It became the seventh US state on April 28th, 1788. Where the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was written, in 1812, by Marylander Francis Key. A bridge named after him opened in the state in 1977, a bridge with the third longest span of any continuous truss in the world. The most common names are Noah and Olivia, for men and women respectively. Home of the B & O Railroad Museum, the site that the first telegraph message was sent to in 1844, reading, ‘What hath God Wrought?’ Quite. Birthplace of comedian Lewis Black, musician Frank Zappa, baseball star George ‘Babe’ Ruth Jr., and legends John Waters Jr. and David Hasselhoff. Home of America’s first Roman Catholic Cathedral, the wonderfully named Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I wonder if she had a problem with unicorns. Hmm. And it was the first state to adopt a state sport. Jousting. Yes, seriously. Actual jousting. Today, we’re visiting the Old Line State, Maryland.
Maryland is a dynamic, friendly and welcoming state on the east coast of America, bordered by Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, plus the Atlantic Ocean. It is the 42nd largest state at 12,406 square miles, with the 19th largest population with just over six million people. The state motto is, ‘Fatti maschii, parole femine,’ which is the only American state motto in Italian, and literally translates as, ‘Manly Deeds, Womanly Words,’ but is often incorrectly interpreted as, ‘Strong Deeds, Gentle Words.’
The black and gold design on the flag comes from the coat of arms of Sir George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore. Lord Baltimore set up a settlement in Newfoundland as a refuge for English Catholics, before moving the settlement to somewhere rather more clement. Where he moved to became the state of Maryland, making Baltimore the spiritual founder of the state. The red and white elements of the flag come from the Crossland line, the family of Baltimore’s mother. It is one of only four American state flags that do not contain the colour blue. Baltimore gave the honour of naming the colony to King Charles I. Since he’d already named Carolina after himself, he named the colony after his wife instead, Henrietta Maria of France. The original name the King gave the colony was ‘Terra Mariae,’ but it was Anglicised to ‘Maryland.’ I’m sure this gesture made many women quite angry at the time. “A necklace! The King just named a bloody colony after his wife but all I get is a bloody necklace!”
This state is very much America in miniature, an incredibly diverse and liberal pace, charming in the extreme. A state that has it all. From sandy dunes dotted with sea grass, to low marshlands teeming with wildlife, to large trees by the bay, to gently rolling hills of oak forests, to pine groves in the mountains. Plus a mixture of the urban and the rural, of the historic and the modern, of orchards and farms, full of all kinds of lovely fresh fruit. Marylanders are a nice, proud and art loving people, a folk who come with a unique and colourful accent plus a fanatic devotion to sports. From lacrosse, to gridiron football, baseball, ice hockey and basketball. An outdoorsy sort of people who adore a good old hike, bike ride or a weekend out camping. But they are most mad about their food, richly exotic cuisine. A Marylander’s eccentric love of crabs and natty boh beer is wonderfully weird, hon.
There are sights to see such as Catoctin Mountain Park, established in 1954 and covering eight square miles. This splendid and incicurable park exudes all the warmth and majesty you’d expect from such a delight. And then there’s Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring, an otherworldly and stunning picturesque place. The bright colours and gentle waters combine to create calming and sumptuous gardens.
Then there’s the supernaculum and quaint city of Havre de Grace, one of many elegant richly historic places dotted around the state. A poetic and effortless wonder, sparkling and gleaming like some rare beginningless marvel. A lovely and gorgeous city indeed.
But my favourite sight of Maryland has to be the outstanding Baltimore Basilica, to give it its shortened name, a stunning and ethereal neoclassical building, radiating a timeless and toothful beauty. It dances to a rhythm isangelous and oozes a quiescent and raimentless allure, nearly 200-years-old but as empyrean, soothing and spotless as the day it was born. A bonny jewel in a bonny city, its ineffable beating heart.
Maryland. The state of crabs, history and jousting.
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of Maryland
2) Baltimore Basilica
3) Havre de Grace
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