A place for a walk

Balboa Park mit El Prado und Turm (c) Ulrich Pfaffenberger
Balboa Park mit El Prado und Turm (c) Ulrich Pfaffenberger

Visiting Balboa Park in San Diego is like moving through a movie. A movie with the most varying variety of yet unknown actresses and actors. As they move along with the scenery and myself they create an unendingly sequence of pictures and sounds thereby creating an unique masterpiece. Whatever the season may be, whatever the time of the day, whatever the mood you are in: this will be your favorite movie again and again.

Of all the places I have seen and been during my travels through North America there is one in particular, that over the years has caught my senses: Balboa Park in San Diego. When I walked in first time some 36 years ago – and this without doubt is a place to walk in – I was surprised and fascinated by what I saw. The Spanish style architecture of the buildings, in combination with the wide center alley called „El Prado“, the palm trees and the ongoing sound of music, voices, laughter and fountains touched me immediately. Since that I have returned many times and enjoyed the calmness and beauty of this place.

A personal landmark is the bridge leaving the park on the West. Beneath crosses Highway 163, den „Cabrillo Highway“, through a green valley, one of the most beautiful stretches of an innercity highway in the country. On the right you may catch some glimpses to the wellknown San Diego Zoo, another good place to visit. Looking to the South you’ll get a closeup view of planes on their short final, approaching Lindbergh Field. Don’t forget to choose a starboard seat next time you fly into SAN to enjoy the reverse perspective.

Am Brunnen im Balboa Park (c) Ulrich Pfaffenberger
Am Brunnen im Balboa Park (c) Ulrich Pfaffenberger

On the other end of the park the sparkling sounds and lights of the great fountain are welcoming and comforting every visitor. Whether you spend minutes there or hours, the sensations you experience there will make you wish to come back. Kids and grownups are circling the walls of the fountain. Or they rest on them enjoying a drink or a snack or a book – or just like you the view. Groups of visitors enter the neighboring Reuben H Fleet Science Center, others climb up the marble stairs to the Natural History Museum on the opposing site. Let your phantasy be the director and you will watch more than just one movie going on.

I like in particular the nostalgic wooden structure of the Botancial Building. The plants and butterflies inside, the sunlight breaking through the open grid of tiles and the reflections of the building in the Lily Pond are more than just picturesque, because they are alive in third and fourth dimension. Bring your picknick along and take your seat here, and save the kiss of the day with your partner at this place.

Whereever your curiosity or your feet are leading you be prepared not to look to your watch. A full day in Balboa Park is spent easily even without entering one of the museums. Especially when you turn back time in your imagination, strolling through the styles and ambiences of 1915, when the Panama-California Exposition gave the Park its shape of today. Pictures and memorabilia from that time are shown in the San Diego History Center located in the heart of the Park. You’ll find there as well an easy to follow access to the story, why San Diego is so different from all the other big cities in the country.

As San Diego always has been the home to great sailors – on water as in the air – the Air & Space Museum is definetely worth a visit. It’s not only about the models and replicas from the early times of flying that catch your eye. It’s also about the stories told of gone and not to be forgotten eras of air travel, when PanAm or PSA carried their logos proudly through the Californian skies and aircraft were built near the harbour.

Finally the story of the Park wouldn’t be complete without the gardens. 19 of them are spread over the area, the Japanese Friendship Garden being the largest and best known of them, the Marston House Garden the most romantic of them and Palm Canyon with its winding paths through a tropical landscape the most underestimated. Coming as close as you can get here to life in the cycles of nature you will immediately understand, why Balboa Park is a place to come and to live with every day of the year. See you there!


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