The next stop of my US travels was Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minneapolis (Minnesota’s largest city) and St Paul (Minnesota’s capital city) are collectively known as the Twin Cities. Minneapolis has a population of 411,000 or so, and St Paul just under 300,000. It seems the two cities have competed a fair bit in their history, and despite similarities and proximity have separate identities. The only difference I was able to uncover is that Minneapolis tends toward the modern/urban, and St Paul toward the classic/suburban. But I’m told they’re definitely different and should not be mixed up!
As I’ve said before, I’m not a great tourist. I travel to see people rather than places, and I’m quite happy hanging out with friends in their living room and never seeing any of the local sights. I tend to do very little unless prompted (forced?) by my host. But I enjoy it! And boy did I enjoy my time in Minneapolis. After a month of studying and exams and events in Sydney, the excitement of the wedding and the fun touristing in NYC, it was lovely to just sit around and relax with some wonderful friends. I spent time chatting with Matt and Kara, seeing a little of their world (places they work, or shop), and their families. I met Kara’s parents for the first time (over great pancakes), and caught up with some of Matt’s family – some of whom I knew from Beijing, others being new to me (over Chinese food). I got to see another friend from China, but missed seeing a couple of other China friends I discovered too late were nearby.
The Twin Cities region has the coldest climate of any major metropolitan area in the US, but is one of the warmest parts of Minnesota. The average temperature for the time of year I visited is about -8°C to -1°C (17-30°F). But. New York had been unseasonably warm when I was there, and Minneapolis was similar – warm enough that it rained, not snowed, in December! (Despite snowing both before and after my arrival…) It was pleasant, but also made me a little annoyed I’d carried a winter coat I turned out not to have needed. Although Murphy’s Law being what it is, had I not made the effort to acquire and transport a coat, the weather would have been unseasonably cold instead…
There are a lot of things in the area with “min” in their names – Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minnehaha, Minnetonka… This comes from a Dakota Sioux word “mni” meaning water. The Dakota Sioux people were the sole residents of the area until French explorers arrived about 1680. Sioux leaders were pressed to cede their land, allowing western settlement, in the mid 1800s.
Minnesota, it turns out, is known as the land of 10,000 lakes. After driving around Minneapolis a bit I totally believe it. I have lived most of my life in fairly dry places (Canberra, Beijing) and the sight of all that water, more and more water, everywhere – it certainly stood out to me. There were deep and fast-moving creeks a few metres wide running through what seemed to be ordinary suburb divisions. Astounding!
Turns out 6% of the city’s area is water. Minneapolis has 20 lakes, plus other waterways and waterfalls and wetlands. Minneapolis actually sits across both banks of the Mississippi River. I was surprised to discover the Mississippi has its source so far north! Kara drove me around a few lakeside roads and the view was lovely. Ponds and smaller lakes were iced over; larger lakes often had iced over side sections meeting open water further from shore. 17% of the city is parkland, the equivalent of 72m2 (770sq ft) per person, and even in winter it’s beautiful. Another interesting view on one of our drives was a bunch of turkeys roaming a suburban street! There was a group of about 20 of the birds, both male and female, and at one point we had to stop as several ran across the road in front of us.
All in all it was a lovely couple of days, and I left for Florida relaxed and excited to meet some much loved friends.