Princeton is a great college town – culture, history, great restaurants. It’s also ground zero for an Albert Einstein pilgrimage. Princeton was Einstein’s home from 1933, when he renounced his German citizenship after the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor of Germany, until his death in 1955. Everyone knows his brilliance, but it’s his quirky character that most fascinates me – from his pacifism (ironically, it was his letter to FDR that is credited with initiating the Manhattan Project and the ultimate development of the atomic bomb), to his hair and fuzzy slippers, to his views on God (a.k.a. “the old one”). And that, despite his brilliant mind and slippers, Einstein was definitely human (and maybe not such a great husband/father). For a different perspective, check out this list of conditions he imposed on his first wife towards the end of their marriage:
A. You will make sure:
1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:
1. my sitting at home with you;
2. my going out or travelling with you.
C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:
1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;
3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.
D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.
Stops on the Princeton Einstein pilgrimage:
Einstein’s head on Nassau Street (see above)
The collection of his furniture housed at the Princeton Historical Society, just outside of downtown. This furniture was actually from the Einstein’s home in Berlin. Friends smuggled it out of the country before the Nazi’s took possession of the house. The furniture was shipped to Einstein in Princeton and remained in the Nassau Street house until his death. Behind the furniture, the museum has photos showing the furniture when it was in Einstein’s home.
To continue your pilgrimage, make a stop at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia (Philly’s Creepiest Museum – The Mutter Museum), where you can see slides with a section of Einstein’s brain. The autopsy pathologist stole his brain, hoping studies would reveal the source of Einstein’s brilliance. The rest of Einstein was cremated and scattered in an undisclosed location.
Looking to continue your Princeton adventures? For a totally different, but equally intellectual, change of pace head to the D&R Greenway (7 minute drive from downtown) to check out the poetry walk. This beautiful park has been landscaped for the preservation of monarch butterflies, and is filled with wildflowers for much of the summer.
Posted along the paths are poems – all with a nature theme, but many different styles – by both famous poets and locals.
Definitely off the beaten path, the park is rarely busy and a great place for a picnic.
Other hiking options in Princeton:
Institute for Advanced Study Woods: Follow the trails walked by Einstein (just bring the attached map or your GPS if you like knowing where you are going – if there are any park maps, I didn’t find them). Several miles of trails wander through fields and woods. The trail at the back of the woods runs along the creek, where you can find this cute little suspension bridge. Park near the Clark House at the Princeton Battlefield.
Mountain Lakes Preserve: Follow a couple of miles of trails through the woods, along the creek, and around an old ice cutting lake. Make sure to take the yellow trail, so you get a little rock scrambling – South Jersey is pretty limited when it comes to rocks, so this is a treat.
Other options for exploring Princeton: