California – State of Dreams
California, the most populous American state, has been a constant attraction since 1848. In this year American settlers, pioneers, and businessmen
suddenly shifted their attention to the Far West. The reason was, of course, the gold, the stuff of dreams and the gateway to easy-won and huge riches,
which had been discovered in the rich Californian soil. With only a little bit of luck and one big discovery, everyone said, one could make it from
rags to riches over night.
Until this day the gold rush era is embodied in the Californian symbology; the state’s nickname “Golden State,” its motto “Eureka,” the Greek formula
indicating a finding, give proof for that. Today, California is still one of the financially best-off US states. It has also become a major tourist
attraction thanks to its many facets, beautiful sights, and fascinating cities.
California is with 33.8 million inhabitants (2000 US Census) the most populous state of the Union. The population is still growing at a fast rate,
with the Mexican immigration as the main factor. Californians live on a total area of 158,000 square miles, which adds up to more than 200 people per
square mile. Behind Alaska and Texas, California is the state with the 3rd largest area. Only two years after the gold rush began, California was
admitted to the Union ranks as a full state (September 9, 1850). The Golden State’s economy remains most impressive until today, ranking within the
Top Ten of the largest economies on the globe. The best-known Californian economy branch is of course located in Silicon Valley, epicenter of the
California boasts a great diversity: A huge coastline with magnificent beaches, dry deserts, fruitful green countryside, long valleys, and high
snowy peaks. The Central Valley is where most of Californian agriculture is located; the state’s water supplies stem largely from the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Bay Delta. The stunning Sierra Nevada hosts not only the Yosemite National Park (see below), Lake Tahoe (the largest lake in the state), but
also California’s highest peak, Mount Whitney, whose summit is an impressive 14,505 ft (4,421 m) above sea level.
Just as its geography, California’s climate is all but diverse. The Pacific Ocean has a moderating effect. Essentially, in the lowland regions the
weather is rainy and mild in the winters, and dry and warm in summer. Of the great cities, Los Angeles has the highest temperatures in July and August,
higher even than the southernmost San Diego, where temperatures rarely climb much above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The winters are significantly cooler in
San Francisco, compared to L.A. or San Diego, with daily highs ranging from the low 40s to the mid-50s in December and January. Generally, the coastal
areas have milder winters and summers. The mountain regions, like the Sierra Nevada, get snow in winter and moderate heat in summer.
Sierra Nevada / Yosemite National Park
The Sierra Nevada, Spanish for “Snowy Range,” in Eastern California stretches some 400 miles from Northwest to Southeast. Despite early European
settlements during the gold rush era, especially on the lower flanks of the Sierra, it was not until the end of the 19th century that the mountain
region was being fully explored and mapped, most notably by Theodore Solomons. Most of the Sierra consists of breathtaking wilderness. For hikers,
the Sierra offers seemingly boundless trails (like e.g. the Peter Pande or John Muir trails), and the panoramic views, especially when the weather
is fine, are indescribably beautiful.
On the western slopes of the Sierra lies one of the great American National Parks: Yosemite. A World Heritage Site since 1984, it extends over some
761,266 acres. Like the Sierra as a whole, Yosemite is largely a designated wilderness region. Yosemite houses a huge variety of animal species, like
the Black Bear, the Gray Fox, the Mountain Kingsnake or the Spotted Owl. Yosemite is a hiker’s paradise! Over 800 miles of trails extend through the
rich forests, up the steep granite mountains and down into the valleys of the park. Rock climbers will also find climbs of all imaginable difficulties
on the steep Sierra slopes.
The accommodation options in Yosemite range from wilderness camping, small cabins, where you can spend a vacation with a rough charm and very close
to nature, over budget hotels to luxurious vacation apartments and other upscale lodging like four- or five-star hotels. So it is really up to the visitor
which way he wants to go in Yosemite!
Who does not know the steep streets and the famous cable cars of San Francisco from such TV series like “The Streets of San Francisco”? Despite a
relatively small population (for US standards) of some 750,000 people, “San Fran” is the second most densely populated urban region in the US. Almost
the entire city had to be rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake disaster, which left some 400,000 people homeless. San Francisco came back only stronger,
becoming one of the most important and stable financial centers in and outside of the US.
San Francisco is not only the home of the most magnificent sights like the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz, the legendary prison island, but also to a
huge community of artists, writers and intellectuals. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), located in its stunning building in the South of
Market neighborhood, hosts some of modernity’s great treasures. For lovers of European art, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (or, as the
locals call it shortly, the “Legion of Honor”) in its neoclassical home is the place to visit! A ride with one of the world-famous San Francisco cable
cars is of course also a must.
A roadtrip through wine country, e.g. in the Napa Valley region, north of San Francisco, is one of the highlights that awaits the California visitor.
Here, wine experts and amateurs alike can taste some of the finest blends in the world. The large-scale and boutique wineries offer many different
varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Zinfandel. Wine country also hosts excellent hotels and accomodation for all price ranges.