Lest you think we went to Savannah thinking only of the food (well maybe we did, a little), or that there’s nothing else to recommend it, we also were interested in learning more about its history. If Savannah isn’t the most beautiful city in the United States, it’s certainly a contender. During the Civil War, General Sherman’s March to the Sea consisted of burning the cities of Georgia, starting with Atlanta and meant to end with Savannah. The mayor and several quick-thinking businessmen met the general at the gates of the city, offering to hand it over “with not a single shot fired”, if he would only spare the place. Sherman readily agreed. Theories abound as to what might have figured into Sherman’s decision, including his having a lady friend in town. But rumor has it that he couldn’t bring himself to torch Savannah because he was so taken by its beauty. Now that I’ve seen it in person, I’m inclined to believe it was more than a rumor. The stately houses overlooking the squares and parks, the walled gardens, the tranquil boulevards, the overarching canopies of the live oaks draped with gently undulating Spanish moss: Savannah is all this and more. Bonaventure Cemetery on its scenic bluff of the Wilmington River is the final resting place of many local notables, including the novelist Conrad Aiken, Civil War general Hugh W. Mercer, singer and songwriter Johnny Mercer (General Hugh’s great grandson), and Senator, General, and Georgia Governor Josiah Tattnall. The Second African Baptist Church on Greene Square is where Dr. King first delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, the very one he delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Savannah is the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. It is home to East Jones Street, voted the prettiest city in the United States. It is music and laughter floating out of the karaoke bars on River Street. It is a feast for the senses. It is living history.
I’ll end on a word about the people. It is little wonder that Savannah is referred to as the Hostess City. Her sons and daughters are some of the loveliest, most gracious people on the face of the earth. You only need eyes to see the gorgeousness of the place. But sing its praises to a resident and watch them glow with pleasure. Everywhere we went we were treated to generous helpings of that fabled Southern hospitality served up with the food as well as in every encounter. John and I strive always to be polite and warm to others and to us, it felt unforced, instinctual, and genuine. No matter how polite we may be, though, Southern hospitality is in a class by itself. It is a gentle reprieve from the coldness and indifference that have become all too commonplace in our complicated world today. It is good manners and conduct for sure; coupled with, I think, the desire to make others feel welcome and at home. It is a goal handily met and wonderful to experience.
Thank you, Savannah. We will be back.