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London (lots of pictures)

I staggered into London around 9pm after a boring bus ride from Stansted... it was supposed to be a train, but I think those fell victim to the banking holiday... anyway, I was staying at Kings Cross which is north central London. Everything was closed, so I just checked in and went to sleep.

The next morning my meeting was delayed, and the French air strike confirmed. The British Museum was near by and I could get my flight rescheduled for Wednesday via phone. It was a dark day anyway, so with the hour and a half I had Tuesday morning I wasn't going to push it too far.

Click on the pictures for a larger version.

The British Museum

I could spend several weeks in this place. It was well laid out, the information was detailed, but not too much and they put together pieces in ways that showed they understood the history as living, not as just static artifacts.

One of the special exhibits was dedicated to memory... basically how artifacts and objects help cultures remember who they are, where they are, concepts of mind etc. This is a staff from a Maori tribe of New Zealand and ironically I can't remember what it was for.
Details from a "pada", a footprint of the Buddha from Thailand.
Well, sorry, I can't remember what this is either.
Back out into the permenant galleries.
This is the Rosetta Stone. Discovered in 1799, this tablet was the key to deciphering the language of hieroglyphics as it has the same message repeated three time, once in Hieroglyphics, once in Egyptian Script and once in Greek. Once researches identified the name "Pytolomy" in each block of text they were able to begin working out the rest of the characters.
At that point I had to bolt for my meeting... The "security" in London was omnipresent... there were multiple cameras at each intersection I noticed this mobile unit just sitting, running on the side of the street. The whole situation bothered me. Sorry, I don't like being spied on in public... it made these areas very unfriendly.
Still threatening weather after I returned from Peterborough. I took a nap and then went around the corner for some very good Italian food at "Casa Mama".
Day 2

My rescheduled flight was on for 5pm out of Luton which is about 30min north of London by train (Thameslink). So I decided to hit the British Museum again on my way south towards the river and the London Eye. The weather had cleared and it was almost hot.

With my limited time I chose first to follow a theme that the museum had produced a little brochure on... "The Top 10 British Treasures in the British Museum" one of them was out... but here they are.

#1 Mold Gold Cape (not a catchy name, eh?)
1900-1600 BC one of the finest examples of prehistoric gold work in Europe.

#2 Rillaton Gold Cup 1700-1500BC Couldn't find it.
#3 Fishpool Hoard / Nottighamshire 1464AD

Possibly buried during the War of the Roses. 1,237 coins, rings and jewelry.

These make cool desktop pictures...
#4 Sutton Hoo Burial / Suffolk AD 620-30
Anglo Saxon Burial
#5 Cuerdale Hoard (See a theme?) / Preston, Lancashire AD 905-910

Viking burial of 8,500 silver coins. Largest Viking treasure discovered outside of Russia. Trivia again (Russia comes from Rus, the Rus were the people we know as the Vikings)

#6 Lewis Chessmen / Uig, Isle of Lewis AD 1150-1200

Probably made in Norway. Carved form Ivory. Found under "mysterious circumstances". Harry Potter fans may recognize the design as it was used as a base for the "Wizards Chess" set in the first movie.

#7 Vindolanda Tablets / Chesterholm, Northumbria AD 90-140

Unique collection of Roman writing on wood panels. Written by Roman soldiers stationed near Hadrians Wall near Vindolanda. The correspondence is not all official so it gives a rare glimpse into average Roman solider life.

#8 Mildenhall Hoard / Suffolk AD 350-400

Basically a large Roman silver dinner service. Found in a ploughed field in 1942

#9 Hoxne Hoard / Suffolk AD 410-430

A treasure that was actually found in a treasure chest. 15,000 gold and silver coins, Spoons, bracelets and silver pepper pots.

I was getting pretty sick of hoards...

#10 Snettisham Torcs / Norfolk, England 100BC

Before the Romans came to Britain, Torcs were rings worn around the neck by important people. This is the largest collection of gold torcs even found in Britain.

Ok, so there you have the top ten... the following group are some additional pictures I took along the way, including some excellent red and black faced greek pottery.
Celtic polished mirror with a neat design.
Celtic vase of bronze... detail of handle
Syrian funeral monument...
Can't remember, but it is very well done...
Can't recall the "official name", but it is middle eastern, and the writing on the inside of the bowl in an incantation or spell.
Room after room of Sanskrit and Cuneiform tablets...in this case teeny tinny writing.
Read the description on the picture... from the epic of Gilgamesh.
The two black stones were basically used as property "boundary" markers. They describe the owner, or transaction. Sometimes they were kept at the courthouse as public record.
The British Museum is famous, or infamous, for it's Egyptian collection. I resisted buying the "I Love My Mummy" T-shirt.
In contrast to the throngs of school kids in the Mummy section, the Asian section was very quiet. The last statue is Shiva in a ring of fire...creating and regenerating. The dance of life and death.
I like Islamic art and craftsmanship. I find the limitations on the depiction of people and the resulting emphasis on plants, geometry and seemingly infinite detail to be a nice departure... well I can ramble on about this. Anyway, the museum has a small, but nice collection, especially of Iznik ceramics (more later)

I was introduced to Iznik ceramics in Istanbul where primarily blue Iznik tile decorates the Blue Mosque and the Sulemani Mosque, amongst others. (see Turkey 2001) Iznik refers to the town in Turkey where skilled craftsman from Persia (Iran) settled and set up workshops in the 16th century. By the mid 17th century production stopped and the techniques basically lost. Modern institutes have been created to try and reproduce the techniques.
Next up was the long shot at getting a ride on the London Eye on a nice sunny day in London. Not a chance... Highly recommended that you buy tickets in advance if you can, or show up early (or late). Created by a husband and wife architectural team, the London Eye was built as part of the millennium celebration. The cars are capable of rotating, so you are always kept level. The ride takes about 30min and gives great views of London.
I spent the rest of my time walking the south bank of the Thames River. Home to several museums (Tate Modern, Dali) and the reproduction of Shakespeares Globe Theater.