I had planned to spend a few days of my last week in England visiting some family that I have never met before. Stupid me waited til the last minute, and the one willing to host me had a planned trip to Portugal, so instead, I had more time to knock out a few more sights in London.
Girl-Alex, from the Beer Festival, took me around the British Museum and “geek attacked” me with information (I loved it). The British Museum is more or less a show case of artifacts that the British claimed while they conquered and pillaged the world. I think they have something from everywhere besides Antarctica. Alex is an anthropology major, and probably has the best memory of school-like facts I have ever met in my life. Some of the things she would say would leave me jaw-dropped. Seriously, I don’t understand how people can remember things like that, its in the same category as rain-man to me. But Alex isn’t autistic, just so that’s clear.
The museum is kind of broken up into regions of the world, with some way-finding complexities. We spent most of our time in the Egyptian and Greek parts of the museum, which was fine by me. I forgot how much I used to be into Egyptian culture. Their mythology was really exciting to me as an elementary schooler, as was their mummification, and obsession with cats. Honestly, it could of been the little bit of rebellion I felt from reading the grotesque text on the mummifying process, and the graphic violence between Osiris and his brother Set. Their art is also like no other culture, and for an artistic kid, hieroglyphics are awesome, pictures that mean words? Amazing. Either way, Egypt is definitely a peak of interest for me, and it was an interesting feeling to walk through the exhibit and see these artifacts that I read about 15 years ago.
This is a really famous dead person, because, he was not mummified, he was just buried in the sand, and the heat of the sand has preserved his body better than any other sort of environment (except maybe ice) could. This sand has a dehydrating effect, which prevents the liquids of his body deteriorating things like skin. I don’t know if any of this is correct, but Alex reads this, and will correct me, and I’ll edit it.
These Canopic jars are for the organs that are removed during the mummifying process. Organs ruin the preservation process that mummifying does, but the organs are buried with the body, so they are still entering heaven with all their bits. It is Egyptian belief that a person has to be whole to enter heaven, so if any of these organs are missing, they may not be let in. If a person is missing a leg, for example, a prosthetic leg will be buried with them so that they can still be whole in heaven. The jar with the jackel is meant for the stomach, the falcon is for the intestines, the baboon is the lungs, the human head is the liver. Each jar also represents a cardinal directions.
This ivory box shows the finding of the brothers raised by wolfs. If you look closely, it’s really interesting to see the story unfold. The brothers suckling on two wolves, while onlookers peak through the trees.
Greek vases are actually pretty interesting, though I may butcher this a bit. So vase painters started out by painting black figures on red pottery, which was difficult because the black paint is actually translucent until the firing process, so the painters can’t see what they painted or not. Despite the challenge, this got boring though, so they reversed it, and painted everything but the figures, making it red figures on a black background. Now the challenge was remember where you had painted and making sure you left the space for the figure un-painted. Get it? The white paint is a really fragile material, so having evidence of it today is impressive.
One big part of the British museum is the parts of the pantheon, which is the temple of the Greek gods. Greek, also ridiculously interesting mythology. All around the pantheon was sculptures that told stories from the Greek mythology, many sculptors were contracted to do this, so the figures differ by each sculptor. If I remember right, Alex did her master’s thesis on the architecture of the pantheon, so while she told me a lot about it, I’m afraid to write much because I think I’m going to remember it all wrong. These centaurs are examples of some high-relief facades, while most of the figures of the pantheon were low-relief. The two main facades had complete 3D figures, even though only the fronts were visible by figures. The belief was that the gods could see the backs, so even the back side had to be completely sculpted.
This was interesting for me, because I was able to give Alex a bit of info. In an environment and society class, I learned that Easter Island was actually a brilliant civilization, except that they exhausted the resources of their little island. So they died out not from invasion or colonization, but because they no longer had the resources to survive. Sounds familiar? Well, it will.
After the museum, Alex and I had lunch and then went to hang around Covent Garden, this is a place that is kind of touristy, but had some life street performers, some fancy food venders, and other random things. It’s pretty cool, and locals go there too. One of the shops there is the Ice Creamists, which are known for their breast milk ice cream. We were going to try it, but it was £19.95 for three scoops, and no samples were allowed. Apparently Lady GaGa tried to sue them, because their name for the ice cream was to similar to her stage name, and she thought it was bad for her image.
Some other things I did in my last few weeks of London, were seeing a lot of theater, and saying “see ya later” to my new found friends. I went to Shakespeare’s Globe and saw As You Like It, were the actress playing Rosalind looked a lot like my college Ultimate coach (not Ron, or Cyle). The globe is a remake of the 1613 version of the building, which was a rebuild of the original globe that had been burned down from a fire caused by a cannon during a performance of Henry VIII. The theater had been rebuilt in 1614, but in 1642 it was closed because of Puritan influence, and destroyed in 1644. Those Puritans are quite a buzz kill. The current Globe was remodeled from the 1614 rebuild because it had the most information about it, so it could be made as authentic as possible. It is the only building in London allowed to have a thatched roof, after the great London fire, and no structural steel is used. It is as authentic as the original globe as possible, no microphones, no spotlights, and music is played live on period instruments. The theater only sits about half as much as audience who would of seen Shakespeare’s plays originally though. I was seeing the play with a friend, and as we were chatting during intermission, the person in front of us turned around and said, very casually, “oh, hi Niki.” And it was my friend Rachel from UW. It really is a small world.
Another play I saw was Wicked, which I think is my favorite musical to date. Sorry Les Miserables, but I identify more with Wicked. It is the 17th longest running musical show, and it has broken several box office records. Me and my roommate Steph saw it front row center for £27.50, everyday the theater saves 24 front row seats for day-of tickets. Just show up at the Apollo theater and 10am, and you’ll most likely be all set.
And the last play I saw in London was The Lion King. It also was really good, though I was caught off guard when the songs strayed from the original. The actors were really into the play, and seemed to be having a great time, which made the play more enjoyable for the audience. The mechanics of the costumes were pretty impressive, especially the elephants and rhinos. During one scene, Simba’s “head” fell off the actor, and the actors did a good job improvising to deal with this, Zazu saying to “calm down, don’t lose your head.”
On the last Saturday of my stay, my new found friends and I all gathered at a pub and hung out and chatted, which is my favorite thing to do. I was overjoyed to see so many of the people come out, there are some amazing individuals in London. I think London is my European version of Seattle. Zürich is great, and beautiful, and most importantly has Jeff, but there is something about London that made sense to my psyche. Where is the fun in being somewhere comfortable though? Zürich, let’s go.