By Steve Siciliano
It is said that Savannah, Georgia is the most haunted city in America. I don’t know about that but I do know it’s a must-see for anyone with a penchant for American history and an affinity for 18th- and 19th-century architecture. A solid brewpub , impeccably fresh seafood, massive live oaks draped with flowing, hoary strands of Spanish moss and a famous, hauntingly beautiful cemetery made our visit to this intriguing Southern city all the more enjoyable.
After checking into the Bohemian Hotel, a recently renovated property located in the heart of Savannah’s river district, we walked across the street to the Moon River Brewing Company. Moon River’s taproom and brewing facility are located in one of the historical downtown buildings that allegedly have frequent ghost sightings. If Moon River’s location is indeed haunted the resident ghosts are not negatively impacting the quality of the beer. I had the Wild Whacky Wit, a traditional Belgian wheat spiced with orange peel and coriander, and the Apparition Ale, the brewery’s interpretation of the classic English pale. Both were excellent.
The beer whetted our appetites but before looking for a seafood restaurant we decided to have a drink at the Bohemian’s rooftop bar. I’m quite sure that Savannah native Johnny Mercer had the Savannah River in mind when he wrote the lyrics for Moon River (hear Sinatra's version here). While we gazed down at the wider-than-a-mile river and at the majestic span of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge rising high in the distance, a huge cargo ship slowly made its way upriver.
The next morning we explored the Savannah Historic District. Roughly corresponding to what the city’s boundaries were before the Civil War, the district contains twenty-two park-like squares that were planted back in the 19th century with the now massive, wide-branching live oaks. The squares are dotted with statues, monuments and historical markers and are surrounded by stately old churches and Victorian homes—an incredible experience for someone who loves eclectic architecture and American history.
On the way out of the city we stopped at the Bonaventure Cemetery which was made famous by the John Berendt book and the Clint Eastwood directed movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A steady rain had begun falling which further enhanced the eerie, melancholic atmosphere. It was probably just the breeze moving low-hanging strands of Spanish moss, but while we were driving out the cemetery gates I could have sworn I saw somebody waving goodbye to us from behind a mausoleum.