Atlanta was a completely different experience to comparatively quaint Savannah and Charleston. From the towering skyscrapers to the sheer amount of people and traffic this was actually closer to London than to a ‘Southern town’ as I had experienced so far.
Whilst it would be wrong to describe Atlanta as a ‘modern city’, technically this is what it is, since it had to be completely rebuilt after being burned to the ground by the Union army in the civil war. However, like many American towns there is a depth of modern history to explore, especially in civil rights being the birth- and resting-place of Martin Luther King.
Visiting the King memorial centre was an incredibly moving experience. Even though there were lots of other people there it was incredible the sense of peace and respect that the memorial induced. The museum itself was quite interesting, containing clips of his speeches, which really were electrifying, as well as lots of added detail on his nomination and winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. His grave in particular was hugely moving, and is displayed publicly in the centre of the ‘reflecting pool’ and neighboured by the everlasting flame, serving to remind people of the ultimate sacrifice he made for justice.
Next day I did something equally as high-brow and went to Coke World! Since I’m not actually a huge fan of sugary fizzy drinks, I pretty much went because it looked like some brainless fun, and I was right! It was really good fun seeing what Coke started out as, and some of the investments that make it the phenomenon it is today. For example, did you know that the owner of the recipe didn’t think that bottling the product would take off and so sold the bottling rights for only $1! Ending the tour with a tasting room full of over 100 types of drink that Coca Cola manufacture was the highlight. Having said that, having been challenged to try them all, I was feeling a bit dodgy by the end! The banana flavoured drink from Taiwan was my favourite.
After exploring some of the suburbs, including the Jimmy Carter presidential library, I called it a day, returning the next day for a relaxed stroll through Piedmont Park, including the Atlanta Ice-cream festival, which was really fun despite being about 10 years too old for the average customer!
Atlanta wasn’t a charming place, being more of a big, bullish city with few of the interesting nooks and crannies that made Savannah and Charleston so interesting. However, this side of Atlanta ensured there was always something going on, and made the power of places like Auburn Avenue, where King grew up, even more poignant. So began my week of civil rights touring, with my next stop being Montgomery and Selma, Alabama.