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Written by Teodora Gaydarova   

Morningside Heights


Have you ever wondered what the connection is between Barack Obama, George Gershwin and Francis Scott Fitzgerald? All of them lived in the Manhattan neighbourhood known as Morningside Heights. The area occupied mostly by the campus of Columbia university and other educational institutions has been attracting students and intellectuals for a long time. Fitzgerald started writing This Side of Paradise while living here and Gershwin also wrote some of his notable works while residing in the area. Several decades later the writers of the Beat generation were meeting at a venue known as the West End Bar, a legendary jazz venue that was highly popular among artists and students in the mid-20th century.


Today the neighbourhood that has been given the moniker Academic Acropolis has a large student population. Beside the campus of Columbia and the numerous properties owned by the university, three seminaries, four colleges, a NASA space studies institute, several schools and even a nursery sit next to each other in this tiny neighbourhood. Local coffee-shops and other establishments are always filled to the brim with a youthful, vibrant clientele of students reading for their exams. Surprisingly though not so many students live or party here and at night the neighbourhood is quiet and almost deserted.


Owing to the student population, though, prices in eateries and cafes are quite affordable and a decent variety of joints guarantees you will not stay hungry or thirsty. Local restaurants, sandwich bars and lounges are modern,  yet with a bit of ethnic flavour. Check out the Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam Avenue. An institution in   itself that has been serving customers for more than a half century, the Pastry Shop offers sumptuous cakes, delightful baklavas and other treats to the sweet-toothed. If you are looking for night time distractions at the    Ding Don Lounge you can drown a few drinks while playing a game of cards or billiards, and when you need a  quick bite plenty of sandwich bars and coffee shops serve an assortment of snacks and sandwiches with ethnic touches.


Morningside Heights boast ample green spaces that compensate for the densely built-up cityscape and offer places for relaxation. Morningside Park that was designed in the late 19th century is one of several protected Harlem historic parks. A variety of wild bird species nest in the park attracted by the pond and its scenic waterfall. This alone makes the place attractive to bird watchers. The park also features a beautiful fountain, basketball, softball and baseball facilities, as well as children’s playgrounds.


To enjoy the beautiful vistas of the Hudson river and the banks of New Jersey on the opposite side head to the Riverside Park. The stretch of the park that runs through Morningside Heights has excellent tennis courts open     to the public. Also in the park you will find one of the biggest local historic landmarks – the General Grant   National Memorial. The beautiful Roman-style mausoleum contains the remains of Ulysses Grant and his wife. Grant was a Civil War general who played a crucial role in ending the war and later serves as the 18th president of America.  


Other major architectural and historic attractions in the area are the numerous temples. The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, for example, is considered the largest cathedral in the world built in the Gothic style. The cathedral is a serene place of worship and quite a breathtaking architectural achievement embellished with numerous statues and ornaments.


According to local lore the poetic name Morningside Heights arose from the fact that the rising sun makes the neighbourhood particularly bright at the break of dawn. The only way to check that is to come here at sunrise or book accommodation in the area and rise with the sun every morning.


 

 

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