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Alabama - Where the Skies are so Blue

Who does not know the lines of the famous Lynyrd Skynyrd song, in which the band expresses their love for their native state: "Sweet Home Alabama". Alabama has been during the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century a state that struggled economically. Since 1945, however, Alabama has witnessed an impressive recovery, diversifying its economy, which was formerly all but agricultural. Heavy industries, banking, and aerospace are some of the new economies. But also in the realm of tourism, Alabama has made significant headway. The Yellowhammer State gives many reasons to be explored.

The name Alabama is derived from a Creek tribe which used to settle on the upper Alabama River. The word was first mentioned even in the very first travel accounts by Hernando de Soto, in the mid-1500s. Alabama is not a particularly large state, with an area of 52,423 square miles. However, the state which houses, among others, the Alabama and Tennessee Rivers, has the second largest inland water system of the US states. While the southern portion of the state is generally characterized by plains and soft hills, the north is rather mountainous, reaching up to some 2,400 feet at Mount Cheaha in the Appalachian Mountains area. As is typical for the Southern states, the climate is especially hot in July and August, with average highs of over 90 degrees. In January, the coldest month, the average highs are usually in the 50s.

National Parks

Horseshoe Bend National Park is located on the historic battle site, where in 1814 General (and later President) Andrew Jackson and his men from Tennessee crushed the Creek resistance. In August 1814, the Creeks handed over large portions in Georgia and Alabama to the US government. The park hosts many historic museums and guided tours. It is also great for hiking. The nature trail winds some 3 miles through the adjacent woods.

Tuskegee, in the central eastern part of Alabama, is a place with great historical significance. It was here that one of the first institutes of higher learning for African-Americans was created in the 19th century. The instituteís early history revolves around one name: Booker T. Washington. He assumed leadership of the school and greatly expanded its wealth and number of students in the 1880s and 1890s. During World War II, Tuskegee became well-known nationwide for its Tuskegee Airmen, the first black fighter squad in US history. In March 2007, 350 former Airmen and their widows were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the President in Washington. The airfield at Moton Field in Tuskegee is now a National Historic Site, a great place for visitors to discover the legendary history of the airmen or visit the airfield.

Cities

Mobile, situated on Alabamaís gulf coast, is a thriving center of Jazz, Blues and Country music. Around the port, many attractions await visitors, such as the battleship USS Alabama which is open for visits. The Mobile Bay area is one of the touristic centers. Mobile also hosts one of the more interesting hotels in the United States, the Battle House Renaissance Hotel, located in a historic building originally erected in 1852.

Tuscaloosa, in central western Alabama, hosts the University of Alabama, making it an especially lively place from September to May. Moreover, several galleries and parks as well as an historic theater await curious visitors. The region around Tuscaloosa hosts many beautiful lakes and rivers and is thus ideal for all kinds of water sports, from canoeing over fishing to water ski. Golf enthusiasts also find great tees in the area.

Dauphin Island is a barrier island off the Alabama shore in the Gulf of Mexico. It is some 30 miles away from Mobile and only 130 miles east of New Orleans. The 850 feet-long fishing pier attracts thousands of hobby fishermen each year. Catches in the waters around Dauphin Island include speckled trout, flounder, king mackerel, as well as sand sharks and hammerheads. Historic Fort Gaines is another major attraction on the island.

Montgomery has a wide variety of attractions. One of the most notable is the fascinating Hank Williams Museum, located in the music legendís temporary home in Downtown Montgomery. Both Hank Williamsí first and last concerts were held in the city. The local zoo is one of the biggest in the South. In Old Alabama Town, visitors can get a taste of what it was like to live in the 19th century. Three blocks of historic buildings give a lucid insight into the everyday life some 150 years ago.

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