New Yorker Reunion

***Deutsche Version***
 

New York, New York—where not only the buildings tower endlessly into the sky, but also the eternal joy of reuniting.

The time of reunions

 

After six months of travelling in South America, New York was all about friends and family. When we arrived in Newark, we learnt about the heavy rains and the subway flooding in Manhattan. Fortunately, we didn't have to take the route via New York City (NYC). We could travel directly from the airport to Rosie and John in Suffern, Dominik's relatives. After so many bus journeys, it was nice to be travelling by train for a change, even if the journey was not as smooth as we are used to in Switzerland.

 

We received an incredibly warm welcome when we arrived and enjoyed a delicious dinner with their bright granddaughter, Riley. Despite her busy schedule, Rosie made time and spoilt us from start to finish. In the following days, we met other relatives, enjoyed a wine tasting at a beautiful location and savoured the get-together. On Sunday, many people travelled all the way for lunch, which was incredibly touching.


We were also lucky enough to experience something few tourists see when visiting NYC. Frankie gave us an exclusive tour of the FDNY of Marine 1 and took us to a park opening on the Hudson River. At this dedication, none other than NY State Governor Kathy Hochul gave a speech. It was exciting to observe the dynamics.

It quickly became apparent where there was some tension, who had the most influence and who they wanted to impress at this event. The FDNY then put on a surprise water show with one of their impressive fireboats, much to the delight of everyone present. Afterwards, Frankie insisted on driving us to our friends in New Jersey. We were delighted to see Jana's previous flatmate Nola and her boyfriend Jonas after six months. When we entered the elegant lobby with our backpacks, we couldn't help but laugh ourselves and could only imagine what the lady at reception was thinking. It was a strange feeling to see someone again after we had spent virtually every day together before. Nevertheless, after the reunion, it felt like we had only seen each other yesterday. 

Once again, we enjoyed incredible hospitality. The flat with a view of Manhattan is fantastic, and every morning, we could admire the sunrise from our bed. 

 

Nola adapted fully to our needs. We went on a leisurely bike ride along the Hudson River, talked a lot, enjoyed the weather and ate good food. We also got invited to a pre-season game of the New Jersey Devils, for whom Jonas is playing. Although it was “only” a pre-season game, the stadium was full; after all, it was last year's playoff match against the New York Rangers. The loud music, the animating speaker and the guessing games during the breaks were the epitome of “Welcome to America”. The New Jersey Devils left the field that evening as superior winners with a 5:2 victory.

 

The three days flew by, and the next reunion was just around the corner. Jana's mum, Krista, and her sister Laura visited us. After Nola and Jonas dropped us off at our Airbnb, we had just enough time to buy snacks and drinks before they arrived. We were over the moon to see them again. We travelled to the Hudson River for the sunset to get a first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline before we plunged into the hustle and bustle of the city in the days that followed. The evening dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Hoboken rounded off the day perfectly before the two fell into bed dead tired. 

 

On a joint discovery tour

 

The next day, we went for breakfast in Union City, where we were staying. We knew in advance that many South Americans live here but didn't realise the influence was so strong. At first, we didn't even notice that a lot of the shops were only labelled in Spanish, as we hadn't known anything else for the past six months. Many didn't speak English either, and, like everywhere in South America, a load of cinnamon was served on the cappuccino. In and around New York, this is just one example of a large community that has built its own neighbourhood just like in their home countries. 

After breakfast, we really got going and made our way into the city centre. Luckily, Laura had also lived in Union City on the New Jersey side during her last stay in NYC and knew how the bus system worked. It wasn't that intuitive. The fact that there were no buttons, but rather inconspicuous ropes on the windows for bus stops—we probably wouldn't have realised that for a long time. 

 

Within 20 minutes, we were in the city centre, and after a short detour to Times Square, we made our way to the world-known Central Park. We walked along the lake, creatively named “The Lake”, watched the countless squirrels and marvelled at the backdrop to numerous famous films. We then made our way to Chinatown. This lively neighbourhood in the southern part of Manhattan is home to one of the largest Chinese communities outside of Asia. Chinatown has changed a lot in recent years. Many traditional family businesses have given way to tourism-orientated companies, and the population structure has changed due to gentrification.

