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An Antique Store in Detroit

Just outside the middle of downtown Detroit, in an old abandoned brick building just off of a main road, is the coolest antique store I’ve been to.

It was a cold November day, right before Thanksgiving. We were spending the day wandering around my old homeland before heading to dinner at my brother’s house. We decided to choose an antique store to go to, and it ended up being the best choice.

It was filled wall to wall with interesting items as most antique stores are, but the ceilings were also filled. With old lights, chandeliers, and even windows and chairs!

The store was called Detroit Antique and Props. Apparently they either currently, or at one time rented theater props out as well as selling antiques.

The whole store, but the attic in particular held furniture and building materials taken from all the abandoned and crumbling places that fill the city. Bathroom sinks of every color, industrial lights of every size; anything could be found in there.

There were lots of things we wanted, but all that came home with us were two small cameras, since not much else would fit in our small carry-ons that were already stuffed full with a weeks worth of winter clothes.

We often think about coming back to this interesting little place we stumbled upon.

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Visiting Family in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

During my trip to Michigan, I wanted to visit the cemeteries of my relatives. Luckily I unknowingly chose a hotel right in between two main cemeteries where my relatives laid. Unlike the the Southfield Cemetery, the Holy Sepulchre Catholic cemetery was massive and easy to get lost in.

It was an icy November day, and we wandered around the vast place, looking for our family members.  My mom was relying on her memories of running around here when she was little. Her grandparents were caretakers of this place!

This unique group of trees caught our eye and we wandered over. It was the right area!

Someone had placed wreaths at the graves, we wondered who that could have been.

My great great grandfather, who came to Detroit from Austria and worked as a grave-digger in this cemetery.

I’ve always liked wandering around in cemeteries.  There’s something really peaceful about them.  It was even more special to visit a cemetery where my family members were buried. Most of them I’d never met, but had heard plenty of stories about. Others I have some vague memories of, so I was glad to get to visit their graves.

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Nights in Neon

A frigid late November night in Detroit Michigan. We rode the People Mover around and around, taking in the city sights as the sun set.
Hungry for food, we stepped off the train car at the Greektown exit and headed toward the faint glow of pink and blue.
Bright neon lights in the cold winter night, led us down the winding concrete stairs to the loud festive streets of Greektown.
The lights illuminated the walkway, some flickered and gave off a low hum of electricity. It felt a little like being in an alternate universe.

Another corner of Detroit, overflowing with character.

We sat in a Greek restaurant, devouring delicious food and reminiscing on the fun we had that day, wandering our homeland.

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A Walk Down Heidelberg Street

Heidelburg street, in East Detroit.
I had seen many pictures of this house and when I found out it was in Detroit, my homeland, I had to go.
I didn’t realize how big the Heidelberg project really was. It consumed the entire street.
The abandoned houses in the surrounding neighborhood stood intimidating against the cold grey winter sky.  I’d seen rows of abandoned houses plenty of times before, but this was much larger than that.  Many of the seemingly abandoned houses were not quite abandoned though. There were signs of life inside, even if the roof had fallen in.
It was one of many neighborhoods that got left behind. Forgotten as the rich parts of the city grew.
Tyree Guton started this project in 1986 when he returned from the army and found the neighborhood he grew up in, in shambles.
The goal of The Heidelberg Project is to bring communities together, and improve lives through art.
It was easy to see that this project brought a whole mix of different people to this neighborhood, who might have otherwise stayed far away.

 

 

It was a cold day, but as we walked around the sun began to come out and warm the street where people were working to rake up leaves, and as the artist continued to work on his never ending art project.

 

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We Found a Lighthouse on Belle Isle


On our Belle Isle Adventures, we passed by what appeared to be an old lighthouse, so we turned the car around to go check it out.

Only to find out the roads were one way around the whole island. 

 We tried driving the wrong way for a few minutes, but a few other random people who also came to explore this place on a cold Thanksgiving day freaked out honking at us.

So we took the long way around.



Finally we were parked and set off down the long muddy trail. 

Towards  the eerie lighthouse, sitting in the desolate field. 







But the lighthouse was was farther away than it looked, and the ground was getting muddier and mudder. Plus we didn’t want to be late for the Thanksgiving feast. So we ran all the way back to the car and raced to dinner.

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Dark Nights on the Ambassador Bridge


The bridge between Detroit Michigan and Windsor Canada stood as an eerie beacon in the dark winter night, as we drove closer and closer towards it. 
About to embark on our Canada Adventure.



The teal and red lights illuminated the black sky.  
It felt a little retro. It felt a little like an alternate reality.




Then we stood on the other side.
 Staring at the same bridge from a different country. So similar, but so different. 

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What We Discovered on Our Belle Isle Adventures


During the adventures on Belle Isle, we discovered a beautiful green house and conservatory.

Since it was the morning of Thanksgiving, there wasn’t anyone else in sight. 

The whole island appeared abandoned. Although I’m sure in the warmer months, it can be quite the popular place to visit. 









The green houses seemed so eerie on this bitter cold day.




