Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Tale of Four Cities Part II: London – Erich

If people were ever looking for a capital of the world, I could see the argument in favor of London. Of course, other cities would have reasonable claims as well. But London is a massive metropolis. While the actual city of London is tiny, the piece that was within the ancient Roman walls, what is now known as London is a sprawling mass.

And in this sprawling mass there is order. If you measured the distance from every point within the London area to the nearest form of public transportation, be that bus, tube (subway), or regional train, I wonder what the maximum distance would be. Surprisingly small, I'm sure. You probably never have to walk more than about 6 or 7 minutes to reach some form of public transportation, and even that guess might be high.

London is an interesting and eclectic mix of the world. The city has culture, but not just from Britain, instead from around the world. The city has history, but not just from Britain, instead from around the world. The city has food, but not just from Britain, instead from around the world.

As an example, we had only recently come from Athens. In Athens we went to see the Acropolis and the Parthenon. And we learned there that there are many metopes and sculptures from the Parthenon that are now in the British Museum. So while in London, we went to the British Museum and saw parts of the Parthenon. That's not all we saw there, just one example.

This dragon is made entirely out of old weapons
We learned about beheadings and other lovely pieces of history at the Tower of London. We ate Indian food which was way more flavored of coconut than we expected. Even in South Africa, which has a British past, there was not nearly so much coconut in all the dishes. (I mean, I expect some coconut flavor in a korma, but not in a tikka masala. Am I right?)
This is where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Well, I don't think it was a glass monument back then.
I particularly enjoyed our visit to Westminster Abbey. It is a beautiful abbey with a fascinating history. Plus, so many famous authors, musicians, scientists, and kings and queens are buried there. We saw the burial place of Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan to name a few. I realize that Sheridan is not nearly as famous as the other two, but I am a fan of his. We did see Dickens, of whom I am not as big a fan. But given that the title of my post is a play on one of his works, I suppose in fairness I should mention his story.

Here's the story. In Dickens' will, he specified that he did not want to be buried in Westminster Abbey. I don't remember where he said he wanted to be, but it was not in the Abbey. But he was incredibly popular with the working class of London who felt he had done so much for him. They demanded that he be buried in the abbey with all honors. So the government overruled the will, buried him in Westminster Abbey, kept the grave open for several days, and allowed streams of people to come in and drop flowers for him on his coffin.

It's a pretty good story even if you're not a huge Dickens fan.

Here's another one. In one of the chapels where kings are buried, Oliver Cromwell was buried as well. WAS. So Cromwell led a rebellion which became a civil war. He had the rightful king killed and established himself as Lord Protector, basically a king without royal claim. He died of tertian ague (malaria) and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His daughter also died around then and was buried there.

A couple years later the monarchy was reestablished with the former king's son being put back on the throne. Then, just to show what happens to traitors, they had Cromwell's body dug up. Next they hanged it. After they hanged it for a couple days, they took it down and then beheaded it.

I guess the royalists made their point about the fate of all traitors. But it seems like the germs had already succeeded where up until then they had failed.

They were nice enough to leave Cromwell's daughter in the Abbey.

There are amazing sights in the city. Some of them are architectural.
How great is it that the sculptor had to include the tongue?
Others are logistic. I guess you have to fit cars somewhere, right?
No, it's okay. We can squeeze past. Why would we want the sidewalks for walking?
I wouldn't say I felt right at home in London, but in many ways it was quite comfortable. The accents are different, but the language is the same and easily understandable. The food in the grocery stores is more or less the same as home. Though, did Kellogg's make changes to some of their cartoon characters or do Snap, Crackle, and Pop just have to have a different “look” for the Brits?
Who are these guys?
I guess you just never know who you'll find in this candidate for capital of the world.

I should note, I doubt the British want London to be the capital of the world. At present, they are deciding if they even want to be part of the European Union. So a world government doesn't seem likely to be part of their agenda. Just wanted to put that out there before the New Yorkers start trolling me about why their city would be a better capital. Preemptive defense.

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