City Portrait: Atlanta

Text: Christian Neuhauser • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

When my brother Daniel and his girlfriend Andrea visited us this summer, Christa and I decided to take them with us to Atlanta to test drive two Aprilias, the new Scarabeo scooters, and thus began a delightful tour of the city.

No stranger to Atlanta, Daniel has visited many times because one of his best friends, Keith, (once an exchange student in our parent's house in Austria) hails from there. And though Daniel was most surprised by the changes the city has undergone in his absence, he still knows his way around well enough to serve as our tour guide.

And as soon as we got our Scarabeo beneath us, he and Andrea took off around the corners like a couple of Italians late for a party on the far side of Rome. On unfamiliar terrain, we scrambled to keep up. Visions of a laid-back, boogie-woogie scooter tour of the city vanished and at some points the pace concerned even Andrea when she drummed a frantic rock and roll beat on Daniel's back.
Ah, yes - Rock 'n' Roll! Now, that's a key phrase in Daniel's lexicon, and it always gets his attention, so of course we had to stop downtown in front of the Hard Rock Café on Peachtree Street. "I only want to buy a T-shirt," he called, loping for the entrance. He collects Hard Rock Café shirts and this little shopping spree gave me a chance to take some photos.
Our scooters were quite the sensation, with practically everyone strolling by asking about the brand, its speed and so on. That response led me to think, if Aprilia organized promotional tours in the larger cities, their sales numbers would grow appreciably. These scooters offer many advantages in city traffic - good wind protection, speed, space for luggage, and the size is just perfect when you think about all the time wasted over a lifetime in the pursuit of a convenient parking space. And it looks so cooool!

When Daniel returns, it's chow time and he guides us to an extraordinary place named Vortex at Little Five Point, a convergence of roads that to me compare in ambience to Venice Beach, CA - a few fancy restaurants and shops, crowded with young and old alike in wacky outfits. It's a terrific place to hang out and do some people watching. During lunch, our tour guide settled back to give us a capsule history of Atlanta and, frankly, the depth of Daniel's knowledge surprised me.
The city began, he told us, as an Indian village named Peachtree beside the east bank of the Chattahoochee River. In 1814, the U.S. military built a fort there and later the site marked the end of the line for the Western and Atlantic Railroad. The growing settlement was called Terminus then. In 1834, the name changed to Marthasville in honor of the governor's daughter. That didn't sit too well with many of the inhabitants, so they changed the name to Atlanta a year later. During the Civil War, Atlanta was a crucial base for the Confederacy. Serving the war effort with hospitals and as a major cog in the supply chain, Atlanta was so valuable that the Union General William Sherman, well known for his slash and burn tactics, destroyed the entire city.

Margaret Mitchell captured these moments in her novel "Gone With the Wind," for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in 1929. In 1868, Atlanta became the capital of Georgia. The world's most popular soft drink, Coca-Cola, was created there in 1886.

As for the 20th century, Daniel says, "There are three important dates to remember: 1917, 1929 and 1996. A tremendous fire in 1917 burned most of the city down. In 1929, Atlanta's most famous favorite son was born - Martin Luther King. And then of course, we can't forget the Summer Olympics of 1996."

Back on our scooters, we traveled to our next stop, between Edgewood and Auburn Avenue, to pay our respects at Martin Luther King's birthplace and gravesite before riding back downtown where we parked between Underground Atlanta and the World of Coca-Cola.

Underground Atlanta is a wonderful place for shopping and relaxing. In the 19th century, it was actually the nucleus of Atlanta and marked the end of the Western & Atlantic Railroad line. During the Civil War, the area served as the assembly point for wounded soldiers. But since 1865, that part of town lay under today's street level and was forgotten and hidden for many years. Once rediscovered, this quarter was rebuilt in a style that harkens back to an era between 1880 and 1900.
At the World of Coca-Cola, Daniel and I tasted a variety of Cokes and discovered the mixtures from each country have their own special flavors. The reason for this phenomenon is the water, which is mixed with syrup. John Pemberton invented that syrup as a cure for headaches back in 1886, but one of his friends combined it with water and carbonic acid, and Coca-Cola was born. Today it is the most successful soft drink in the world. Upon leaving, we rendezvoused with our ladies, the souvenir hunters, and surprisingly, their purchases fit very easily in the Scarabeo top cases.

After so much walking around, Christa and I appreciated the comfortable seats on our scooter as we curved around, criss-crossing the city, and enjoyed the looks of admiration. Yes, a scooter in the style of the sixties is always a feast for the eyes. Before we have to return the Scarabeo, Daniel pulled us all to a halt at the Centennial Olympic Park, which is essentially the new heart of Atlanta. From here, a great spot for photos, we have a great view of the Atlanta skyline with the CNN Tower and Peachtree Center surrounding us. Expressing interest in our vehicles, two security guards came by and Daniel and I quickly laid out the advantages of our scooters versus their bicycles.
"Having a scooter during the summer would be great," said Bill, one the guards.

"I can imagine. It's not so easy riding that thing," I said, gesturing toward his mountain bike, "especially when temperatures reach the nineties, is it?"

On the way back to Aprilia, we crossed Buckhead. This quarter, located in North Atlanta, is most impressive with its magnificent buildings, upscale restaurants, and boutiques. Art lovers are in the right place for very unique galleries. Also, you can visit another important spot for sightseers, the Atlanta History Center, which is surrounded by a gorgeous garden and park. The center is located on 3101 Andrews Dr. N.W. by West Paces Ferry Road.

At Aprilia headquarters I told Robert, who works for the firm, all about our tour. He mentioned scads of stuff we didn't see and I realized we have to visit this metropolis again. Normally you'd probably need four days to discover the city and the surrounding area, maybe only three on a Scarabeo scooter. Atlanta is a quirky, crazy city, with a lot of history and a vibrant lifestyle, and my first encounter here certainly couldn't have been more fun any other way than doing it Italian-style, on a scooter.