Walking Boston’s Freedom Trail
I fell in love with Boston straight away. Not because it was the first major city I explored in the United States and gave me a great first impression, it was because of the history, the food, the beer (of course), the architecture, the locals and their way of life and how easy it was to get around the city. Then there is the commercial stuff like the famous television sitcom ‘Cheers’ being filmed in a bar near Boston Common and its famous old stadium ‘Fenway Park’, the home of the Red Sox. There is also the nature aspect as Boston lies on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and there is plenty of green space around here. Being the biggest city in the area known as ‘New England’ in the North-East of the States, there were plenty of things to do and see. As a guy who is on the road quite often, I love being outdoors with nature and sometimes I like to combine that with urban life. Boston does that and has a walking trail known as the ‘Freedom Trail’ which is a walk through the heart of the city and into Charlestown in the north and along the way I got to see all the historical sites and learnt a great day about the city.
The best way to start this Freedom Trail is to get on one of the local tour groups (paying a small fee of course) and meeting up at Boston Common. They will do the first half of the trail and tell a great story at the same time. Then when the tour ends, it was up to me (with a map given to me of course) to finish the second half of the trail. The tour groups can easily be found on the internet and believe me, it’s worth getting on one.
The city has more sites directly related to the American Revolution than any other city in the country and it was great to see a trail which linked up all these sites by following a red bricked line on the sidewalks. Follow this and I got to see everything I wanted to see. The Freedom Trail starts at the Visitor Information Centre on Boston Common (which if visitors haven’t booked online then they can pay for the tour here also). The common (which is also a great huge park to walk around and get away from the stress of the city) is also the site where angry colonials started a fight against their British masters (as a British person I found all this interesting as I didn’t really know much about the history and in some ways had to hide my accent on the tour just in case…never know, I might get chucked into the ocean) and also the British set up a military camp here in the 18th century. Today the common is very peaceful and there are no cannons or rifles to be seen here.
The Freedom Trail then takes visitors past the King’s Chapel and Burying Ground there before it leads into the heart of the city. The first public school, a bookstore (related to the revolution) and Old State House can be seen before checking out the Boston Massacre Site. This is where the British got really fed up with some of the locals and opened fire on them to shut them up. In the end this killed five people, so to me this was a small massacre but was enough to keep the locals at bay for a while back in 1770.
Faneuil Hall (also known as the Cradle of Liberty) is a beautiful bricked building with a small white clock tower on top and is a very popular place for public speeches. With its surrounding modern buildings overlooking this small hall, it doesn’t look out of place and shows Boston’s history with surrounding modern life around it. This is where the tour ended and I was now free to roam the second half of the trail by myself. Nearby on the trail is the Paul Revere House (that guy who rode a horse earlier on), is located in the North End part of town and is Boston’s oldest house.
The second half of the trail is more spread out and there is more walking involved. However the further I walked, the more I noticed I was getting away from the centre of the city and seeing more water and open spaces. The trail took me to Old North Church where there is a statue of Paul Revere on horseback. It was also here another rebel called Sexton Robert Newman hung two lanterns in the belfry here, to let others know the advancement of the British army heading towards nearby Concord and Lexington back in 1775.
Nearby is Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (there is sure a lot of dead people around here) where the graves of many soldiers of the Revolution are buried. The trail leads down to Boston’s Inner Harbour and across the Charlestown Bridge into Charlestown. The trail leads through the Navy Yard and explains the history of warships from British times to current 21st century boats. Also here is the USS Constitution, a huge warship which was built in 1797 and is the most famous ship in US history. She can still sail of course but I wouldn’t send her out to war as it’s made with a lot of oak.
The trail then goes up a hill to a granite obelisk which is called the Bunker Hill Monument which towers above all the other buildings in Charlestown. This monument commemorates the battle of 17th June 1775 where the British forces won another battle against the locals who eventually ran out of ammunition (now why start a battle and run out of ammunition, who was in charge of the supplies back then?) However despite the British winning this battle, they lost a lot of people in the fight.
The Bunker Hill Monument is the end of the Freedom Trail and is a great place to take a picnic or just sit at the steps and look southwards towards the skyscrapers of Downtown Boston. I sat here thinking how in a short space of time (compared to European history) how this area has grown, from the guys who first stepped out onto the shores from the Mayflower boat in nearby Plymouth, the British settlers taming the locals, building up the small city around the Common to what I see today. I certainly learned a lot by walking this trail and it is a great way of keeping fit. I enjoyed every moment of this walk and would go back just to do it again. It is a must do when visiting this amazing city.