Trains and Louis XVI Go with a Bottle of Coke – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

I sampled up to 70 Coca-Cola products from around the world. I learned about the first men to receive the Medal of Honor after stealing a locomotive and basked in the art collections of French kings when I visited Atlanta this summer.

Pop Culture exhibits at the New World
Pop Culture exhibits at the New World

Atlanta is the mecca of the world’s most recognizable brand name; it has been around for 120 years. With great fanfare, on May 24, 2007, NEW World of Coca-Cola opened. The 100-million-dollar plus shrine to the gods' ultimate nectar contains 62,000 square feet of public space (twice the size of the old World of Coca-Cola). It houses the world’s largest collection of Coca-Cola artifacts. If you see one thing in Atlanta, make it the New World of Coca-Cola.

One of the walls in the large foyer contains pictures of people who give verbal accounts of how Coca-Cola has changed their lives. For instance, in South Africa, Coca-Cola supplies refrigerators, direct delivery, and marketing materials to spaza shop owners like Fraser of Soweto.

In the Milestones of Refreshment gallery, visitors see the history of Coca-Cola unfold. Assembly line workers used foot machines to cap the bottles; the most productive workers capped 350 bottles per hour. Until the 1950’s, Coke bottles had imprints of where they were first bottled; people played games to see which bottle came from the farthest distance.

The Bottle Works area shows a real bottling line with Coca-Cola being produced. The classic commercials that have helped to make Coca-Cola the most recognized brand name in the world can be enjoyed in the Perfect Pauses Theater, including the “I would like to teach the world to sing” and “Mean Joe Greene” spots. A number of Andy Warhol's works are in the Pop Cultures gallery, including his 1985 “New Coke” screen print, which didn’t quite make the cover of Time Magazine. I had a great 15-minute ride in the Secret Formula 4-D Theater; my chair jerked and jumped while water squirted on me. I wore special glasses to witness the antics of a zany scientist and his helpers who search for the secret formula of Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola dispenser offers free samples
Coca-Cola dispenser offers free samples

Save the best part of this incredible museum when you are very thirsty. In the "Taste It" area, visitors sample up to 70 Coca-Cola products that are produced throughout the world – self-service style. North and Latin America, Europe, Asia, and African soft drinks can be tried and enjoyed. I sampled several, including Fanta Blackcurrant from Hong Kong, which I found to be strong, but tasty. The Bibo DJ Kiwi Mango from South Africa was smooth. I thought the Inca Cola from Peru rather bland with a mild banana taste. The Beverly drink from Italy was super bitter, while the Fanta Melon from Israel had a light cantaloupe taste. This was the most visited area.

The gift shop is the final stop. It’s pricey, however, you’ll find lots of Coca-Cola product goodies from around the world.

See how the other half lived
It’s unfortunate I am not allowed to show any of the beautiful objects at the High Museum. I can let you know what impressed me the most in the permanent and special collections, of which more than 11,000 are permanent in a complex that covers well over 250,000 square feet.

The High Museum exterior (front) is part of the Atlanta skyline
The High Museum exterior (front) is part of the
Atlanta skyline

The High Museum focuses partly on 19th and 20th century American and decorative arts. There are numerous beautiful glass works, such as a magnificent looking porcelain pitcher created by Josiah Jones from around 1850. A beautiful oak sewing table from the early 1800’s is captivating.

The High’s European and American paintings feature Maximilien Luce’s oil painting, Port of London, Night. An early 1900’s work caught me off guard, as it appeared as though real lights were on when I initially took a quick glimpse at Quebec from the Harbor. It was painted from memory to capture the essence of a moment by American painter Birge Harrison. It worked!

African art is given ample gallery space on the lower level of the Weiland Pavilion. Some impressive works include a helmet mask created by a Yoruba artist from Nigeria, made between 1875 to 1925, using wood and paint. An intricately designed cloth masquerade from Benin using sequins, is royally displayed in this gallery.

I like Folk Art. Two of my favorites in this particular gallery include Herbert Singleton’s 1993 Hallelujah Door; a church door depicting a New Orleans funeral. The pains of racism are thoughtfully rendered in Ned Cartledge’s 1970 The Flag Waver wood carving.

The Louvre Atlanta has special exhibitions; a popular art show in town. It consists of two sections covering three floors of the Anne Cox Chambers Wing (Part of the Royal Collections Year 1 run). First, the Kings as Collectors includes close to 90 royal artworks of King Louis XIV-XVI, on the first and third floors. The first floor has the 17th century replica busts of ancient works which the French Kings fancied so as to make a statement attesting to their vanity. I was most impressed by Rembrandt’s 1661, Saint Matthew and the Angel.

