Over its long and storied history — which reaches back to colonial times — Baltimore has become such a unique mixture of cultures, subcultures, arts and stories that it is not in any way surprising to find that, for those who are unfamiliar with the Charm City, it is like stepping into its own separate world. So, of course, there are a multiplicity of things one may find in Baltimore that cannot be found anywhere else.
Fort McHenry is one of those needling little historical places that, when people are reminded of it, comes suddenly jumping to the front of the memory. This is, of course, because it was the birthplace of the National Anthem, and as such, a permanent part of the National History — even if the battle fought there may have otherwise become forgettable to the non-history inclined. Marylanders are all extremely aware of Fort McHenry, though, as it figures fairly prominently in practically every holiday celebration involving fireworks. Its unique construction — shaped like a star and laid out on a green lawn overlooking the Chesapeake — makes it an attractive spot to visit, whether you are there to take one of the historic tours, see any of the many celebratory events hosted there or just lay out on the green and relax in the sun.
Berger Cookies: for those of you who like a little cookie with your fudge. They sort of look like a hamburger, if the thick mound of fudge was the meat patty and the cookie was the bun — but if you pay attention to the spelling, “Berger,” you’ll quickly see the Germanic origins. Berger cookies may have become a uniquely Baltimorian tradition, but they got their start in Germany, made their way over to the USA, and then production of them petered out. Now, there is only one manufacturer in the world making them, and it makes its home in Baltimore.
Edgar Allan Poe Sites
The Baltimore Ravens football team selected its name specifically in honor of Baltimore’s most famous historical resident, the poet and author who gave the word “Gothic” its modern meaning: Edgar Allan Poe. Baltimore City has gotten a lot of mileage out of Mr. Poe, who spent the majority of his years tooling about these parts composing eerie tales and lyrics. One may visit Poe’s original lodgings, where he composed much of his early work. The humble house has been turned into a museum in his honor, with the study where he wrote preserved for gawkers to observe. You could also visit the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground to take a gander at Poe’s grave, whereupon some mysterious stranger leaves a quaff of cognac every year upon his birthday. The last stop on your Poe tour would be the Annabel Lee Tavern, an entire bar and restaurant which is themed after the immortal poet — and is quite good, to boot.
What do you do if you have a stomach remedy that you want to make public? If you’re “Captain” Isaac E. Emerson and you’re living in 1911, you build a giant clock tower with an enormous bottle of your medicine on top of it as an advertisement. For the longest time, the Bromo-Seltzer Tower stood as the tallest skyscraper in Baltimore, a beautiful piece of architecture modeled after the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It still stands (sans the giant medicine bottle), and now houses a series of artist studios which are occasionally open for public viewing. It’s definitely worth a peek if you happen to be in Baltimore.
Imagine yourself in a classic diner in Baltimore. The friendly waitress with the big hair, the horn-rimmed glasses and the distinctly Maryland accent leans in and calls you “Hon,” in that friendly and endearing way that only a late-night diner waitress can. This is sort of the spirit captured in the annual HonFest — a Baltimore tradition which spilled out of the “Best Hon” pageant, put on each year behind the Cafe Hon. The festival is held in the Hampden area of Baltimore each June, and is festooned with pink flamingos, women in big hair (wigs or otherwise) horn-rimmed glasses and all manners of Baltimore iconography. Food booths and trucks are prevalent, as are musical performances, craft stands and vendors of every type. It’s about as Baltimorean as you can possibly get, and almost impossible to adequately describe if you haven’t actually been there. But definitely good fun.
Related: Best Literary Landmarks In Baltimore
Joel Furches is a freelance writer and researcher for The Examiner and Logos Software, and also manages his own catalog of writing on Hub Pages. Joel is on the board of directors for Ratio Christi. He has a bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Education.