 

It was imposing how everything was suddenly labelled in Chinese as soon as we left the Canal Street subway station. The whole atmosphere of the neighbourhood was entirely different. The smell of exotic spices and fresh food was in the air as we navigated between the crowds. Roasted ducks or geese hung in some shop windows, massage parlours were next to them, and Chinese street food was advertised in front of the shops. We let all the impressions sink in, and without really realising it, we suddenly ended up in Little Italy. 

 

The two neighbourhoods are practically intertwined due to the expansion of Chinatown. As the name suggests, Little Italy was the former centre of NYC's Italian community. Today, it is still a tourist destination but much smaller than it used to be. However, some historic buildings and traditions have been preserved, and some restaurants still specialise in Italian cuisine. We enjoyed an Aperol Spritz in one of these restaurants before moving on to the SoHo neighbourhood for dinner. SoHo stands for “South of Houston Street”. In the 1960s, artists began occupying abandoned factory buildings in the original industrial area. Over the years, the neighbourhood has developed into an upscale shopping district, yet it has retained its artistic charm.

In SoHo, we also enjoyed the long-awaited American burger, which is part and parcel of a visit to the United States. What we saw on this one day was amazing, yet there was still so much more waiting for us. We fell into bed that evening, totally exhausted.


The next day was perfect for a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, better known as MoMa. It was raining cats and dogs outside, and we were able to view the works of outstanding artists in the bright exhibition rooms. We particularly liked Pollok's works with their wild yet harmonious splashes of colour and enormous depth.

 

We were then invited by Nola and Jonas to an aperitif in their appartment. We almost couldn't get enough of the view from the flat. We had great conversations, and the initial aperitif was extended to a cosy dinner. A rooftop restaurant would undoubtedly have also offered a breathtaking view, but the experience would not have been nearly as unique. There is something special about seeing a place through the eyes of people who live there, as it creates personal connections to the places and experiences you share. It's not just the sights of a city that make extraordinary memories, it's also the people.

 

Needless to say, a visit to the borough of Brooklyn was also on the programme during our stay. The first thing we did was stroll across the famous Brooklyn Bridge, take photos and buy souvenirs from the countless street vendors on the bridge. Unfortunately, as we found out by chance from an article in the New York Times, this is no longer possible as the city banned street vendors from the bridge at the beginning of January.

In recent years, Brooklyn has also experienced intense gentrification, which has had both positive and negative effects. It has improved the quality of housing and boosted the economy and infrastructure. It has also led to rising rents, displacement of low-income residents and a loss of social diversity. What was once considered affordable housing has now become unaffordable for many.

 

One of the most up-and-coming and hippest neighbourhoods in Brooklyn is Williamsburg. Many things come together here: cosy cafés, hipster bars and exciting shop concepts with original creations by local artists. After exploring the neighbourhood extensively on foot, we took a break at the Brooklyn Brewery and enjoyed a cold beer.

 

Williamsburg is also home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. It stands in strong contrast to the rest of the neighbourhood. Traditional values, lifestyles and religious practices dominate the orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg. On the street, you will almost exclusively meet men in black suits and temple curls, as well as women in long skirts and headscarves. There are synagogues, Jewish schools and kosher shops that cater to the needs of the community. Many of the signs are in Yiddish. Once again, we are immersed in a completely different world. 

To round off the day, we revisited Times Square at night, although it was so bright with the neon signs that you could easily have walked around there with sunglasses on. A totally fascinating place with all the people, the giant screens on the skyscrapers and the artistic performances 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After a Schlumi (a German word for the last drink before bed), we made our way home. In the underground labyrinth of the subway, we were treated to a brilliant violin concert. A young artist with a Spiderman face mask had gathered a massive crowd of people and wowed them with his talent. We would have loved to know who was hiding under the mask, but unfortunately, the artist's face remained hidden. In general, it was exciting to see what was happening in the subway stations and tunnels. You could find everything there, from street musicians to newlyweds doing their wedding shoot, to people in disguise, homeless people and business people in suits.