The Decorative Art of the Kings exhibit is located on the second floor and features a pair of wing chairs made of gilt beechwood created by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sene. You'll be awed by the pair of 1758 soft paste porcelain vases showing off their gilt bronze. Still, my favorite piece is the early 1700’s oak and marble console that has to be seen to be believed.

Since 2006 and running through 2009, Louvre Atlanta will be featuring collections from this Parisian world-renowned museum. Coming October 16, creations from the Louvre’s ancient world collection will be on hand until September 2008.

The high admission price is well worth it. I only scratched the surface of what is at this art mecca – 150 plus images of Annie Leibovitz on display until September 9, 2007. She’s famous for photographing the rich and famous, yet the most impressive photo for me was her F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter chromogenic print (from 1991) that looks more like a grade school cut out from a distance. Frank Lloyd Wright's 1912 stained glass window and early 1900’s oak side chair amazed me.

Railroad and Civil War buffs converge
The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History is a Smithsonian affiliation museum that brings in Smithsonian lecturers and traveling exhibits on a regular basis. It entertains and informs the public with three permanent collections and special exhibits located in the northwestern Atlanta suburb of Kennesaw.

In the “Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil War” gallery, I found out how important railroads were during the Civil War, especially for General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army en route to Atlanta in 1864. The troops lived on 1,600 tons of provisions a day; delivered on a supply line that stretched 473 miles from Louisville, Kentucky, via 160 railroad cars. Federal railroad and bridge construction crews had to be trained and armed to fend off attacks by Rebel Colonel, John S. Mosby and his raiders because so many volunteer troops were too afraid to take on railroad guard duty.

As you ponder the importance of railroads in this gallery, you’re liable to hear the touching soundtrack that was used in the famous Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War. Highlights of Civil War era personal and military items include a litany of photographs; a 1861 copy of the Star-Spangled Banner, amputation knives which look like long steak knives, plus Union drums and drumsticks.

The Glover Machine Works Gallery honors the firm that helped rebuild the South after its destruction during the Civil War. This gallery focuses on the kinds of machinery that this company created for the brick, steel, coal, mining, quarry and logging industries. Locomotive production for these industries was a big part of the business model, but this company’s products were not only used by southern states, but also by Washington, California and 12 countries, including South Africa and Colombia. The train building process is displayed via several dioramas, such as the locomotive erecting shop. In the Pattern and Foundry Shop Section (where numbers and letters are designed), you can rub a lettered pattern using large crayons and paper.

The Great Locomotive Chase Gallery honors fallen Union soldiers and spies
The first Medal of Honor recipients were Union soldiers who participated in the April 12, 1862 event known as the “The Great Locomotive Chase”. James J. Andrews and his band of Union spies and soldiers heisted a locomotive called The General, which was parked in front of Camp McDonald, a Confederate training ground for new recruits for the southern cause. Andrews and his raiders hoped to use The General to get to Chattanooga and destroy the supply line that connected the Tennessee city to Atlanta, ending the Civil War sooner.

Those who stole this locomotive called The General during the Civil War are legends
Those who stole this locomotive called The General
during the Civil War are legends

“Andrews Raiders” were chased by Confederate conductor, William Fuller, who was relentless in his pursuit of them, dodging everything the Union raiding party threw at him and his cohorts. Finally, after a run of 80 miles, The General was abandoned south of the Georgia-Tennessee border. Many of the raiders were caught and hanged, then posthumously awarded the above medals. These men are each given exhibit space with their pictures and short biographies. William Fuller, whose persistence led to the capture of these Union men, is also honored.

This gallery features a 25-minute film about the chase. “The General” was returned to Kennesaw, Georgia, in 1972 after a court battle with the state of Tennessee. It stands proudly restored at the end section of your tour of the Southern Museum.

The library and archives of this museum are full of Civil War treasures including diaries, letters, records, as well as post-Civil War artifacts dealing with the southern railroad and cotton industry. The Southern Museum conducts interactive programs on railroading and the Civil War for all ages, especially children. Check the website for details.

Roy’s Travel Tips
Make the most of your vacation to Atlanta by checking out their tourist website

Roy A. Barnes is a frequent contributor to BootsnAll.com. He writes from southeastern Wyoming.

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