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For 91 Days in Savannah

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Brrrrrr! One of the main reasons we chose to move to the Deep South was our aversion to winter, but our three months in Savannah were marked by freezing temperatures. Still, between November, 2010 and the end of January, 2011, we had an incredible time in one of America’s Southern jewels. “Picturesque” doesn’t even begin to describe Savannah — the squares, the houses, the Spanish moss, the cemeteries. The city is a photographer’s dream come true. But our stay of three months gave us a chance to look deeper, past Savannah’s superficial beauty and into its strangely compelling culture. Hipster art students, a historic black community and an aging aristocracy are three of the main groups which intermingle daily in Savannah.

Savannah Blog

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights during our 91 days in Savannah. For more, check out the comprehensive list, or start at the beginning of the blog and read about our journey in the order we experienced it!

Eating and Drinking

The juxtaposition of the words “Savannah” and “Food” will almost always bring to mind the toothy smile of Mrs. Paula Deen. Visiting her famous restaurant, The Lady & Sons, is certainly an experience, but not necessarily the best dining opportunity in the city. We much preferred the haunting, historic Olde Pink House, with the best flounder I’ve ever tried. Our favorite meal, though, was at Chef Jerome’s Old School Diner. Though it’s a bit of a drive outside the city, Chef Jerome’s hospitatlity makes it worth the effort. Savannah is famously a drinking town, with a wonderful law allowing open container. But if you’re looking for the quintessential bar experience, don’t pass up Pinkie Master’s: the best dive we’ve ever been to.

Squares & Cemeteries

Perhaps Savannah’s most famous aspect is its twenty-four historic squares; unique in the USA. Besides being gorgeous, they serve the purpose of slowing down traffic, and giving citizens plentiful places to relax. Our favorites were the tranquil Columbia Square, historic Greene Square and bizarre Troup Square. But all 24 are worth a look. Savannah is also blessed with three fascinating cemeteries. The Old Colonial Cemetery, populated with settlers and people from the city’s early days, is smack in the middle of downtown. Right outside town, you can find Laurel Grove — callously split into a richer white and poorer black section. The most famous, though, is the tranquil Bonaventure Cemetery, which must be among the most beautiful resting places in the entire country.

Museums, Houses and Art

Savannah is at no loss for great ways to spend your day. It’s famous for its historic houses, saved from demolition by a group of determined (and well-heeled) citizens. Top of our list was the Andrew Low House. Great museums included the Ships of the Sea in the Scarborough House, and the Telfair Academy, a small fine arts museum on Telfair Square. For history, you can’t do better than the fascinating First African Baptist Church on Franklin: definitely the most interesting church tour we’ve ever had! And Savannah is a haven for artists — especially with the overwhelming presence of SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design), but we made sure to meet some non-SCAD artists, such as Jonathan Porier of Drayton Glass Works.

Day Trips

Savannah is wonderful, but can feel small after awhile. Luckily, the surrounding area is rich in opportunities for great day trips. Top of the list is Tybee Island, where you can enjoy the beach, go on a dolphin tour, or do something more active like kayaking. Also nearby is the fascinating Wormsloe Plantation. Further afield, the artsy town of Bluffton, SC is a treasure trove waiting to be dug into. It’s also worth hunting down the historic town of Ebenezer… a window into the past.

Of course, this is just a sample of what we experienced during our three months in Savannah, Georgia — feel free to peruse the rest of our articles at your leisure. And make sure to follow us on the blog, Facebook or Twitter as we move on to other cities and countries!

Useful Savannah links: Hotels, B&Bs and Inns, Car Rentals, Book Tours Online

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May 26, 2011 at 9:41 am Comment (1)

Last Batch of Random Savannah Photos

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Savannah At Night

We’ve said it before, and we’ll repeat ourselves again: Savannah is a photographer’s dream. Whether you’re looking for images that are beautiful, amusing, haunting or just plain weird, you hardly have to try. Just lift your camera, click the shutter, and you’re almost guaranteed to have a compelling shot. We took tens of thousands of photographs during our three months in the city… here are a few of the better ones.

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Cathedral Savannah
Savannah Cotton
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Old Cotton Lofts
Old Church Tip Savannah
Savannah Post Cards
Pretty Savannah
Antique Window
Savannah Antiques
Big Boat Savannah
Riverfront Trolley
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Savannah Roof
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January 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm Comments (2)

SCAD – The Savannah College of Art and Design

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Before moving to Savannah, we didn’t know much about the city. And although we weren’t expecting to find a Victorian-era scenario, with Southern belles strolling the streets and coquettishly dropping their handkerchiefs to attract the attention of menfolk, we also weren’t prepared to find the streets dominated by pink-haired girls and hipsters with ironic mustaches. In other words: we had no idea about the existence of SCAD.

I love ART

SCAD was only established in 1978, so it’s a relatively new entity in Savannah. But it has made its presence felt. The college has been instrumental in the purchase and restoration of innumerable buildings, doing more than its share to help re-beautify the city. With a sky-high tuition, and enrollment of over 10,000, SCAD is using its deep pockets for good rather than evil.

The college turns out some great talent, too, as a peek in at the SCAD Shop on Bull Street will confirm, where there is a wealth of innovative artwork. The shop could almost be a museum; we think it’s better than the Jepson Center, for example. And in 2011, the SCAD Museum of Art opened on Turner Boulevard. This museum has won a number of awards for both its architecture and exhibitions, and provides a place for students to study the work of accomplished artists.

SCAD boasts a strong foreign population, with students from over 100 countries, and has branches in France and Hong Kong. It’s hard not to appreciate the influence that this influx of artistic, mostly rich youth has had on Savannah. It’s become a city with cool restaurants, a hopping nightlife and a hip, urban vibe, in a historic and largely conservative region.

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January 26, 2011 at 7:32 pm Comments (3)

The Schnitzel Shack of Rincon (via Darmstadt)

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One of the first things Jürgen did when we got to Savannah was type “German Restaurant” into Google. The nearest place bore the tongue-twisty name of Schnitzel Shack, and was a half-hour away in a town called Rincon (rhymes with Lincoln).

Savannah Weizen Beer

That was a little too far away, and we eventually forgot about it. But on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, I returned home to find Jürgen dressed in his lederhosen, playing the accordion and wailing “Deustchland, deutschland über alles” with tears rolling down his cheeks. The homesickness was terminal. Nurse, I’m going to need an injection of sauerkraut, STAT! Let’s roll: destination Schnitzel Schnack. I mean Shack!

Minutes later we were seated at our table in the tiny restaurant. Color flushed back into Jürgen’s face as he read the menu with growing delight. “Jägerschnitzel? Goulash? Spätzle? Ja ja ja, wunderbar!” The Shack offers a selection of both German and Thai dishes, an odd combination which owes itself to the founders’ homelands. Pao is from Thailand, and Joe is from Germany.

Savannah Schnitzel

We quickly discovered that Joe isn’t merely from Germany, but actually from Jürgen’s home town of Darmstadt: a small city south of Frankfurt. Once that factoid was unearthed, the night really got going. Joe and Jürgen swapped stories from the Heimatland. Unbelievably, he even worked at the same company as Jürgen’s mom! We stayed late after eating, talking with him and Pao and drinking beer. They’re a great couple; Joe still works a day job, and comes into the restaurant at night. The Shack’s strange culinary mash-up has proven to be popular, and the table are almost always full.

The food is great. Joe told us that male customers typically order hearty German dishes while women generally stick with the Thai section of the menu. Well, Jürgen and I are both guys, so we went with Jägerschnitzel, Cordon Bleu, Spätzle and Sauerkraut. Gott im Himmel, was it delicious. The Shack also offers fusion dishes, such as Sweet and Sour Schnitzel.

So, yeah. Somehow, there’s this great German-Thai cuisine in Rincon, Georgia, served by a cool guy from Jürgen’s home town. It’s amazing how many treasures are hidden right in plain sight. If we hadn’t researched the Schnitzel Shack in advance, we’d have driven right by without ever noticing it. But now you know, and so there’s no excuse to miss this great little spot in Rincon. Make sure to say hi to Joe and Pao from us.

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Schnitzel Shack – Facebook

Flights To Savannah

Schnitzle Shack
Thai German Cuisine
Thai Cuisine
USA Jaegerschnitzel
Wilder Hirsch
German Joe and Pao
German To Go Cup
Gluehwein America
Darmstadt in Savannah
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January 26, 2011 at 6:18 pm Comments (11)

Old Sheldon Church

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About half-an-hour north of Beaufort, there’s a place in the woods which has become one of the low country’s favorite secrets. The ruins of the Old Sheldon Church are found down a tiny road, in a forest of towering oaks draped in Spanish moss.

Old Sheldon Church

The Prince William’s Parish Church was originally built around 1750, but was burnt down by the British during the Revolution. It was rebuilt in in 1826, and once again met a violent death during the Civil War, finding itself in the path of pillaging General Sherman. Since then, the church been left to ruin.

But what ruins they are! Huge bricked walls with intact archways have somehow defied gravity, while a number of columns sprout from the ground as though in competition with the oaks. Scattered around the site are graves, some which are too worn to read, and other that have sunk into the ground. Within the church sits the tombstone of William Bull, who was of great assistance to Oglethorpe in the layout and development of Savannah, and after whom Bull Street is named.

Old Sheldon Church is a popular place for wedding portraits, for reasons which are immediately apparent. If you’re anywhere in the area, make sure to stop by and take in one of the region’s most beautiful scenes.

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South Carolina Hotels and Inns

Sheldon Church
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South Carolina Ruins
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January 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm Comments (7)

The Inescapable Influence of The Book

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Before we moved to Savannah, me, Jürgen and four-year-old Xiao Liang of Taiwan were the only three people on Earth who hadn’t read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. And now, noble Xiao stands alone. Jürgen and I have buckled down and read “The Book.”

Midnight Garden of Good and Evil

And it was great! We had already become relatively familiar with the city, and the characters and locations leaped right off the page. Berendt has an amazing talent for description, and a knack for mixing his way into interesting situations and meeting bizarre, charismatic people. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil still holds the record for the length of time spent on the New York Times bestseller list, and there’s a reason for it.

But, man, after living in Savannah, did we get tired of hearing about “The Book.” I wonder if another city has ever capitalized so much on a single work of art. I doubt that even Bethlehem milks the Bible as outrageously as Savannah does Midnight. Copies of it can be found everywhere in the city, on every bookshelf, and on sale in every shop… even clothes stores! There are tours of The Book’s locations, an entire store shop dedicated to it, and fans can even tour the Mercer House on Monterey Square, where Clint Eastwood’s adaptation was filmed.

While I loved Midnight, I’m glad I didn’t read until after we’d lived in Savannah for awhile, otherwise I might have been tempted to follow in Berendt’s footsteps exactly. But sometimes we can’t help ourselves. He documented this city in such a unique and engaging way, it’s hard to resist repeating his experiences. For example, how could we not visit Club One to watch the fabulous Lady Chablis do her thing? And after reading Berendt’s description of it, of course we were going to eat at Clary’s! I suppose that, as far as guidebooks go, you could do a lot worse than Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Buy The BookThe Movie or take The Tour

Where is the bird statue now?
We have published our own Savannah Book

Mercer House Savannah
Danny Hansford
Jim Willams Savannah
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January 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm Comments (6)

Happy 2011 in Savannah

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Happy New Year Savannah

As 2011 rolled in, we had some things to celebrate… mainly, the fact that we still had another month in Savannah! We’d been having a great time, and were in no hurry to leave. Our New Year’s celebrations had been just like Savannah itself: weird, hilarious, a little disturbing, and unforgettable. And as we stumbled home after a wild party, the city showed us a new trick: a dense fog had settled in on the streets. Oh Savannah, stop being so gorgeous!

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Savannah Castle
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Sorry Savannah
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Chrystal Beer Parlor
Nailed and Screwed
Jihad Savannah
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January 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm Comments (3)

Wright Square

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After Johnson, Savannah’s second square was laid out in 1733 and named after the Irish politician John Percival, who was involved in the founding of Georgia. Later, however, Percival Square was renamed in honor of Georgia’s last royal governor James Wright.

