A Day in Philadelphia: City of Wonders

We step through the curtain and enter a large, shadowed room with screens surrounding us. The waters of the Dead Sea lap gently on all sides. A man, in the khaki hues of an archeologist, emerges from a dusky corner and intones the tale of how the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered—a shepherd searching for a lost goat. A stone thrown into a cave near the water. The sound of breaking pottery. And, as the adage goes, the rest is history.

Over 900 scrolls—unearthed from those seaside caves—offer some of the earliest writings of the Bible, preserved for over 2000 years in the only location in the world dry enough for them to survive. A wonder-filled discovery.

We move inland as it were, away from the sound of lapping water, and stroll through several rooms filled with ancient artifacts: clay ink-pots, iron arrowheads, massive water casks, brass coinage.

Then finally into a large room with a circular glass-topped display. A display around which everything else centers. The gravitas of King Arthur’s Round Table. Yet it holds something far more sacred—the God-breathed words of scriptures. Fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Fragments that priests from 2000 years ago touched gingerly, transcribed painstakingly, read reverently. And we stand, in the year 2012, moving from piece to piece, murmuring, gazing alongside strangers in wonder.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, a moving international exhibit, is in its final weeks at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute. While at the institute we also jockeyed playfully between the science exhibits: sending static electricity—our bodies the conduit–to ring a bell, traipsing through a larger-than-life-sized model of the human heart, and pumping a lever with all our might to inflate a balloon. I think Karen won. Really, Anna won, but Karen is editing J

Our heads full, we boarded the BNT coach for a short drive over to the Camden Aquarium where we walked through a shark-infested glass tank, chuckled at cavorting penguins, and stared at the massive heft of Button the hippo. Cute, well, maybe not, but Button is certainly a wonder in the midst of city lights and crazy flights of homemade airborne fancy – the Red Bull Flugtag - happening simultaneously outside the aquarium alongside the Potomac. The theatre seating in front of a stories high fish tank proved the most mesmerizing spot. We settled here for a while watching the multi-specied fish race and discussing whether this atmosphere could be tapped for our own writing nooks at home.  We haven’t figured that one out yet!

The entirety of the day can only be encapsulated in one word: wonder. Wonder at the ancient writings that, instead of having to travel halfway around the world, the Franklin Institute practically dropped in our backyard. Wonder at the myriad of fish and animals found in the world. Wonder at the same God who breathed into existence those words on the scrolls also breathed to life the laws of science and sea creatures. It was a day of wonder and a day that we will be sure to experience more than once—the next time, through our children’s eyes!

If Philadelphia is a city of wonders, then it is impossible to cross it off our bucket list and call it “done.”  Up next at The Franklin Institute: “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” 100th Anniversary!

Enjoy the journey!

~Anna & Karen

*”Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” runs November 10, 2012 to April 7, 2013 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

*Food Review: Franklin Institute—Grade B. The food was decent for a cafeteria-type venue. There are other more palatable options within 2 to 3 blocks. Yet if you don’t want to walk, and want an easy lunch, the food at the Franklin Institute isn’t bad. Cost is about $6 to $10 which in Philadelphia is on the inexpensive side. (You can also pack a lunch and eat it in the cafeteria if you prefer.)

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