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London 2016

Monday, September 26th

Our trip to London started at Hanover airport at five o'clock. Almost nobody was too late. The flight was all right. We survived! After examining our “hotel” Mrs. Schwiering and the main part of the group took a walk to Hyde Park. She got a bit lost, but eventually we found Mr. Koblitz and the rest of the group who prepared a little surprise for Charlotte as it was her 18th birthday. A cake with candles served on napkins. A lovely gesture!

After this we started our sightseeing tour of London. On the way we saw many weird people, for example a lady covered with birds. The first sight was the Albert Memorial. Built in 1864 the Albert Memorial still is an important part of the history of the world exposition. After Hyde Park we directly went to Buckingham Palace. This is the official residence of the Royal Family of the United Kingdom. As the Queen combines all three branches of government in one person, it is a very important place in London. Although she has no actual power, she is still representative for all of them.

Just in front of Buckingham Palace we found the Victoria Memorial depicting the Queen herself. The Victoria Memorial is made of more than just one sculpture of Victoria. Although she is the largest and most central figure, the sculpture also displays a bronze image of the Angel of Truth and the Angel of Justice. In addition, looking toward Buckingham Palace is a sculpture of Charity. On top of the massive monument sits a figure which is said to show Constancy and Courage.

Tired but with determination we went to Trafalgar Square, a big square with many statues and fountains. From Trafalgar Square we proceeded on Whitehall. On this street there are many memorials and government institutions. For example Downing Street No. 10 where the British Prime Minister has her residence. She is the head of government. We thought the tour would never end. After all we have to say a journey of several hours compared with a sightseeing tour of several hours is very strenuous. After getting to Westminster Abby we finished our sightseeing tour. We sat down in the open space. Just right next to us there was the Supreme Court which is an important part of the judicial branch. The rest of the day we had free time. This day some of us walked up to 20 km consequently it was not surprising that everyone fell asleep after carrying him or herself back to the “hotel”.

Tuesday, September 27th

After an exhausting day one, we started our trip to East End around 9 o´clock. We took the underground from Paddington station and got off the train at Mile End station. Afterwards we met with our guide David Rosenberg and walked to the Victorian park together, where he introduced us to the Suffragettes of East London. David told us about a demonstration that took place in the park. It was a popular meeting point for politically minded people. The lectern was situated in front of a little lake. As the Suffragettes tried attract attention for their cause, the suffrage for women, they were chased off by the police and not allowed to give speeches in the park again. In reaction to that they rented boats and protested on them with umbrellas that had the slogan “votes for women” printed on them. The police were not able and allowed to proceed against the women.

After his introduction Mr. Rosenberg took us to different places in East London that were linked to the Suffragette movement. Those included: a pub, where many meetings took place; a restaurant where poor people, especially supporters of the Suffragettes could get food for little money; an old toy factory, that was part of the movement and also had a kindergarten for the children of the hard working mothers, which was unusual at that time. Close to the end of the tour we visited a street, where George Lansbury used to live. He was one of the few politicians that stood up for the Suffragettes. Lansbury was a member of parliament and stepped down to get reelected, but this time officially as a supporter of the women´s vote. Unfortunately he did not get enough votes to get his old position back. He still continued his support.

This was one of the times when we noticed differences between the real Suffragette movement and the movie. The movie basically does not show any men supporting the women while in reality there were actually more male supporters than we thought. For example Mr. Rosenberg told us about friendships that existed between the suffragettes and male dockworkers, which had advantages for both sides. The only supporter in the movie was the pharmacist, whose wife was a leading suffragette. Furthermore the film did not show any politicians in favour of the extension of the suffrage, which is incorrect as we can see at the example of George Lansbury. Moreover the protagonist of the movie, Maud Watts, was not a real person and in the movie her fate only depicts the negative things which happened to the suffragettes. Another point the movie does not contain is the difference between the suffragette movement in east London and in west London when in reality these two sides even ended up fighting. This fight happened because of different political opinions and because the East End suffragettes were too radical in the eyes of their West End counterparts. After we had finished our walk around the East End and thanked Mr. Rosenberg for being a wonderful guide, we had time to discover more of the East End or just go back to the city.

