two streets further, you can reach Downtown. Across the river, on the opposite shore, you can see the new Ziggurat – California Department of General Services built in the shape of pyramids. You can spend a very long time just watching the river flowing below the golden bridge, a unique combination of both old and new. The yellow colour of the bridge looks funny and beautiful, too.
California State Capitol Building:-
California State Capitol Building is seen at the end of the main highway of Sacramento Downtown. The other end has Tower Bridge. The road looks beautiful in between. Lying down on the grass surrounding the California State Capitol Building Circle and looking at the glowing white mansion with a high dome is an incredible experience. That mansion was built in 1874 in a beautiful shape by neo classic method.
At the back of the bottom floor, you can see all the county details in California behind the glass. If you walk through the verandahs and go inside, you will feel like you entered a big museum with beautiful and expensive sculptures and paintings and the bright high dome gives it the view of a palace. In the central hall, there is a wonderful sculpture from the times where Queen Isabella was issuing orders to Columbus for the launch of the new world. They have kept few rooms open for the tourists. Each wooden object in that place would cost nothing less than hundreds and thousands of dollars. Even the lift is designed with great art and craft.
When we entered a room on the second floor, we saw the Assembly Gallery. If you lift your eyes, you can see beautiful chandeliers hanging from above. If you see below, you will find spacious and most important people’s representatives’ semi-circle thrones. Standing in the center of that hall is a mind-blowing experience. I also felt like the people’s money has been wasted in huge sums in this building. But according to them, they wanted to make this building into a monument. That’s all.
After walking about a mile north from there, there is an attractive old building amid the modern streets. That is none other than the famous Sutter Fort. John Sutter Sr. came from Switzerland and built this fort in 1839. If you enter the premises, you can feel like the servants and John Sutter himself are present right there. The living place of Sutter occupies the center of the spacious premises and the rooms built around it. That building reminded me of Indian structures. If we would’ve preserved our very own mansions like this, today we could’ve had thousands of remains to be proud of. They made sure to decorate each room like it was in the original times, giving it a very special attraction. There was a bullock cart at the gate, a lantern hanging to it, travellers sitting in the shadow of the tree with their utensils, it all felt so real. I remembered my childhood looking at this whole setting. We used to hang from the bullock carts in the back without the knowledge of the driver. Those were good times.
There was a spinning wheel in the first room showing how to make doormats. They were allowing kids to spin on their own. Varu liked it very much.
Every room had containers from those times, things, tools, employee accommodations for exhibition. Each of those takes us to the century behind. We can see utmost care in renovating this place.
When Sutter first stepped here, gold was discovered in those surroundings soon and people from all over the world started to arrive in this place. It all led to building a big state in the western coast of America. Sutter’s home was in the center of this whole place. It’s built on a high foundation, just like our older houses with a hall in the center and small rooms on either sides, again another hall and two rooms one on each side. His bed room, library, office space are as it is. But apparently, he lived a poor life during his last years. They show a twenty minute video explaining the life story of Sutter in a big room there. Varu watched all that with great excitement. She recently started developing interest in history. I always had special interest in history and geography. We both like globes and maps. We study them whenever we get a chance. Especially when we visit historic places like this, anyone would want to know the story and conditions of those times. It’s been 132 years since Sutter died, but tourists are still able to remember him because of this building in Sacramento city, isn’t it? Sutter Mill was the first gold mine started by Sutter when gold was newly discovered in the area.
Although, the history of the local people who worked very hard in these mines was not written anywhere which truly upset me. Isn’t it unfortunate that not even the names of the normal people do not remain in history?
It is said that there were many rich people in the area in that century because of the availability of all vehicle transportations from Sacramento and gold digging and mining nearby. People coming from all over the world and settling here, and development of the businesses supplying their daily needs, all this led to the development of this particular area of California. But in the current times, the well-developed Silicon Valley has increased the population and settlements in southern parts of San Francisco. These are the best examples to prove that civilizations come, go and change in history in different times. Sacramento is the best mixture of new and old. Sacramento city is named by a Spanish sailor, Gabriel Moraga. Sacramento means ‘Holy’ in Spanish language. If the need comes, we can change the name to ‘Beautiful!’
Photos & Telugu Original:
Madhuri Palaji is a writer and book reviewer from India. Her book “Poems of The Clipped Nightingale” is available on Kindle. She writes book reviews for various publishing houses like Penguin Random House, Meerkat Press, Hot Tree Publishings, Bethany Publishers, etc. She is one of the top 50 book reviewers in India. Her reviews are available at http://www.theclippednightingale.com/