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Friday, October 09, 2009


On our first full day in Anchorage, we walk almost seven miles. This is a city designed for visitors, and the downtown area, arranged in an easily maneuverable grid and only a ten minute walk from our hotel offers a wealth of opportunities to see and experience this city, the fourth largest in America by area but with a population of only 320,000. Alaskans take every advantage of their short season of sunny, good weather. They travel by bike; there are gigantic hanging flowers everywhere; benches are available for sitting and enjoying the sun; outdoor dining is available whenever possible. It's a lovely place to explore on foot.

The seven acre Market is our first stop.

Here over 300 vendors gather each summer weekend, and the offerings are diverse and unique. More like San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf with its tents than Seattle's Pike Street, Anchorage's Market offers an abundance of Alaska-made goods, uniquely Alaskan foods, and one-a-kind gifts and crafts. I couldn’t resist this croaking frog. It sounds just like the guys I hear as I sit on my patio in the evening! According to the directions, if I change the way you hold it, I replicate a male or female sound. Honestly, I’m not sure that isn’t a bit hyperbolic.
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Most fun for us, however, are the tastings. Vendors' samples introduce foods we've never tried, and I would have sworn I'd never try. Each one is delicious. We have caribou sausage, moose sausage, and moose teriyaki. Then for lunch we split an elk burger that tastes like a delicious steak but is not fatty like beef. Then we split an elk hot dog, but I remain loyal to Nathans. Interestingly, in Alaska only the native peoples are allowed to raise caribou (reindeer) for market.

We also get a lesson in self-reliance intertwined with community. We don't realize at the time how much this kiddie ride reflects necessary Alaskan traits. In a climate where from one's earliest years a child must be taught how to take care of himself, one also learns a sense of community and interdependence. Watch this video. Even these little children work hard, but when the going gets too tough, someone stronger lends a hand.

Anchorage is a city where 16 year olds don't rush for their driver's license as quickly as they begin working for their pilot's license. By the time young people are about 24 years old, many own all or part of a plane—float or otherwise. Many make sure they have a plane before they buy their first house, and along the roads are not carparks but plane parks. The air is filled with planes coming and going, a sight repeated throughout the state.

We don't realize at the time how much of the state character is reflected in the market. I'm sure we miss a lot because we aren't looking for it, but if you go, don't miss the Market. Frankly, my credit card was lucky the Market is so early in our trip. Otherwise I would have been loaded down with purchases!

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