The second point of our agenda was the visit of the Museum of London. After having free time in the city we met at the entrance of the museum. Inside we took a closer look to the exhibition called “The Expanding City”. It shows the London of the 19th and 20th century. The most interesting sight was obviously the faithful reproduction of some streets of the Victorian age. We could walk through the area and get a supposedly realistic impression of the circumstances in that century. Another highlight of the exhibition was the interactive tables, the models of London and other artifacts from the time of the industrialization and the climax of the British Empire. After having walked through the museum we came to the conclusion that the exhibition is not quite similar to the historical reality. The museum depicted the Victorian age in a very idealized way. We found close to nothing about the life of the poorer population. Everything that was shown was very beautiful and fascinating, but actually the majority of the Londoner inhabitants at that time had different life conditions.

After we finally tore ourselves away from the fascinating exhibitions of the Museum of London, we again had time to discover Great Britain's capital on our own. Going shopping, returning to our hostel to relax, catching Pokémon or visiting Sherlock's home the time until we met again for dinner flew by very fast. Around 7 o'clock we all came together at the restaurant of the Indian YMCA. Not having realized yet that most of us will leave the restaurant still hungry we entered with enthusiasm which even could not be dampened by the quite uninviting interior decor. An hour and a plateful of Indian food later only the fewest of us were still happy about their choice to go to this restaurant. Nevertheless we all enjoyed spending the rest of the evening somewhere in the city until we arrived at 11 o'clock on the dot back in our hostel.

Wednesday, September 28th

On Wednesday, September the 28th, our third day in London, we dealt with the topic of slavery in British history which was a very dark period of. Because of that we visited the Museum of London Docklands and we watched a play called “Father comes home from the wars“ in the evening. In between we had about six and a half hours of time which was used for individual activities.

The Museum of London Docklands was founded in 2003 and is located in the middle-east part of London. The history of London's River Thames and the growth of the Docklands, which is connected to slavery, is shown here. It belongs to the Museum of London which is part of a group of several museums all around the city of London. The Docklands are a part of London in the east. A long time ago they were a part of the port of London. Later the shipping was stopped and the free ground was used for apartments and other buildings. In Roman times there was a port of London but then the first docks were built to have more free space because the river has always been used a lot for shipping. Nowadays all those docks together are called Docklands.

In the morning after breakfast we left our Hotel and went to "Paddington Underground Station" which was the closest to our hotel. Entering one train after the other we planned to reach the "Poplar Station" without any issues. Unfortunately the train did not stop at the station we planned to leave. God, dammit! After a short walk we finally reached the Museum of London Docklands. The area around the museum was very beautiful. There were a lot of big houses where all kind of different famous companies have their offices. We had the task to watch out for the most interesting fact we got to know from the exhibition. Obviously the most interesting parts of the exhibition were the ones where we could finally get to sit down for a couple minutes. Everybody was already exhausted from the last two days. The museum showed plenty of different things about British history depicted in very different ways, e.g. a rebuilt version of the docks. The most interesting thing was the strike of 1889 and the abolition movement. The problem for the workers was in the first place that they wanted to be paid extra for unloading a certain ship in the West India Docks. The boss cut off the extra payments so that other people would bring their ships to his docks and not somewhere else. The strikers ended up winning and founded the trade unions for all Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Labour workers. After every student got to see the whole exhibition, we sat together and talked about the results of the task we had.

After that we had a long free time and we could do what we wanted to do. One group went to Greenwich Park. At the highest point of the park you had a great view on the City of London. Some of the others thought that would be the perfect time to go shopping but not without having eaten something before so they went to the “Vapiano” restaurant with a group of at least ten people. It was such a great time because we went with people we usually don’t have anything to deal with. When we went shopping we kind of lost each other at times but managed to get back together without anything bad happening. Everyone was enjoying the day even though, as mentioned before, we were very tired and exhausted.

In the evening after six and a half hours of free time we took the underground from our hotel to Sloane Square. The theatre was right across the street. As we arrived it was already getting dark and we could see the bright electronic signage saying „Royal Court Theatre“. The theatre was first opened in 1870 but had to be rebuilt several times because of bombings and its temporary change into a movie theatre. It kept switching the owner because nobody could or wanted to own it for too long. The man who is owning it at the moment took over as theatre head in 2007.

