28.03.2013 - 28.03.2013
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What can you say about London? It is the world's most visited city, and was for almost a century the world's largest urban center. It has 43 universities, the world's largest airport system and is one of the globe's biggest financial centres. At the height of the British Empire, London was the center of power and rule of one quarter of the world's population and land mass. So if you are in London, what institution do you visit that matches this prowess? You visit the British Museum. This repository of world history has been in existence for over 250 years and is home to over eight million artifacts. The contents of this museum are not without controversy. Imperial Britain was not shy in taking the most exquisite historical artifacts from its conquered territories and bringing them back to home turf.
With such a wide ranging collection and such divergent tastes in our party, we eventually decided to go in different directions for a least parts of the day. At one point it was only Muriel and I that stayed together. Abby chose to concentrate on ancient Egypt and the money exhibit. Hannah also concentrated on Ancient Egypt but also spent a great deal of time exploring the Enlightenment and the Living and Dying exhibits. Muriel and I chose to be more wide ranging in our explorations and took in the aforementioned exhibits at a more cursory level, the wonderful watches and clocks exhibit, much of the ancient Britain exhibit and a smattering of other European artifacts. Helen took the same tack.
The British Museum is a very popular attraction in London and it is no wonder. It doesn't hurt that there is no admission charged. It seems a wise policy as this museum has acquired some of the world's best cultural artifacts under somewhat questionable circumstances. For instance, Greece has been ever so slowly reconstructing the Parthenon. It is really an impossible task considering that most important detail work is on display in the British Museum.
For me there were many highlights in this museum. Perhaps the most beautiful is the King's Library which is home to the Enlightenment exhibit. This room displays artifacts from around the world that were collected during the Enlightenment period and they are grouped by the following subject areas: religion and ritual, trade and discovery, the birth of archaeology, art history, classification, the decipherment of ancient scripts and natural history. The exhibit represents how the British saw the world in the Enlightenment era. The room and the display is just plain gorgeous. It just renews one's awe of the world's diversity and beauty. I would be quite happy to spend the rest of my days just exploring and taking in this wonderful room.
After several hours of exploring the woderful museum, 4 of 5 of us had hit the limit of our ability to absorb any more of it (yes, Hannah has no limit in her abilities and desire to soak up more). We were not done sightseeing for the day but we needed to walk and just look around rather than read any more information signs. We set as our destination London Bridge. My sister Helen has an emotional soft spot for this piece of architecture as she has fond childhood memories associated with the ditty of the same name. We didn't realize it was more than a fair hoof from the British Museum to the bridge. We also eventually discovered that the visual that Helen had associated with the London Bridge was actually that of the Tower Bridge. We think this is probably a very common phenomenon. It wasn't until we saw the very plain and unremarkable London Bridge that it twigged my memory that I had already seen the London Bridge several years ago and not in London. Lake Havasu in Arizona is home to the 1800s version of the bridge. An American bought the old bridge when London replaced it with a wider version somewhere in the 1960s or 1970s. The modern London Bridge is quite a letdown. We could not just stop here. Even though it seemed too far we felt compelled to push on towards the Tower Bridge which is even further down the Thames. Pretty much exhausted, we finally crossed the Tower Bridge and in our minds thought it really should be called the London Bridge and deserves the association with the much loved song.
We passed by the Tower of London almost oblivious to its existence since a tube station was all we really wanted to see now. Within 45 minutes we were back at Golder's Green, our home turf during our stay in London. Helen and Muriel graciously took up the task of grocery shopping while the rest of us trotted home to put up our feet. It was a great day in London, despite the cold and the long walk.