Philadelphia was not a destination on its own, but merely a point on our journey to the southern parts of US. We entered the city with no expectations, only curious about its streets, much sang about. I had no worries about accommodation as we already succeeded in New York, and on CS fellow already said he can host us and gave us his phone number to call when we get to Philly. The first contact with the city was the bus stop: green park, imposing buildings with big names (US Mint, Treasury, Independence Hall, etc.), yet not the tall type as we used to see. We got off at the next stop, hoping to get more of the city from the bus window. There was nothing but heat, lack of shade and one huge monolithic building in the distance. The central train station was a good host for the next hour, but quite far from the city as we’ll soon come to realize.
First things first: I call the host to meet and leave the backpacks before heading over to the city. He picks up and asks which island we are on!!! Turns out he was in Hawaii, and still willing to host us! Sorry dude… We check our friend google for the cheapest hosts nearby: prices starting at 35$/person/night but there is one for just 20$/person. It’s at the other end of the city but we decide to go. No booking in advance, it’s just 1h away walking. The receptionist there tells us that the 20$ deal was for ‘the next day only’, and the normal price being 44$/night. We politely declined, taking the ‘no shit?!’ face expression and got out. With the first opportunity I decide to check again… still 20$/night for that night. The place is called Apple hostels. However, with no place to stay and no positive reply from CS, we head over to the train station, prepared to take advantage of the free WIFI and sleep there or in a nearby park. One last minute request solved the situation: after only 30min, we were entering Steven’s house.
We spent one night at his place and two more at Olivia and Marrisa’s, in the opposite side of town. This way we experienced living in row houses, surrounded by very cheerful and talkative afro-americans. They gracefully greeted you as they were moving away from your doorsteps so you can get out of the house. Quite an experience walking the streets of Kensington.
Philadelphia on the other hand is a nice and clean city with a huge deficit of benches or places to rest your ass without paying. Thanks to Steven we discovered few of the hundreds of street murals. You can easily walk past them if your eyes are stuck on the map (or your phone). We also experienced a good Starbucks treat from Olivia who was working there. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to try the famous cheese steaks sold ‘only here’. Maybe some other time.
This is the first place we tried to hitchhike out of. In about 20min from placing ourselves in a good spot, according to hitchwiki.org, we get a ride that seemed to be perfect. Apparently the driver didn’t want to stop initially, as he had a ‘client’ but he did after the client agreed. He said he has to stop at the airport first and then drive us to Baltimore. Agreed. At the airport the ‘client’ gets out and our driver takes out a price list. Surprise! Baltimore: 331$ Shock! It seems that this guy never heard of hitchhiking, and he only gets his jobs on iPhone (uber), but he is willing to negotiate the price. Negotiating a free ride back was easy, so he dropped us off at another exit to interstate, where we spent another hour in vain, getting only nice smiles. We finally went back to the city and took an afternoon bus to Baltimore. We have to make it to Severn by the nightfall.
Here are some of the murals we’ve seen around the city: