Text and photos by
: Toni Jerkovic
: Croatian Traveller
For American terms a relatively small town of New Haven, Connecticut (smaller than the Croatian town of Rijeka) is one of the most important towns in North America. It was the first town in the United States that introduced urban planning. The famous American grid layout of the towns originates from New Haven. The same is with planning of green areas. Still, the reason why so many young Americans wish to spend a few years of their life there is not the historical street planning, nor the famous clam pizza that is the gastronomical highlight of this little town. The reason for this is that New Haven is home to one of the finest schools in the world – the famous Yale University. This private university was founded in 1701, and this makes it the third institution of higher education in the US when it comes to tradition, and the first who acquired the right to award doctorates.
It is impossible to separate the town from the University, at least not the downtown. Twelve undergraduate colleges and numerous postgraduate institutions, with a total of 15,000 students and professors, have at their disposal around 16.5 billion dollars. The times when this school educated only the white elite have long gone past – being rich is not the (only) precondition. Today, it is the intellectual ability that gets you ahead, so the best students can go through college without paying a dime. Walking around the university campus is a really nice experience. Neo-gothic architecture dominates the town, so the visitors who are into pop culture will soon compare Yale to Harry Potter’s school, Hogwarts. The relationship between particular colleges is also similar. The students have a strong feeling of belonging to their university, it is where they eat, sleep and listen to their lectures. Members of other universities don’t have a password to pass through its massive gates.
Numerous other buildings are architectural masterpieces, designed by either professors or former students of this prestigious school. Louis Kahn, Paul Rudolph, Eero Saarinen and many others who have secured their place in the architectural Pantheon have left their trace here. The university also owns numerous houses on the Hillhouse Avenue, a street proclaimed by Charles Dickens to be the most beautiful street in the US. Mark Twain shared his opinion.
Lovers of books and arts will be right at home here. Yale University library has more than 12 million books, among them one of 21 still existing copies of the first book ever printed, the Gutenberg’s Bible. The gallery has almost 200,000 works of art, with a great Picasso collection, or a collection of almost 1,500 photographs of Robert Adams, one of true masters of photography.
Yale helped create not only American history, but international present day as well. The Clintons met here, father and son Bush completed their education here, as well as several other American presidents and world leaders. Croatia is represented here by Professor Ivo Banac and master photographer Hrvoje Slovenc. Although majority of the town is dedicated to the university, New Haven also has other things to see and have fun with.
New Haven perhaps may not remind you of a gastronomical heaven like New York, but it truly has a diverse and rich offer even a much bigger town would not be ashamed of. It is the birthplace of what many people consider to be authentic American cuisine. New Haven is known for its pizzerias, and it is very often said that it was here that pizza started its conquest of the American dining tables. If you want to have a pizza in some of the best pizza places in town, like Sally`s Apizza or Frank Pepe Pizza you will have to wait a lot in queues that can be up to several hundred meters long, as is suitable for an establishment that has been around for more than one hundred years. The hosts will offer you a pizza typical for New England (as this part of the US is called), the one with white clams. White clams are a trademark here and are used for soups, sauces, pies and so on.
New Haven is also the birthplace of hamburgers. The legend has it that back in 1900 a patron of Louis` Lunch wanted a takeaway meal, so the owner put a beef patty between two slices of bread and sent him on his way. Hence, the hamburger was born, and it is still possible to try the true, original, tasty hamburger. Louis` Lunch still operates on 263 Crown Street, and if you ask for ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard, you will politely be turned down, with an excuse that such things hide meat’s true flavor.
There are a hundred or so restaurants here that are listed in the famous Zagat restaurant guide. Around the central city park of New Haven Green you will find around 120 restaurants. Thai, Japanese, Peruvian, Turkish, Jamaican, Lebanese and many other cuisines wait just for you. The streets like Crown and Chapel are also home to hundreds of bars, lounges and cafés. You can expect that the patrons will mostly be young people, the students, but don’t let that stop you. Many local bookstores often have a small café, where you read books with your favorite beverage.
You should also not be surprised if after closing time you see the staff of some posh café or bakery take out bagels, bread and other things they haven’t sold during the day. Feel free to take a nicely packed croissant and continue the tour of the city. The thing is that the owners don’t want to throw away bread, so they prefer leaving it on the street for the folks who can’t afford it. Don’t worry, they won’t get a ticket for that. After all, this is not Zagreb.
If you’re keen on shopping, the best zone is the downtown zone, and your best bet is one of the many galleries. The artist may be a student currently studying at Yale, but thanks to the school’s reputation, it is highly likely that your present investment will pay off several times in the future. Of course, not as much as another icon of the American society that is manufactured here in New Haven. With his revolver, Samuel Colt made all people equal here.
Although New York will probably be the first pick for most people, but New Haven, an hour and a half by train away for a ticket costing sixty kuna, can be an excellent place for an excursion. Its streets enchanted both Twain and Dickens, this is where the first Colt revolver was fired which later brought American domination to California and beyond, this is where the first pizza was tried and first hamburger tasted.