To learn even more about the history of NYC, we also took part in a free walking tour that week. After South America, we became true fans. By coincidence, the tour was led by a Colombian immigrant. It wasn't one of the best we've been on, but we still learnt a lot. 

New York City, once inhabited by indigenous peoples, was founded in 1624 by the Dutch West India Company as “Nieuw Amsterdam”. In 1664, the English conquered the colony and renamed the city to New York. In 1811, surveyor Randel's Comissioner's Plan laid the foundation for today's New York. He divided the rapidly growing city, which had just 100,000 inhabitants at the time, into today's street grid with its 155 streets and 14 avenues. Broadway, which runs diagonally through the transport network, is the big exception. This created enormous tension in the otherwise strict grid, allowing squares such as Times Square to emerge and influencing the layout of the Flatiron Building. The visionary plan led to explosive population growth in the 20th century. It turned the city, with its iconic skyscrapers, into the metropolis we know today.

As mentioned, our entire stay was characterised by friends, family and various reunions. We also met up with Dominik's cousins, who live in Manhattan and whom we had not yet met. They all took the time to come round. It was exciting to chat, learn about their future plans and what is keeping them busy at the moment. We were all deeply impressed that three cousins were preparing for the NYC Marathon at the time. 


After all these exciting experiences, we took a break from the big city and headed south by train. Rita and Shawn, also relatives of Dominik, had invited us to their home in Monmouth Beach. After our arrival, we took a relaxing stroll along the beach, browsed through local shops and enjoyed a good coffee at the popular Rooks. In the evening, Shawn cooked us an exquisite Irish dinner, and we rounded off the cosy day with a good glass of red wine. 

 

After this little getaway, we took the ferry to Manhattan the next day. A pleasant and quick way to travel into the city with a great view of the Statue of Liberty. We crossed under the iconic suspension bridges along the East River to 35th Street. From there, we strolled up 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Center, where we wanted to admire the sunset on the deck. 

 

Unfortunately, Dominik had his Swiss Army Knife with him and was rejected at the security checkpoint. He hid the knife behind a metal grille at the Radio City Music Hall. Without further checks, he made it in time for the breathtaking sunset. After the red sky had given way to darkness and the city showed its night dress, we took the lift back down the 70 floors. We did one last typical New York activity that evening. We dined in a Greek diner, of which there are countless in the city. 

Time to say goodbye 

 

This crazy week with Jana's family was already over, and it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to them the next day. For us, the New Jersey Devils season opener against the Detroit Red Wings was the crowning glory of an emotional and overwhelming stay in New York. With two good friends of Nola and Jonas, we cheered along with the fans in the stands at the Prudential Centre. In the beginning, we trembled a little, but the Devils won the game in the end, and Jonas was involved in three of the four goals with an assist.

 

Afterwards, we were able to experience first-hand what it feels like to be a star. After every game, countless fans wait at the exit to get their stars' autographs. When a player stops, the unofficial rule is to give everyone an autograph. After we had encouraged Jonas to open the window, there were loud shouts of “Siegs”, as they call him, from all sides. He was showered with compliments, and the four of us in the back seat had a great laugh. On the other hand, Jonas was happy when he “survived” the autograph session. 

We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took the time for us and made our stay unforgettable. Special thanks to Rosie and John, Rita and Shawn, and Nola and Jonas for letting us stay with them. Also, a huge thank you to Mummy Krista and Laura, who travelled all the way to visit us. These two weeks flew by, and it felt like a home away from home.

Beforehand, we were convinced that we would certainly find some time for travelling research during these days—but we were wrong. In fact, we only knew a little about our next stop, and before we knew it, we were on the plane to Tanzania. A slight feeling of nervousness spread, as we didn't know what awaited us in Africa.

Ecuador

To live up to our name DJ on Tour, here is a song that accompanied us during this time.

The power song was often played during the NJ Devils hockey games and fits perfectly with our trip to New York.

Gallery

Logo DJ on tour

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