A few weeks ago, a new Bunker Hill Museum opened in a former branch of the Boston Public Library across the street from the Bunker Hill Monument. As a kid, I always loved the three dioramas of the battle scene that were located in a small building at the base of the monument. These miniature patriots and Redcoats truly were toy soldiers pitched in battle. The dioramas have moved to the museum and now include a five-minute narration and light show that helps to explain what happened on June 17, 1775. The first floor of the museum explains the history of Charlestown and the construction of the monument. Particularly interesting are some of the designs that were rejected for the monument. The second floor covers the leadup to the battle, the battle itself, and the aftermath. There is a reproduction of a cyclorama painting of the battle scene, and swords, cannonballs, and a British drum are among the artifacts remaining from the battle.
While there, I decided to tackle the 294-step climb to the top of the monument, and I think it served as a not-too-welcome reminder of my age. By step 100, my legs were burning and I was gasping for air. Now, I've done this climb as a kid and even in 90 degree heat with mono as a teenager and it was never this tough for me. (Or at least I don't remember it to be in which case the onset of senility reinforces my premise anyway.) The steps are numbered at intervals, almost mocking me as to my progress, or lack thereof.
These periodic visits to attractions are a great way to benchmark your physical shape. The monument is still 294 steps as it always is; it was me who had changed. So had the view from the top since the last time I visited. The biggest change is the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, whose design reflects the obelisk monument on Bunker Hill.
As the monument shows, sightseeing can be a good workout if you choose to do a lot of walking and stairclimbing. I always seem to drop a couple of pounds whenever I go on a sightseeing vacation, better than I do by just sticking to the gym. There is a company out there that offers "fatpacking" tours intended to help you shed a few pounds while hiking through the wilderness loaded up with a backpack. The wilderness is a little out of my element, so I like to stick to "urban fatpacking." Carrying a backpack with you as you do your sightseeing can help add to your workout. Just don't fill your backpack with soda and donuts.