Going inside we waited for our play to start at the bar downstairs. Surprisingly water was free for everyone during the visit, which was really good since we had a hard day walking through the city. The people were dressed really fancy so we felt a little bit under-dressed wearing our everyday clothes. Entering the hall the play took place in, the ticket inspector told us we were not allowed to leave the hall for the next one and a half hours until the first break. We took our seats in the first and second rows right in front of the stage. It was very impressing sitting this close to the actors because you had the feeling of being in the middle of the scene. Before entering we hoped we would sit in the back though. We were extremely tired so if we fell asleep in the back.

The play was about a slave called Hero, who was asked by his owner to go to war with him and get his freedom in return, so he had to decide whether he should stay with his fiancé and live a safe but restricted life or to risk his life but be free afterwards - if he survives, that is. After struggling for a long while, he chose the option of leaving his friends and family to accompany his owner on his dangerous mission where he met an injured soldier, who had been captured by Hero’s owner, and whom released behind the latter’s back. When Hero returned a couple of years later everyone was excited to see him healthy and alive but nobody, even the audience, did expect him to have a new wife. So in the end he did not really seem to be that much of a Hero.

The play was over at 10:30 pm. We took the Underground to get back to our Hotel in Paddington. Although we had a really rough day it was a lot of fun and “Father comes home from the Wars” is a great play overall. As we got home all of us just fell asleep. We could not even talk about our opinions about the play so we had to wait for the next day to come when we were full of energy again and excited to jump into the next adventure.

Thursday, September 29th

Most of us got up around 7 o’clock to take a shower and eat breakfast at 7.30. After the daily meal we had an hour left to get ready and met outside our modest hotel at 9 o’clock. Like every day we walked together to Paddington Underground station. We took the Circle Line to Tower Hill which took 40 minutes. It was raining cats and dogs and we all did not feel like walking around in an old tower but we were forced to do it.

As we got out of the Underground station we already saw the huge castle and it was still raining as we walked to the entrance of the Tower of London. Approximately ten minutes later a woman in an old fashioned dress came along and said hello. We were all wondering about her dress.´She gave us various options about what we could see. The guide was the first one who allowed us to influence the tour ourselves. Furthermore she told us very interesting facts and some famous stories about the tower. The Tower of London has served a lot of different functions. Until 1533 it was used as a royal residence, even today there is a place for Queen Elisabeth II., where she can live.

On the one hand it was used as a fortress and consequently the military used the place for various years. Today you can still see Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, known as “beefeaters” whose function is to guard for example the crown jewels. On the other hand the Tower served as a prison, which is still the first association of most people, but already in 1941 the last prisoner was hanged there. Likewise Anne Boleyn whose fate is depicted in the TV-series “The Tudors”, which we watched in class, died here. She was the second wife of King Henry VIII, who wanted to get rid of her because of another love-affair he married later. On May 2nd 1536 she was falsely accused of several cases of adultery and an incestuous relationship with her brother.18 days later she was finally beheaded. We also visited the exact place she was incarcerated in. Most of the stories we were told dealt with crimes and attempts to escape. In general there were many famous inmates, for example the German Nazi politician Rudolph Hess, who was one of the last prisoners in 1941. But today it is only a museum with the purpose of attracting tourists and not a prison anymore. The main sight and highlight of the museum is the crown jewels. We saw them after our guided tour. As we watched the crown jewels, we were all very impressed by the wealth of the kings and queens. There is lot of gold, silver and diamonds in it. In addition to that the safety precautions were very fascinating, for example the big metal doors, which looked like a door to a safe.

After our visit of the Tower, we had free time and could do whatever we want. Some of us for example visited the market in Camden, the famous Tower Bridge or Regent Street. Then we met again at 6 o`clock in front of our hotel to start our exhausting evening program - Macbeth. But before we went to the Globe Theater we had a first stop at St Paul’s, where Henning and Pheline presented their monument.

Saint Paul’s is one of the biggest cathedrals worldwide and one of the best known churches of Great Britain’s capital. Furthermore it is the seat of the Bishop of London and was rebuilt by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. The architect was also buried under the cathedral, so was Admiral Nelson, who fought for Britain, and Arthur Wellesley who was the first Duke of Wellington. The memorial service for Margaret Thatcher also took place in the cathedral just a few years ago. Another interesting fact is that Lady Diana and Prince Charles were married in the cathedral.

