The cold cloudy city
19.08.2007 - 21.08.2007 18 °C
I'm finally have the internet here in Mannheim, Germany and am now starting my first official travel blog. I hope everyone likes it! Please feel free to comment or write me a personal email about anything. The blogs will be seperated into the various cities that Kyle and I visit, and hopefully I'll be able to explain what we do as best as I can, with as much detail as possible, while still maintaining everyone's intrest. I do want to warn everyone though that I am not the best story teller...so bear with me lol.
First an intro as to why I am here in the first place: So. Kyle and I decided to go to Europe when I got accepted at the Mannheim University in Germany as part of the international exchange program at the University of Waterloo. I am minoring in German, so it will be a great to go to class and be immersed in the German language and culture, but I am mainly looking forward to travelling on the weekends. We have an apartment in Mannheim, so we will be using that as a base to travel from and return to, and seeing as I should focus on school we will mainly do weekend trips. We decided to start our travels early, by leaving America a week before school started and visiting a few places. The first place was London, England:
The flight across was long, as expected, but because of our overweight baggage we had to upgrade our tickets to Business class, so although it was long, it was much more comfortable than it could have been. It was Kyle's first flight and he thought it was pretty exciting, and not nearly as terrifying as he expected. Once we landed one of my wisdom tooth was giving me extreme pains, and I was near to fainting for awhile, but after about an hour it got better.
Our first glimpse of London was on a bus between the two airports and it looked pretty grey and gloomy. It was really crazy to see everyone drive on the 'wrong' side of the road, but even crazier was the fact that everyone seemed to have nice cars! No beaters, no lemons, just a bunch of Mercedes, BMWs, and other nice looking European cars, and all of them looking brand new. The subway in London is very nice and feels very 'homey'. It kept saying that 'this train is for Cockfoster', and we were totally lost as to what that meant, until we figured out that the last station was called Cokfosters. Weird. We found the hostel with no problem, and I was a little shocked by how clean and neat everything was. For some reason I expected the whole hostelling experience to be dirtier and scarier. Initially we had planned to go see some of London that evening, but we were both ridiculously tired, so by 8pm we were both in bed.
The next day the side of my mouth was even more swollen that the night before, and my cheek had turned a sickly shade of purple, so we figured that I should get it checked out. First day out of America, and the first thing we go do is go to the Dentist!! It turned out to be a wisdom tooth infection and with some mouthwash, a special toothrbrush and medication it would be all better. I did however look like a chipmunk for the rest of the time in London.
We spent the majority of the day visiting popular London sites and wandering the city. We saw the Tower Bridge, which is quite impressive looking, and the top of The Monument, but unfortunately the bottom was being restored, so we could not climb to the top. We had lunch under the Swiss RE building, which is a great building that looks like a swirling blue glass egg, but I have no idea what's in it. It was cool to see all of the business people hurrying around on their lunch breaks, but it was also a little bit weird, because everyone was dressed in winter clothes!
By this time we had noticed a few things about London:
- we were constantly in danger of getting driven over, because we looked the wrong way, despite the helpful 'look right' and 'look left' signs painted on the road.
- everything was at least twice as expensive as in Canada. It was ridiculous and scared us into not buying anything.
- we still hadn't seen any old cars, not even in the subdivisions.
Up next was St. Paul's Cathedral, which we learned is actually only 300 years old! This was a little dissapointing, but it still looked like it was pretty awesome. For 8 pounds you could go into the church and then up into the whispering gallery, which is above the high altar and the main seating area. It is said to be specially built so that you can stand on one end of the enormous gallery and hear someone whisper on the other end. By this time Kyle and I had gone our ways due to a disagreement, so I didn't get to try out the whispering thing. Even further up was an outside viewing platform, but it wasn't as good as the one on the very top of the Tower. From there you could see all over London, and overall it looks pretty grey and dirty and there were construction cranes everywhere.
I went to the Tate Modern Gallery next, and enjoyed some spectacular art. My favourite was an interesting piece of video art called "Quarta-feira de cinzas" by Rivane Neuenschwande from Brazil. It was a film of ants carrying colored confetti from the three day Brazilian festival of Ash Wednesday. The ants would drag the confetti over and across anything and often the weight of the confetti would tip the ant over and sometimes they would even fight amongst eachother for a piece, or a bigger ant would come along and throw all the other ants off. It was supposed to represent the ritual of creation, production and celebration.
That night we hung out at the hostel bar with two American guys from the Navy, Pete and Keith. They convinced me that I would never, ever want to work on a submarine. It sounds abosultely horrible.
We checked out of our hostel the next day and headed to the Piccadily Circus area. I am very glad that we went there, because it made me like London a little better. This part of the city wasn't nearly as grimy looking and seemed to be happier as well. There were a lot of really nice shops, and of course a bunch of tourist shops as well; I bought a souvenir T-Shirt, and we enjoyed some great drinks at a Cafe called 'Garfunkel's', which had the best looking sandwiches I've ever seen. As a last stop before we headed to the Airport we decided to check out Buckingham Palace, but that turned out to be impossible without paying a ridiculous amount, so we got some pictures and wandered in a nearby park instead.
So that was our trip to London, and looking back on it, I would say that I definitely enjoyed the next places much more, but that I would like to go back again, and stay longer, so that I could get a good feel for the city and see if I liked it better. But for now, it really wasn't the greatest.