Wright Square Savannah

The marble monument in the middle of the square is to William Washington Gordon, a successful businessman and politician, who was highly-regarded among Savannah society. When he died, his influential friends suggested that the city honor him with a lavish memorial in Wright Square. “There should be no trouble”, they reasoned. “Right now, there are just some Injun bones.”

These weren’t just any Indian bones, though; they were the remains of Tomochichi, who had been buried in the center of the square 144 years prior. The leader of the Yamacraw Tribe had worked with Oglethorpe during Savannah’s harrowing first years, helping the fledgling colony survive, and the city had repaid his kindness with a burial ground in the center of one of its primary squares.

Memory-Tomo-Chi-Chi

When Gordon’s monument was erected over the bones of Tomochichi, most of the city’s citizens were outraged. In consolation, a memorial stone was placed in a corner of Wright Square, and the nearby Tomochichi Federal Building was named in his honor. Not enough, if you ask me.

There’s always something going on in Wright Square. During our time in Savannah, the northernmost bench in the square was always occupied a big old guy, singing a sort of ad-hoc blues. “Girl, you done me wrong. Girl, why you do that to me? Girl, I wish you was dead“. On our return to Savannah, five years later, he was still there… and his song hadn’t change. Man, that girl must have really done him wrong.

Location on our Savannah Map

Historical Sketch Of Tomo-Chi-Chi

Wright Square Savannah
Wright Square Savannah
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Impressive Tree Savannah
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Sum from Warmth
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Wright Square Savannah
Wright Square Savannah
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January 20, 2011 at 7:53 pm Comments (7)

Franklin Square

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The only square on Montgomery Street to survive into the present day is Franklin Square. Like the lost squares of Liberty and Elbert, Franklin Square had been a victim of urbanization, but was fortunately restored in the 1980s.

Franklin SQ Monument

The most western of Savannah’s squares, Franklin is also one of its oddest. The tourist hub of City Market is nearby, meaning grease-hungry gawkers hunting for Paula Deen are a constant presence, as are panhandlers. Franklin is definitively not among Savannah’s most enchanting squares, but it does boast a touching memorial to the Haitian Volunteer Army. The Haitians played an invaluable role in the US Revolution, particularly during the Siege of Savannah. Soon after our freedom was won, they returned home and staged a revolution of their own, resulting in Haiti becoming the first independent republic in Latin America, and the first black-led nation in the world.

At the western end of the square is the First African Baptist Church, which we took an excellent tour of. Back in the days of slavery, the church’s priest would regularly be brought into Franklin Square and whipped. His crime? “Educating” other slaves with his sermons. I’m sure Benjamin Franklin, an abolitionist and all around humanitarian, would have loved that.

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January 18, 2011 at 7:42 pm Comments (5)

Alex Raskin Antiques

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I found myself in the middle of a fevered dream. Alone on the third floor of a house on Monterey Square, I knocked about a room filled with antiques. Chinese vases, broken beds, faded photographs in golden frames with faces I faintly recognized. I climbed steps to the fourth floor and looked out a broken window at the nearby Mercer-Williams House. I shuddered. It was cold and in my haste to leave, I stumbled, nearly crashing into a warped, full-length mirror. “Time to wake up, Mikey”.

Antik Geschäft

But this was no dream. I really was inside this mansion filled with unbelievable antiques. I’ve never seen a store quite like Alex Raskin Antiques, at 441 Bull Street. Mr. Raskin has operating out of the Noble-Hardee mansion for twenty-five years, and has spent most of that time filling it with finds made at auctions around the world. We went inside knowing full well that we couldn’t afford to buy anything, but just wanted to see the house. Paint is peeling off the walls and windows are broken, but the dilapidation adds enormously to the charm. The guy working allowed us to wander around at our leisure, and the sheer vastness of the place won us over immediately.

If you’re in the market for antiques, or even if you’re not, don’t hesitate to visit Alex Raskins. There are some wonderful and strange pieces of art, and the eerie feeling inside this historic, deteriorated house is one-of-a-kind.

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Better Than Mercer
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January 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm Comments (13)

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For 91 Days in Savannah
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