Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Playing Tourist in Birmingham

Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama, so that's probably why we found so many things to entertain us there. We made two more trips around town to see things that interested us. We also visited two different gardens in the city. We have found that walking through the gardens is great exercise on a beautiful day, and it doesn't hurt that there are new blooms beginning to peek out of their buds like these pink rhododendrons.

The winter camillias are still beautiful, and this one was in perfect form.

These gardens will be prettier in a month of two, but this tree carving (just like Mark) looks good any time of the year.
Another day we took a walk through the Birmingham Gardens, complete with tropical plants inside their greenhouses. Mark is a fan of bananas, and these were almost ready to pick.

Spring is beginning to show its colors, and Denisa loves the delicate new flowers of spring.

We're always looking for beautiful places to get exercise, so public parks will always be favorite stops for us. 

We got some great exercise at Ruffmore Mountain park in the northeast section of the city. Hiking up and down hills and valleys, we got over a thousand feet in elevation gain while we hiked over six miles.

On one of those hills we could see down into the quarry that was once part of Ruffmore Mountain.

Not exactly mountain hiking, we still made it to Sloss Peak--elevation 1,104 feet.

Denisa is always looking for wild flowers, and today we spotted one that we had never seen before. With a dappled green leaf, it had an even more curious bud.
We finally saw one blooming, and had to snap a picture. Later we would find out that from seed to bloom can be ten years for a trillium plant. So this tiny plant is actually an old-timer.

Another stop in Birmingham was going to our first ever greyhound race track. We chose the Wednesday afternoon matinee race, and we were the only ones sitting in the stands outside.

Just like a horse race, the dogs are paraded out front for all the people in the stands to inspect. The handlers yelled out to Denisa, "Hi Mom!" so I think having someone take pictures was unusual. The races are broadcast inside the race track building. So this pre-race parade was obviously for the people inside betting on the races--not for the one white-haired lady with a camera outside.

Once all the dogs were placed inside the starting gates, the handlers had to jog to the finish line in order to catch the dogs at the end of the race. Most races were a lap and a half long, so the dogs would be running further than the handlers. The race began when the mechanical rabbit ran in front of the starting gate, the gates were opened, and the dogs gave chase. This "rabbit" actually looked like a high speed toy race car with a white towel attached to a stick beside it. Whatever it looked like to a greyhound, it was good motivation to run their fastest around that track.

The dogs seemed to enjoy the race, and they were escorted back to their pens right after their race. Another eight dogs were led out for the next race, and we began again. We stayed for half of the dozen races in the matinee session, hearing that the evenings were better attended.

Another stop we made was downtown Birmingham. We parked at Kelly Ingram Park, the staging place for the famous civil rights protests in 1953. There was much unrest in this area in the 1950's, including the bombing of an African American Baptist church that killed four young girls. They are immortalized in this statue in the park, right across from the 16th Street Baptist Church. There are historical walks and other things to see downtown. But after being approached by two different homeless people who instructed us on how much money we should give them, Denisa was ready to move on.

So we headed to the last thing on our long list of Birmingham sites. We made the trip to Vulcan Park, fittingly named after the Roman God of fire and forge. Since we had already visited the steel furnaces of Birmingham, we understood how that name originated. Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world, and he is looking over southern Birmingham from his perch high above the city.

We can see the scale of Vulcan and his tower better with the people standing on the left side of the base. Built for the 1904 World's Fair, it was quite an engineering feat to place his 56-foot-tall body on top of that 123 foot tower.

Today we say good-bye to Birmingham from our perch in Vulcan Park.
We have enjoyed our time in the Birmingham area, but we have some surprising plans coming up!

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