Baltimore is a city that seems to offer too much.
At the inner Harbor, there's an ethnic festival just about every weekend this summer, with the Germans (June 27-29), the Greeks (July 11-13), the Ukrainians (at Fell's Point nearby, July 19-20) and five others yet to make their appearance.
Weekends without ethnic festivals are filled by music festivals.
But when Harborplace, another of the Rouse Company's paeans to the sensory power, yields up its hidden marvels at the Inner Harbor July 2-6 -- the same days, as if by happy coincidence, as the city's Maritime Heritage Festival -- the situation may become serious indeed.
Beware, you conspicuous consumers you lip-smacking gourmands, you lovers of history and art. Beware, especially, those of you who profess to be all of the above.
In the midst of ripened bries and scented soaps, magicians, musicians and mimes -- what may be needed is some quiet time.
When you venture into downtown Baltimore on Fourth of July weekend, follow the clearly marked sign to the Inner Harbor if you drive and pay special attention to the signs the town's off-street parking czar, Bob Schaffner, promises will be up in time for the big celebration. They should lead you to one of 10,000 spaces within a 15-minute walk of the harbor. Or try any of 7,500 on-street spaces in the same general area, Schaffner suggests.
Or, beeter yet, ride the regularly scheduled bus from Penn Station if you come by train. But be mellow.
You needn't be torn between the Lithuanian dancers at the South Shore Amphitheater and the chanty singer topside on the Pride of Baltimore clipper ship; you mustn't rush through the throng, hoagie in one hand, soft-shell crab sandwich in the other and a slab of hard salami between your teeth, from the chanty singer on the clipper ship to the jazz concert at the amphitheater.
Take it slow. Bring a Frisbee.
Before you lunge headlong into the two pavillions that Rouse built, you can toss the Frisbee on the manicured lawn of the World Trade Center on Pratt Street, using the Mark di Suvero sculpture, a monumental steel arch entitled "Under Sky One Family," to liven things up. Or wander over to Constellation Dock (the 18th-century frigate will be out for repairs until August, but St. Mary's City's Maryland Dove , a recreated 17th-century square-rigged pinnace, will take her place) and crawl inside Lauren Ewing's piece. "Quanta," part of the Maryland Institute of Art's temporary collection at the Inner Harbor.
Once inside, having stepped lightly, perhaps, over a discarded bottle of Ron Bacardi, you can gaze out at what appears to be an erector set in the middle-distance: the Domino Sugar factory. Then come back out and read the legend on the sculpture: Last night I dreamed I saw a strong blind man carrying a sighted cripple on his back. They were searching for a key to the fields.
Now that should settle your nerves.