After struggling with my bag through the 25°C heat in Savannah to the bus station, and surviving an 8 hour bus journey with a 3 hour layover in Atlanta I’d rather forget, I arrived at my next destination; Nashville, Tennessee.
So what’s the allure of Nashville? Also known as Music City, Tennessee’s state capital is where music legends are born. Where they play their first shows – where the music industry lives. From Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, to Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood as well as countless others, this city has claims to them all. You come here for the foot stompin’ live music. The boots, cowboy hats, belt buckles and plaid shirts. Country music blares from every bar. Tie this in with a modern downtown, friendly locals and intriguing history and bam! You’ve got yourself a stop on my USA tour.
My first stop in town was the Johnny Cash museum. I’m not really sure how I know his music so well but I would say I’m quite a fan. The museum wasn’t bad; actually as museums go it was really well set up. They had great items on show and interactive things to do. But I found it a little sycophantic – it really seemed to gloss over Cash’s drug problems that lasted 7 years and his questionable attempts at acting in movies. But there’s no denying he was one of the most talented and successful singers to ever live, and I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent there. In the afternoon I checked out the state capitol and the Tennessee State Museum. Aside from setting off a load of alarms by reaching over a barrier to touch some of the exhibits (yeah you’re not supposed to do that) I had a relaxing and educational time. I didn’t even know Tennessee had been a member of the confederacy! The more you know.
That evening I walked across the entire city to attend a couchsurfing social. I turned out to be the only traveller there which meant I was pretty popular (what’s new?). But the Americans were super welcoming and pretty interested in what I had to say concerning the US. Talking with them I realised how people here think of Europe as being this funny faraway place. And that the UK is just one more of those countries on the wrong side of the Atlantic that kind of bumbles along wishing it was America. Probably. I was somewhat bemused by how little some of them knew about England, but at the same time deeply impressed that three people present had visited Transnistria in Moldova. Doesn’t get much more obscure than that.
The next day I went to Puckett’s for lunch, on the recommendation of the lovely Merenna (still not sure how she knows Nashville so well) and tried the apple cobbler, which proved to be excellent! 😉 The lunch was gigantic and I could hardly move after, so I walked it off by strolling to the Centennial Park, where I’d read about an intriguing spectacle; a scale replica of Athens’ Parthenon. Genuinely. Some lunatic had decided the amount of ancient Greek architecture in America was lacking, so rectified it by building an exact copy of a building over 9000km away. They actually call Nashville the “Athens of the South” (even though there is an Athens in the South, in Georgia) but as Lisa Simpson said;
Anything that’s the “something” of the “something” isn’t really the “anything” of “anything”.
But anyway I obviously had to go see it.
I didn’t like it. I can’t even explain why. It was stupid and ugly and it annoyed me. Just the very idea of it. So I sat on a nearby bench to read and ignore it. After a time I noticed I was sat looking at a building site, so I left. That’s when I learnt that my next destination has the second highest crime rate in the United States, but I’ll get to that another time…
The next day was Thanksgiving (yay) which meant that everything was closed (boo). I was pretty eager to experience a Thanksgiving dinner whilst in the States, but travelling solo and having no contacts in Tennessee I didn’t expect to get an opportunity. Well I completely lucked out. My host, Kurt, said I was welcome to crash the dinner he was going to, at his friend Abner’s in Centerville. There were supposed to be 16 guests; obviously I wouldn’t know any of them besides Kurt. It turned out to be an awesome evening. Firstly, Abner’s big house was built in the 1860s and was completely decked out with Christmas decorations. There were 9 trees I counted (full size) and there were lights and festive crap festooned all over the shop. It was magical, like I was in a film or something. Abner was the most generous host and told me to treat his house as if it were my own. I told him he reminded me of Jay Gatsby with his lavish parties and guests who hardly knew him.
After meeting the other guests, who were all around my parents’ age, we went round in a circle and said what we were thankful for. I said I was thankful for the generosity of people who didn’t know me and who made me feel so welcome in their homes, expecting nothing in return. I was later told by one of the lady guests I was adorable 😆
The meal was sumptuous; deep fried turkey with cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping, sausage casserole, sweet stuffing, egg gravy, more casserole, veggies, more turkey, regular gravy… and on, and on. I heaped up my plate and almost died trying to finish it. It was so filling but so so delicious! Dessert was apple cream pie, caramel pie, fruit salads, chocolate covered fruit salads… needless to say it was phenomenal.
I met some interesting characters there. People in their sixties who were born, bred and lived their entire lives in Centerville. Mechanical Engineering graduates. The guy sat opposite me (who was possibly the coolest guy I’ve ever met) was writing a book on the history of saxophones and was the former manager of Tammy Wynette, a country singer I’d never heard of but had for some reason come up in conversation earlier that day. After dinner we played a fairly unsuccessful game of The Simpsons “Scene It” (which I owned) and made tracks back to the big city to check out a couple of bars on Broadway.
There was a woman in boots, playing her guitar and singing “Hey Good Lookin’ ” in the first place, which was the most stereotypically country style bar I’d ever seen (loved it). The music scene here is truly special, like nothing I’ve ever encountered. I just wish I had had more opportunities to experience it! Next time I’ll have to bring a friend with me to explore them with…