Seattle: The Center of the Universe
With a title like this, IT panicked. A story about Starbucks? Luckily, writer Ali Busacca takes us about as far from the mainstream as possible, to a place that’s just downright odd. Yes, IT’s in bliss. She writes:
On a small traffic island along Fremont Avenue, a signpost displays the words, “Center of the Universe,” with an arrow pointing straight down.
The signpost, which also points to such destinations as the Milky Way, Atlantis, and the North Pole is just one of the quirky landmarks found in Fremont, a neighborhood in northern Seattle. Known for its artistic freedom, the area is sometimes referred to as “The People’s Republic of Fremont” and bears the motto, “De Libertas Quirkas,” meaning “Freedom to be Peculiar.”
A few blocks away, on North 36th Street, under the north end of the Aurora Bridge, stands an 18-foot (5-meter) tall troll. The sculpture, which took about seven weeks to complete, clutches a old style Volkswagen beetle in its left hand, rumored to have originally contained a time capsule of Elvis memorabilia. Interaction with the troll is encouraged.
On the corner of Evanston Avenue and 36th Street, attached to the side of a building, stands a 53-foot-tall (16-meter) bona fide 1950s Cold War rocket. Though it came to Fremont in 1991, it wasn’t officially erected until 1994 because, according to the Fremont Chamber of Commerce record of urban myth, “Beset with a comedy of engineering problems, the site was not to be, leaving the well intentioned team with the uncomfortable stigma of not being able to get it up.” The rocket was rebuilt with a new cone and new fins to make it more manageable.
The greatest find, however, was just down the street from the rocket. At 3400 Phinney Avenue, you can tour the first organic, fair-trade chocolate factory in the nation. Upon its opening in March 2006, Theo Chocolate became the 11th chocolate factory in the nation. While most U.S. factories apply only one roast, Theo’s 1930s second-hand machines use two, which creates richer, darker chocolate. The old cocoa bean shells become top fertilizer so when it rains, the workers say it smells like chocolate.The name “Theo,” stands for Theobromine, and translates to “food of the gods,” and on the tour, the free samples add up to much more than the $5 entry fee. Theo Chocolate has two product lines, its signature Theo bars, and the newest addition, the 3400 Phinney bars. I recommend the Theo Madagascar Bar, made of 65 percent chocolate and a citrus and cherry flavoring, and the Phinney Coffee Bar, also 65 percent chocolate. Private tours are available every day at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., though reservations are recommended.
- Nat Geo Expeditions