The city with a chip on its shoulder

The city with a chip on its shoulder

Although technically a Second City is simply a nation's second most populous city, the term also implies inferiority and second-class status.

I don't know who invented the term "Second City", but I'm willing to bet it wasn't someone who lived in one.

Yes, technically a Second City is simply a nation's second most populous city but, let's face it, the term also implies inferiority, second-class status.

No wonder residents of Second Cities bristle at the moniker.

There is nothing second rate about cities like Krakow, Poland, or Montreal, Canada. Second Cities offer the wise traveller some very first-rate experiences.

For starters, Second Cities are, by definition, less crowded than First Cities, and that means fewer hassles.

Also, Second Cities come laden with fewer expectations, and that is, in my mind, a very good thing.

Think of them and, chances are, few distinct images spring to mind. You draw a blank. Blanks are good.

You get to fill them in. On a recent trip to the Netherlands, for example, I knew what to expect in Amsterdam, from the canals to the coffee houses.

But I had no idea what awaited me in Rotterdam, and was pleasantly surprised by the city's grittier charm.

At first blush, Second Cities seem to have little in common.

Cordoba, Argentina, and Mombasa, Kenya, are as different as a steak dinner and a papaya smoothie. Or are they? Second Cities, in fact, share many common traits.

Most tend to have a chip on their shoulder. That chip, though, can motivate. Think Chicago and its famous The Second City improvisational comedy troupe (For most of the 20th Century Chicago was the US' second city, but has since been surpassed by Los Angeles).

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