After a long drive through the farmlands and open spaces of South Dakota where my progress is delayed by surprises like closed highways and tiny quiet towns with 15 mph posted speeds and nothing much except well-kept little homes, I finally make it to civilization in the form of Minneapolis. And it couldn’t be more of a welcome and appreciated change. It’s late when I get to town so I check into the hostel - definitely the best one I’ve been to so far, with intricate old-fashioned architectural details and a homey lived-in feel. And it just happens to be right across the street from what turns out to be my favorite attraction: The Minneapolis Institute of Art.
That night while planning my days ahead, I feel excited about being in the city and I realize it has a lot to do with the number of nice attractions in the Twin Cities that are free! I take a tour of St. Paul’s cathedral: a huge church encrusted in many different varieties of marble from all over the world and bronze filigree gates and an alter modeled after the one in St. Peter’s in Rome. The tour is very informative and in-depth. The guide explains the meanings behind the symbols present in the detailed stained glass and sculptures around the church. I also tour the Capitol building and the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue - a whole street filled with huge Victorian era mansions. I wish I would have been here during the summer when the Historical Society gives walking tours of the whole street.
But the real treasure of the city is the [free!] Art Institute. In my opinion it's on the same level as some of the best art museums I’ve been to, even the Met (alright, but not the Uffizi). The first floor has unique artifacts from China, India, Egypt, Greece: clay figures of servants and armies for the afterlife from the tombs of Chinese emperors, scholar’s rocks from Japan, wooden sculptures of enlightened Buddhist figures.
The second floor houses paintings and sculptures from Europe and the U.S. spanning the decades up to the present. Everything is arranged in rooms by era and similar subjects are even positioned next to each other. It really makes it more meaningful to compare and contrast and be able to follow the progression of the art movements. I know I like this kind of thing, but I would really recommend everyone visit if they’re ever in the area (and get the audio guide).
Minneapolis has lots of character and seems like a great place to live, if only the weather was better (there was a torrential downpour while I was there). But I‘ve recently found out Neil Gaiman lives in Minneapolis, so maybe I could stand the weather in order to “accidentally” run into him.