I heard once that the best way to get to know a city was to pick a spot, spin in a circle three times, stop, and walk in the direction you are facing. Now, hear me out: It might sound like a completely ridiculous idea that belongs more in the head of a patient in a psychiatric ward rather than in the mind of a normal (semi-normal?) individual like me, but it actually works.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to take classes in a foreign country that I had never been in before, so I tried the method on a whim. I was sitting in a café by one of the canals in Venice, Italy, when I got the idea. I got up from my seat, looked around where I was standing and began spinning. I’m sure there were many who thought I had lost my mind at that exact moment, but that’s beside the point. I picked a direction and began walking. After 10-15 minutes, I entered a part of the city I had never gone to before and had what turned out one of the best days I had during my time in the country. That day I told myself I would give the same method a try in Boston.
Two weeks ago I finally fulfilled that promise I made to myself.
It was one of those weekend days where it is too late to make concrete plans with a group of people but too early for the night scene in the city to really start. So I picked a direction, and began walking in the hope that I would find an interesting place in the city that I had never been to before.
Every street corner, lamppost, public park, and store was new to me. The next thing I knew I was across the Charles and the landscape changed. Modern buildings were juxtaposed with constructions that looked like they had been there for centuries. I eventually found myself in front of a building with a plaque—it described the surrounding buildings as part of a historical area that included a place called “Warren Tavern,” which I later found out was one of Paul Revere’s old hangouts from the revolutionary war period.
This type of finding was what I had been waiting for when I imagined what would happen all of those months ago.
Inside, it was everything I wanted it to be: The roof beams are made from the mast of an old ship, the tables+ were all in colonial style with their long arms and curved backrests. For a moment I felt myself being transported to 1776, everyone around immediately shifted from their current joyful state and, in my mind, began planning the American Revolution.
It was one of those places that takes your breath away, not necessarily from any aesthetic quality of the tavern, but rather it was more of its emotional impact. It managed to influence every single one of my senses (yes, the food was absolutely fantastic) and give me an afternoon to remember, one where I felt more in tune with Boston than I had in awhile.
Back to the method. I’ve realized that the best way to get to know a place, be it Venice, Munich, or Brussels, is to actually walk through it. Being at street level and spending time with local citizens, instead of doing what I call a “highlight tour” of a city, reaps benefits unavailable from the seat of a tour bus. While it might limit the sheer number of places that you could see in a timeframe and might be physically exhausting, walking through a city, regardless of whether you actually use the threeturn method, undeniably has its benefits, especially in finding more authentic restaurants.
Call me a madman if you want, but I would not want it any other way.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor