Tourist Info Desk

Welcome to Fernweh, a blog concerning the (mis)adventures of one Fulbrighter during a year spent in Europe teaching English.
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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Larking About London, Part II

I was determined to keep on schedule today, so I left my hostel on time, had a nice brisk walk up the river to the Tower, and was a good half hour early for the church service in the Tower chapel. The chapel itself was small and personal, but it's oh-so-full of history, and the choir was lovely. Besides that, the priest was warm, cheerful, and welcoming, taking a moment to shake my hand enthusiastically and ask me where I'm from. I quite enjoyed it.

I had been planning on exploring the Tower "quickly" and then heading off down the river to Greenwich. It soon became clear, though, that there was no way I'd get through the Tower quickly. I can't get through any museum with anything resembling speed, and the Tower is really fascinating, especially since I've recently read and watched Shakespeare's Richard III. (In this historical play, the Tower plays an important role as a prison and murder site.) Of course, given the choice between doing a whirlwind tour of the Tower, taking a boat downriver, and then running through Greenwich to try and see everything in time, or hanging out and taking my time at the Tower and doing Greenwich later, I decided to take it easy, and as a result, I got chased out of the Tower by Beefeaters at closing at 5:30.

Like I said, I really enjoyed the Tower--so much pomp and history packed into a (relatively) small space. I find British history very interesting and the entire concept of the monarchy fascinating (ask me why someday if you have a few spare hours and nothing of importance to do), but sheesh, there have been a lot of British monarchs, and they all seem to 1) be related to each other (and I'm not talking about succession here), 2) have died horrible or at least spectacularly interesting deaths and 3) have the same six or seven names. They're all very intriguing as individuals, dealing with some hefty questions: what does absolute (or nearly so) power do to the mind of a human? How does one cope with the weight of the responsibility and adulation (or hatred, as the case may be) of an entire nation? To what lengths will man go to get and keep power? (The answers are, respectively: nothing good, not well, and just about all of them.)

As a group, however, it only takes me a few seconds to get hopelessly lost in the maze of Edwards, Henrys, murders, wars, successions, and marriages. I can't keep straight who belonged to what family, whether they were Protestant or Catholic, whether they were good rulers or bad, and when they reigned to save my life. My brain has therefore developed a sort of self-preservative instinct so that whenever an audioguide or museum display tries to talk to me about more than one monarch at once and my brain goes into a tailspin, the whole thing just shuts down automatically and I wander away looking slightly stunned.

I am, however, determined to confront and conquer this academic and mnemonic failing in my cognitive abilities. I've purchased--as in, I've given real money that could have been used on, say, food, for--a poster laying out the names and terms of reign of the British monarchs, along with when they died and why, who they married, etc. As soon as I have a blank spot on my wall in Germany and some tape, it's going up there so I can get all of this labyrinthine insanity sorted out.

Er, anyway. The Tower is a hotspot of royalty-related regalia, from the actual Regalia and the Crown Jewels (which are, for lack of a better and more sparkly word, fantastic) to prisons, towers, and execution sites. Even I was surprised by how long I could spend wandering around the complex, looking at ravens, Roman walls, and famous patches of lawn.

So that's it for today, really. All I did from there was have a lovely pizza dinner, watch Top Gear, and book a flight from Venice to Liverpool. But I'm almost certain you don't want to hear about that.

But since you asked, Top Gear was awesome. :D Behold the invincible Hilux!

P.S. I keep forgetting to mention this, but I got confirmation from the university in Jena that I've been accepted to do guest studies. This means a Studienausweis, interesting things to study, and (hopefully) lots of new friends for Jennifer. Hooray!

P.P.S. I'm sleepy and it's late, so I'm going to bed. I'll get around to pictures at some point later. UPDATE: Pictures, yay!

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