We also discovered what is apparently the oldest aquarium in the country.  Now I really want to go back and visit when it’s open!


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I Went to Canada and All I got Was A Picture of Detroit


A Canada visit was planned during our week in Detroit. But time got away from us. Soon we found ourselves on the evening of Thanksgiving, leaving the next day.. It was our last chance to go to Canada.

I’ve never been out of the country before, and there Canada was, I’d been staring at it all week across the water front. A place I’ve often dreamed about moving to when things are rough here. I had to go.


We didn’t think about it too much, we just continued to drive, past our hotel, through downtown, following signs for Canada.


The Ambassador Bridge glowed eerily in the distance as we passed the point of no return.






After waiting in traffic we finally got to the border patrol agent. He asked why we were coming to Canada, we told him we had never been and wanted to spend a few hours in Cananda and take pictures. He replied with “DRIVING AROUND IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY IS NOT A DESTINATION. 

We told him we were visiting family in Michigan and wanted to visit Canada while we were up here. 
His Response: THIS IS NOT MICHIGAN.

He continued to grill us and I thought he was going to make us turn around, but then he finally said “Welcome to Canada” and opened the gate.


Had we really made it in? It didn’t seem real. It felt strange, my phone didn’t work, the signs were in French, the speed was in kilometers, everything looked slightly… Different.. But almost the same.

 Like an alternate reality.

We drove around for a bit, almost getting lost since I couldn’t pull up directions, but we eventually found our way to the water front and admired how pretty Detroit looked from the shores of Canada.



We felt like we were someplace we didn’t belong. We felt strange and out of place, like we had sneaked into the country! Probably because the border guard gave us such a hard time.
 And maybe because it was almost midnight by now.
Maybe it was because Windsor wasn’t a very exciting city.
Maybe because we didn’t plan anything out and had no idea what to do. 
Maybe because nothing was open at this hour of the night.

I stared across the water, missing Detroit.

We thought about stopping somewhere, getting some food, making the most of our Canada trip. But we mostly just wanted to get back to America, because part of me was paranoid they wouldn’t let us back in for some reason.


But this time it was much easier, no crazy questions, we breezed right through, we made it back.



So my first trip out of the country wasn’t anything like I had expected.   But now I am looking forward to a proper trip to Canada, one that is more planned out! 
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Abandoned on Thanksgiving


It was Thanksgiving morning.
 On our own in our Detroit Hotel room, we didn’t have anywhere to be until early afternoon. 

It felt a bit odd, not rushing off to a family members house, to begin the day of eating. I felt a bit lost. What was there to do?

Explore Belle Isle of Course!


Down the interstate, we made our way through downtown, navigating around the parade,  then across the bridge to a small Island in the Detroit river between Michigan and Canada by the name of Belle Isle.

Belle Isle was originally referred to as “Hog Island”  due to the wild livestock that ran free on the island. However in 1845 the island was turned into an elegant and sprawling park. Many people worked on designing the park, including  Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in NYC. Some of my distant ancestors, the Campaus, also helped to design and build the park!

The little island holds walking trails, a greenhouse, an aquarium, an old lighthouse, and a lot of seemingly abandoned buildings. 


But on this frigid Thanksgiving morning, the entire island seemed abandoned.

 Forgotten by time.





These old run down buildings were part of a zoo that closed down many years ago,

















Belle Isle held so many interesting places to explore. We ended up spending a few hours there wandering around, when I only expected to drive in a short loop and then leave. 

I think Belle Isle is not actually as desolate as it appeared on this day.  I hope to go back and visit in the summertime to see how it comes to life. 

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What We Saw From a Detroit Train Car


Venturing to downtown Detroit for the first time. None of us were sure what to expect, or what exactly we were going to do.
Around and around we drove, everywhere was full, rush hour was just starting. Finally, a parking space appeared, on some side street many blocks from the center of downtown. 

Surrounded by the shadows of tall buildings all around us, I checked the map to see what was nearby. There was a stop for something called the People Mover, a sort of above ground subway; It sounded intriguing so we headed towards it. 

We found the entrance in the bottom of some old building, nobody was around and it looked a bit run down. We debated for a moment if we should just keep walking, but decided to go for it. 

Our change was traded for tokens. 75 cents to ride the train as long as you wanted.

We passed through the gate of the grimy little station and climbed the stairs to wait for the train. We stood in the cold until the little train car came, and we were soon to be amazed by the sights of downtown Detroit.


I didn’t realize how big Detroit was, I was quite impressed by the sea of skyscrapers in the city I was born in. I found myself loving Detroit more and more.


















We rode the People Mover to the Renaissance center and wandered around a bit on the water front. It was freezing cold so we decided the best way to see the most of the city without freezing to death was to hop back on the little train and ride it around and around.

The Detroit People Mover Travels in a loop around downtown with 13 stations. It operates above ground which is a great way to get a tour of the city as you explore different areas of downtown.

The People Mover was built in the 80s with very high expectations, but due to Detroit’s Decline, it never got as much use as was originally hoped.  Fortunately things seem to be looking up for Detroit in recent years so I am looking forward to seeing how this city grows!