This is the last post in the New England series as unfortunately I had to fly back to the UK. In the morning I packed up my rucksack, had breakfast at the Econo Lodge and set off to see Albany. The history of Albany is quite fascinating for more than one reason.
History of Albany
Henry Hudson came up La Grande Riviere in 1609 while looking for a trade route to the Far East. The Dutch then changed the name of the river to Hudson. The first settlers set up a colony in 1624 and named it Fort Orange. The Dutch West India Company established a trading post at Fort Orange in 1629. Finally, in 1652 Pieter Stuyvesant, governor of New Netherlands proclaimed that Fort Orange should become the village of Beverwyck.
The Dutch surrendered to the British without a battle in 1664 and King Charles II granted large portions of land to his brother James, the Duke of both York and Albany. This is how Beverwyck became Albany and New Amsterdam New York. The rest of the history is on the state government’s website. The city eventually developed into a major fur trading post, later followed by an industrial center. With industry came pollution and by the 20th century the Hudson river was devoid of life.
The Hudson Clean Up
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are fire preventive and insulator chemicals in the manufacture of electrical devices, like transformers and capacitors. During a 30-year period ending in 1977, when the EPA banned the production of PCBs, approximately 590,000 tonnes of it entered the Hudson River. Most of it came from two General Electric (GE) capacitor plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls. Once PCBs entered the river, they settled and mixed with the sediments at many locations on the river bottom and at some locations along the shoreline in the floodplain.
The primary health risk associated with PCBs is accumulation in the human body through eating contaminated fish. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, since 1976, high levels of PCBs in fish have led New York State to close various recreational and commercial fisheries. They also issued advisories restricting the consumption of fish caught in the Hudson River. To top it all off, the EPA placed 200 miles of the river on the National Priorities List, which is a list of the country’s most contaminated hazardous waste sites.Terrible!
Luckily common sense prevailed and the river was cleaned up and now people can fish again. If you are interested in the entire process read the EPA website here.
The Drive Along Highway 2
I walked around the center of Albany briefly and then headed down to the riverside. The Hudson is a truly magnificent river – I cannot understand why anyone was allowed to dump dangerous chemicals in it. Unfortunately it was time to leave as my flight was in the evening at 9pm.
One of the most scenic routes to Boston is Highway 2 from Albany. Along this stretch of road lie many quaint towns and university cities. I stopped off at Williamsburg only as it was simply breathtaking. I have never seen anything so clean and organized as this town before. The best was its surrounds though: hills covered in red and orange trees as far as the eye can see.
I had lunch at the Berkshire Pizzeria in Charlemont, which must be the best pizza place in New England! Following this, the road climbs many hills, and at least two of them were high enough for my ears to pop. On top of one or two of them there was even some snow. I arrived back in Boston around 4pm and parked the car up at Boston Common. It was another beautiful sunny day, but much chillier than when I arrived. I still had some time to spare so I went to see a cemetery and the state capitol and ate a slice of Boston Pie.
This is the end of the New England series, please read on to find out where to go in Texas.
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