Tuesday, May 21, 2013

London Part 3


Today was spent in London again, starting with St. Paul's cathedral. There's been a church on this spot since the early 600s, but the current baroque style cathedral has been here since the 1600s, built after the Great Fire of London. This spot by the way is the highest point in the City of London. 

The dome

Queen Anne
Queen Anne was the reigning monarch when the cathedral was built, thus her statue stands before the building. You're not allowed to take pictures inside, which is fine, as there's plenty to take in. After you've wandered around the main floor though, you just have to climb the stairs to the Whispering Gallery, a walkway around the inside of the dome. Spectacular views from there, but you can go still higher. You can climb another set of stairs and end up on the upper deck on the outside of the dome, the 'Stone Gallery'. But wait, it gets better. You can climb another flight of stairs and go up to the "Golden Gallery", a small area around the base of the big spire atop the dome. At that point, you are a full 85 meters from the cathedral floor and have climbed 528 steps. Please note there is no elevator; none of the upper galleries are wheel chair accessible. And all I could think was my mom would hate this. It was a great view though.

An unusual building

St Pancras train station

The British Library
So my next stop was The British Library. I highly encourage you to go. It's free, and it doesn't take a lot of time. {Side note: the weird thing with London is that all the cathedrals have entrance fees but none of the museums do. In Paris it's pretty much the opposite.}They have a really amazing exhibit of ancient manuscripts. I mean, it's just mind boggling how old these documents and books are. They even have Jane Austen's writing desk. They had one of her journals or an early draft of one of her books too, but I couldn't read her handwriting. That was the only hard part. You read a label saying that this book is some famous person's journal, and you stare at the page only to realize you can't read their scrawlings. I mean, come on, I learned cursive; I should be able to read this right? Nope. They have two copies of the Magna Carta there too which is really impressive, but I couldn't read their writing either.

From one free British exhibit to another: the British Museum. It's no charge and it's enormous. And it's filled to the brim with things that the British, uh, acquired over the years. *wink wink*. Their egyptian collection is quite impressive though some of my favorite exhibits were those that were a little more off the beaten path.

The British Museum


A small golden toy
Ok, I have to stop and comment about this little golden chariot. I think a lot of the time history or at least pop culture tends to represent early societies outside of Rome or Greece as these barbarians with no arts or culture. This little chariot is made entirely of gold and the wheels would have really moved. Look at the detail on that thing; it's incredible (although my photo is not, sorry). Archaeologists think it was probably a toy made for young prince, as the god riding in the chariot was believed to be a protector of young boys. This was made in the 4th or 5th century BC, in modern day Tajikistan. Let that sink in a bit.

Iron Age jewelry
They also had this really incredible collection of Iron Age jewelry from Britain and Europe. It's really amazing the intricate work they were able to pull off with such relatively rudimentary tools. Who knew that kind of craftsmanship was around at that time? No wonder the Vikings invaded.

Another neat exhibit was the clock rooms. I just really like grandfather clocks and shiny things.

Beautiful inlay work on a grandfather clock

I walked around Hyde Park for a bit, saw the Royal Albert Hall. Fun facts: it has been in continuous use since it was built in 1871. Also, it is technically a charity held by the government, but it is completely self sufficient and receives no government funding.

Royal Albert Hall

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