(Travel Thoughts) Exploring a Sleeping City

Traveling in a new city is tiring, there is just so much going on around you.

I often feel that the crowded streets are trying to suffocate me, and trying to find an escape in a cafe always seems to be a bad idea, because the places are overcrowded and people have to raise their voices even more to be able to hear one another.

At times like that I just wish that the crowds would just disappear so I can get some time for myself to just look around and enjoy the moment. Wherever I look, somebody is there trying to catch my eye and attention, somebody constantly wants something from me.

Sometimes it feels like I’m not welcome if I’m not there to spend money. Like I’m not allowed to just to look and enjoy the city without having a purpose. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always like that, but sometimes I do feel that pressure. Don’t you?

I realized, however, that it’s not impossible to get to enjoy a new city without the crowd.

There is a way to enjoy the city with all the lights and man made beauty without the actual people – in the morning…

I guess in a few places around the world the city never sleeps, but even London is rather quiet in the early hours of the morning.

Walking through a sleeping city is a special experience, there is something calm and melancholic in the air. You see completely different things during the day than you do at night.

The hustle and bustle of the day time traffic just disappears and at night you see a different beauty, the man made one: Lights, noises,and spaces – it stands out in its cold, bald appearance.

During the evenings with all the music, crowds and distractions the city pulls you in, enchants you and makes you forget about your problems. The evening is full of possibilities and promises, sugar coated in neon colored lights and music.

But all that is left when everything that blows life into the city is gone, is just an empty hollow space, and it feels as if the city is revealing some kind of cold naked truth.

The few people you see on the streets are also different, and you find yourself thinking about them a lot more; wondering who they are, what they’re doing up so early and where they’re going.

Some drunk dude is wobbling home from a party, still living in yesterday. Another man with an ironed shirt and perfectly combed hair is on his way to work and a new day has already begun for him.

A big city at dawn is a true sleeping beauty, and watching it slowly wake up creates an odd feeling inside your body, one that makes you feel vulnerable and lonely, realizing that life is incomplete and fragile – that is the freedom of exploring a city while it is fast asleep …

22 Responses to (Travel Thoughts) Exploring a Sleeping City

  1. Eli May 17, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    This is too true. I love being out on the streets right around five, six in the morning. It's like you have the whole place all to yourself. I actually spend alot of time doing this. I end up seeing more cats than people. I also tend to notice alot of the smaller details, little signs, stores I never realized were there before.

  2. Juno May 17, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    Agree.
    I remember walking around Auckland in 5 or 6am in the morning after 3 weeks of backpacking. City usually clean but it was little filthy because it's too early to clean up.
    No one was there, just me and my big backpack. I was really tired because I just got off 10 hours of over night bus riding but it was really refreshing. :)
    Thanks for reminding my moment.

  3. Sam May 17, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    So true! I remember wandering through Amsterdam back to the station at about 5 in the morning – so peaceful that we nearly ended up staying!

  4. Globetrooper Todd May 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    Great thought Sofia. In fact, I'm off to Montreal in a couple of weeks and will make sure I explore the city in the wee hours to get a different view. I really like your writing style.

  5. Matt May 17, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    Interesting idea and well said Sofia.

    I remember arriving in an Italy port town early one morning via train before my ferry left. I spent the hours I had wandering the streets just taking in the feel of the place. Old men walking their dogs, store keepers sweeping their sidewalks, street crews cleaning the alleyways … it was a really special experience and I felt oddly connected to the place.

  6. Scene by Laurie May 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    Sofia,
    An interesting perspective and it's so true that you're exposed to things you wouldn't otherwise notice! In addition to new cities that I visit, I also do this at home from time to time. There's nothing better than an early Sunday morning in New York city before things get going again. Thanks so much, Laurie

  7. seabass43 May 17, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    Great points. I always loved arriving in a city at or before dawn. Cusco comes to mind when we arrived by bus in the wee hours of the morning. It was great to wander around looking for a place to stay without the usual barrage of touts and people wanting something from you. It was easy to wander the streets as they weren't full of traffic and the sidewalks were nearly empty. Thanks for bringing me back.

  8. Shenandoah bed and breakfast May 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    These are all the very interesting and informative article about the exploring of a new and anonymous city, which is too tiring up process, which is because of in-adequate knowledge and information about the key and major sight-seeing destination and tourists attractions of the exploring city as well.

  9. suzyguese May 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    I love this idea. Normally I am not a morning person, but when I have to catch those early flights or trains, there is something about the feeling in the air in early morning. I wrote a post this week about sitting on church steps or in churches when you need a little peace and quiet. Adding this to my list, I will have to set my alarm earlier and test out your theory. Beautifully written post as well.

  10. Jen May 24, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    Your voice is awesome and views are refreshing. Most people see things in the day, day people I like to call them, And they believe that's all it is; it's like seeing only one side of a coin, or pretending that night doesn't fall. Preposterous!

    I work mostly nights and agree with you 100% about a city's transparency at night and dawn. My favorite times of day. It's the best time to reflect and absorb what a city has to offer.

    Ps your pictures are great; your first one is powerful and works really well with what your saying here.

  11. Sofia June 5, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    thanks Matt – yeah that also sounds like an amazing expereince – you always see a different side to a city at that time of the night/early morning…

  12. Sofia June 5, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    Hey Eli – yeah it does feel like you OWN the city ;) no-one judges you, no-one sees you – you can do whatever you want and there isn't really anyone (apart from cats) to see you :)

  13. Sofia_AsWeTravel June 5, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    no prob. Juno – I am glad posts like you can bring you back to those moments :)

  14. Sofia_AsWeTravel June 5, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    thats great Sam! that an experience can motivate you to stay even longer in a place, and really get to know it… it also seems like everyone has similar stories to share on here – amazing that every city in the world is similar @ 5am in the morning :)

  15. Sofia_AsWeTravel June 5, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    hey todd! thanks for the compliment – English is my 2nd language so I have to try very hard :) hope you have a wonderful time in Montreal!

  16. Sofia_AsWeTravel June 5, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    no prob. Adam – and thanks for sharing your own personal memories with us – it really inspires me to travel and explore more when others share their own adventures with me.

  17. Sofia_AsWeTravel June 5, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    I was wondering about New York City – and if there is anytime when you really can't find people rushing everywhere… I would love to hear your views about that – also London, Las Vegas etc. do those cities ever get to sleep?

  18. Sofia_AsWeTravel June 5, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    thanks for your comment, and sharing your thoughts!

  19. Sofia_AsWeTravel June 5, 2010 at 8:10 am #

    Hey Suzy! thanks for the nice words :) yeah its hard sometimes to GET UP early and do this, mostly I have just stumbled upon such an experience, like you say by catching an early train, bus etc. – look forward to hearing about your adventure when you test this out :)

  20. Sofia_AsWeTravel June 5, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    thank you Jen – for sharing your personal thoughts! you can always find a silent and peaceful pressure in the city at those times. no problems, no stress, just calm happiness as the world prepares once more for *the day people* ;)

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