Afterwards it was already getting dark as we walked over the Millennium Bridge. In the middle of the bridge we stopped to take pictures because of the overwhelming view of the Thames. Then we arrived at the Globe Theatre, where we all sat down on the stairs to listen to the presentation by Charlotta and Sina. The original Globe was built in 1599, and since then it has been rebuilt two times because of damage. The construction of the theatre is interesting because it has an outer and inner stage, which were both used during the play. It was constructed for the actors who were not involved in the whole play, and were waiting for their part. The difference to other theatres is that the Globe is an open air one. We watched the play Macbeth, which lasted three hours with a short break. We had to STAND around the stage since the other tickets were too expensive. It had advantages and disadvantages. You were really close to the stage and were kind of able to participate in the play (Mrs Schwiering), but it was really exhausting because we had a though week of walking by foot everywhere. In general the fact, that it was open air and built like the original Globe of 1599 was kind of impressive and you felt a bit like being in a different time. Another positive thing was that although it is meant to be a historical theatre, they used very modern effects and techniques, which made it more interesting and exciting. Unfortunately most of us could not understand that much due to the old language they adopted from Shakespeare.

The play was about Macbeth who met three witches who told him about his future. One of them indicated that he might become the king of Scotland. To achieve the prophecy and his dream he killed the present king, Duncan, with the help of his wife. Lady Macbeth really desired the title Queen Macbeth so she supported her husband in any possible way. Afterwards Macduff arrived and discovered the dead king. Hence Duncan’s sons feared for their lives and fled. Macbeth was crowned King of Scotland, but felt guilty about what he had done. He looked again for the witches and once he discovered them they foretold him his future, which he thought to be absurd. Macbeth felt really save until he was told that a nearby forest, Birnam Woods, was about to advance against his castle. While Macbeth was worried about his title of King of Scotland, Lady Macbeth became really depressed about the murders and killed herself. In the end Macduff challenged Macbeth and Macduff triumphed and gave the crown to Malcolm.

Friday, September 30th

On the last day of the trip we first faced the struggle to pack our suitcases again. After having the usual breakfast with a load of toast and jam we had to say goodbye to the big white fluffy cat named “Snowy”.

The first plan for the day was to visit the Imperial War Museum of London. This museum was founded in 1917 by the Cabinet to display and collect material of the war which was still being fought. The official opening was on 9th June 1920 in the Crystal Palace with King George V being in attendance. The gallery that we visited was about The First World War. The ‘Great War’ as people called it at the time, lasted for over four years and cost millions of lives. We learned that in Britain everyone was affected by the Great War whether they were fighting in the trenches or on the home front. Many exciting experiences and stories are told by men, women and children from different classes. It was very impressive for us to see the two big canons in front of the museum that we would probably never see like this in Germany. For us it is questionable how Britain deals with her history in some points, but in total it is acceptable that they are more proud of their history than us Germans. A thing that we really liked about the museum was that we had the chance to experience ourselves how it felt to be a soldier for instance by trying on a uniform or walking through a trench with sound effects of gunfire.

The next stop for us was Camden. This part of London is probably the craziest, most colourful and the most exciting. We took the tube to get to Camden Lock, a big market where you can buy every fake brand that you feel like – Victoria’s Secret, Gucci, Prada, Adidas, Converse, Armani etc. We got to know a lot of interesting people and tried different types of food like an Argentinian steak sandwich, falafel burger or sweet potato chips with guacamole. Some of us felt like shopping on the market and others just wanted to find something yummy to eat. Something funny that happened on this day was that Charlotte was interviewed by “Comedy Central UK”. They asked her funny questions and we are still waiting for the video to get streamed lol.

On the way back to Paddington we took a boat on Regent’s Canal which was built in the early 19th century. A woman told us stories about the canal and about the houses next to it. In the past the canal was used to transport goods from Camden Lock to Paddington and today it is a place where many house boats drop anchor. Moreover, some disappointed students who come back from school and walk along the river tend to throw their exams in it. However, we passed the US ambassador’s house who apparently has a bigger garden than Queen Elizabeth.

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