Detroit: the Ghost Town.
I don’t know if it was the cold, the time of the year (it was the 2nd of January when I went to Detroit) or if the crisis really got the town, but my impression of Detroit is a very empty and quite dangerous city.
After spending my New Year’s Eve in Chicago with my family I decided to rent a car and drive to Detroit. My main goal was actually to visit the Ford Factory and Museum, that is not really in Detroit, but in a very near city called Dearborn. If you are interested to know how was my tour around Ford Factory and Museum, click here and read my special post about it.
I went to Detroit right after I finished my tour at the Ford Factory. I was starving and was searching a restaurant on the way, but the city looked pretty closed and empty. I could already start feeling like riding in a Ghost Town.
Almost at the city centre I saw a McDonalds and didn’t have to think twice to stop by and eat something. That was my first creepy experience in Detroit. After ordering my combo, I went to the table and realised I was the only one sitting there eating. Besides me and the employees there was a very weird guy, in an empty table and he started to stare at me. I made sure to pick a table were the McDonalds staff could see me and decided to not care too much.
A bit after I started eating my sandwich, a guy enter the store. He was wearing those typical “brooklyn” clothes that you see in any American movie. At first I thought it was fun to see that the sterotype really exists, until he paid for his sandwiches: he took of his back pocket an amount of money that made me be sure that he was dealing with something pretty illegal there. Well, whores or drugs, I didn’t care, I simply didn’t want to wait and see. I wanted to get up and leave, but I didn’t want to call attention or to seems like having a problem with his presence. I kept eating and the guy left. Not even 2 minutes later the same black guy comes back. Right after him another guy. Both started staring at me. Just as a reminder: I was an alone woman. This time I left my good manners behind, simply packed my meal and went to eat in my car.
If you are traveling alone, like I was, keep an eye open to those situations and avoid putting yourself in unnecessary risk. Also, be sure to do what I did next:
While finishing my meal, I made sure to take my phone and text my boyfriend telling everything about the situation, how the guys looked like and where I was on that moment. I also made sure to tell him that I was leaving the place and I would text him back when I get to a safer place in town. If you are in a situation like this, be sure to text your boyfriend/girlfriend/mother/father/best friend or whoever you have a closer contact and be sure that people know exactly what to do in case you go missing. Of course that I don’t like to be pessimist and I surely believe that everything will be just fine, but we never know.
Finally I got to a place where I could see more people. There was a central square with a kind of Christmas Market with an Ice Skating ring. I saw happy people, having some fun in that very cold day. Around that area was a Starbucks Café where I could connect on WiFi and give the good news for my boyfriend that everything was ok.
Funny thing is that besides the small square full of people, I rarely crossed another person around. Specially on the next morning, when I decided to tourist a bit around during the day light. I drove with the car near to the US border with Canada, walk around for a couple of minutes and I didn’t crossed with a single person. Detroit looks cute, but indeed pretty empty.
One of the explanations is that the city was filled with big international offices, had a great industrial site and was full of universities. During the great American crises, most of the offices bankrupted and the factories had to close their doors at the town and move to cheaper places, like China.
The universities are still there, but it was winter holidays, the time of the year where the students go back to their homes and enjoy the holiday season with their family. Or just go to a warmer place to escape the cold, leaving the city looking like a creepy, but beautiful, Ghost Town.
Date of our visit to Detroit: 02 – 04.01.2016