A ride through the deep south

Before travelling through the southern states of the US I had only been to San Francisco. They say San Francisco is the most european part of America. If that is so, then the south must be the most American part of America.

My parents, my brother and I planned to experience the southern part of the US by car. We drove from Atlanta to Nashville by Chattanooga, and then to Memphis and back again.

While driving through the open fields and the crowded cities I read the book Deep South by Paul Theroux. The experience changed my perception on the US.

 

Atlanta

Atalanta was my first meeting with a big American city. Towering skyscrapers, enormous cars and a beautiful modern art museum.

An old factory given new life as a cool shopping district. The Ponce City Market is home to street food, artisanal shops and a local bourbon distillery.

Most of the shops were closed for the holidays. But the market was still open for window shopping.

Chattanooga

At the Chattanooga National Cemetery fallen men from different wars lay side by side. The first soldiers were buried here in 1863.

At the back of the gravestones you could see the names of the wives who had passed away.

The cemetery covered a wast hill surrounded by suburban streets. The grass was crisp and dry in the winter afternoon.

 

Nashville

It took a while to figure out where the good shops and cafés were located in Nashville. The center of Nashville is really touristy. But after a failed visit to a typical indoor shopping mall we found East Nashville.

In East Nashville everything is vintage, even the newly opened shops and resturants.

Driving out of Nashville, we took an old historic route. Originally an indian trail, the Natchez Trace stretches more than 700 kilometers. It's been restored with fresh asphalt and rest stops at the memorial sites for the convenience of travelers.

Memphis

The first night in Memphis we stayed at The Heartbreak Hotel. The Elvis Presley website advertises it as an dream come true for Elvis fans.

The hotel is decorated in what was described as the "personal style associated with Elvis Presley". But just as the King himself did, the hotel had faded a bit since its glory days.

The next day we went across the street to Graceland, Elvis's mansion preserved as though he stilled lived there. The whole house was decorated for christmas.

The place felt eerie and abandoned. Even though the guides claimed the Presley family visited from time to time.

The rest of our time in Memphis we spent in Harbor Town. A small community on a peninsula called Mud Island, just outside center of town.

 

Harbor Town is a calm place with joggers and parks. Though the flooded Mississippi river had limited the joggers a bit. “It's just the media exaggerating” the woman at the front desk of our hotel had assured us. But longer up the river, record high water levels caused a state of emergency with 31 reported deaths.

Our last day before driving back we spent at the Civil Rights Museum. The museum was newly renovated and incorporated the building where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in 1968.

Outside a few protesters had set up a booth.

Just down the street from the museum I found this view. The bar had been closed a long time ago, but the text had been repainted.

PhotographyJens Obel