Europe: Day 4

We woke up early this morning to try and squeeze in Westminster abbey before the British Museum walking tour at 11am. We arrived at Westminster abbey about 9:15am. Our guide books said that they open at 9:30, but they were opened and letting tourists in by 9:15. This was great because later we found out that it got crowded very quickly, but we were able to maintain a good lead in front of the 9:30er’s. Westminster Abbey was very impressive. The Abbey is in the shape of an enormous cross and you enter in from one of the sides. It held over a thousand years of Kings, Queens, and other honorable countrymen. On top of the royalty, the building itself inspires awe. The ceiling were enormously high, and there was one particular area, where the intricacy of the ceiling design was considered a wonder of the world. It was in this building most English monarchs were baptized, coronated, and buried. Furthermore, it was in this building that Handel’s Messiah was played for King George II, and during the Hallelujah chorus, he was so moved that he was compelled to standup, which is a tradition that continues to this day during the singing of the Hallelujah chorus. This building also houses the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton (whose tomb plays an integral part of the Da Vinci code), a memorial to Shakespeare (and other great English authors) as well as Winston Churchill. It is a building filled with the Britain’s finest.

At 10:30, we hurried to the tube to get to the British Museum by 11. As we were arriving, Tenille had a concerned look on her face. She was not sure if the tour started in the museum or at a tube stop. Once in the museum, we could not find the tour group, so we opted for the audio highlight tour. The British Museum is perhaps unmatched in its collection of significant relics. Prominently displayed, was the Rosetta stone, which was a stone discovered in the 1820’s that had Egyptian text translated into 2 other languages. Until 1820, Egyptian hieroglyphics was a mystery to the modern world. This Rosetta stone allowed us to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, which caused a revolution in Egyptian studies. Suddenly thousands of scrolls that remained a mystery were being translated.

Also, we saw several mummies, a dehydrated man, a bunch of old vases, and parts of Greek buildings. It was curious that most of the prized collection were actually not British at all. For instance, there were large sections of the Parthenon (ancient Greece). The workmanship was incredible, especially for sculptures created several hundred years BC. It wasn’t until the 17th-18th century until we again saw sculptures with so much detail. You could see the strain of each muscle as these Greeks rode horses, fought off Centaurs, drew bows and arrows.

This made me wonder – don’t the Greeks want this back? The British basically went all around the world taking these enormous relics to store them in their British collection. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I one day saw the Lincoln memorial inside the British Museum. I would probably want it back. Worst case, I’d settle for leasing it to them. Maybe we can take Stonehenge and set it up at the Seattle Art Museum.

We ended up getting about ¾ through the tour. We had clearly over done it on our walk the previous day. My legs were starting to cramp up. Tenille’s feet were hurting. After some mutual whining, we decided to give up and go get some lunch. We ended up in Chinatown and had some British dim sum. British dim sum is more or less the same as American dim sum, except at the end you pay in pounds. Unfortunately, you pay about the same number of pounds as dollars, so it’s about 1.8 times more expensive.

We arrived back at the hotel, took a nap, then got dressed up for the credit union reception. We had a lovely dinner (duck breast), and got home about 9pm. We were able to get my our IM working with my dad, and saw Caleb via the webcam running around back in Seattle. Tenille almost cried again. It was fun to see him, and it was a bit sad. We both miss him terribly. Only 12 more days.

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