May 2019 trip to the United Kingdom. London.

I wake up early in the morning and take the first train towards the airport. I even have the opportunity to see a maintenance service vehicle in its way home. This morning, I will work from the London office.

Many years ago, London was the first city I visited when I started to travel outside Spain. London is one of my all-time favourite cities maybe because it is a city that always rewards exploration with exciting surprises.

The first three days, I will be working close to Hammersmith. So, I explore this region of the city where I have not been to before. As I cross the Hammersmith bridge, I find the Harrods Furniture Depository. The obvious guess is correct. This building used to be a storage for items that could not be stored at Harrod’s main building. This 1914’s building is listed as buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.

Harrods Furniture Depository

Very close to Chiswick Park Station, by walking between two residential buildings at Bollo Lane, I found a hidden treasure. The Gunnersbury Triangle is a small, tiny, nature reserve in the middle of Chiswick. Its existence is possible by the fortuitous circumstance that three railway lines isolated the location. So, the place was never developed.

In the weekend, I re-visit all my favourite places in the city: Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, Greenwich, Portobello Road Market, and much more. I never get tired of walking around London.

The Clock Tower in the Palace of Westminster does not offer its best face. Misfortune is always a risk when travelling. I have found Museums closed, monuments being repaired and even once a storm that made us miss one of our destinations. But, the alternative is to stay at home and not see any of the wonders of the world.

Saturday morning, I go shopping at Portobello Road Market. There is much to see in this London road. Tourists take pictures of the beautiful English houses with colourful rose gardens. There are stands with international and local food, and fresh fruit and raw vegetables.

For me, Portobello Road is the place to find peculiar objects. Some sellers claim that their objects are real antiquities and some things cost as if they were. I do not know what objects sold here are really antique and which are modern copies. But, I always try to get home some beautiful not-so-expensive souvenir.

During the weekend, I have seen and done more than what I can share in a few lines. Some experiences are a revisit of old ones, and some of them are new. Next time I come back to London, I will revisit its streets again.

May 2019 trip to the United Kingdom. Cambridge.

Sunday morning, I take a train to Cambridge from King’s Cross. It’s the first time I visit the university city.

The city centre is noisy with tourists and has a very distinctive architecture with definite Harry Potter’s vibes. It’s easy to see the influences that the Cambridge’s colleges, buildings and students life inspired the books.

My first destination is the Centre for Computing History. The centre is a great place to try hands-on a varied range of old computers. My two favourites are a Silicon Graphics workstation and an Alien Syndrome arcade machine. In 1991 an SGI workstation was a synonym of state-of-the-art computer graphics. To be able to use one is a unique opportunity. For the Alien Syndrome, I saw one while on vacations in the 80s. As a kid, I didn’t have money to play so I had to settle for watching other kids play. After three decades, I have been able – at last – of playing the game by myself.

After playing a little around with the infamous E.T. video game and other computer relics I leave the centre.

The second place I visit is the Fitzwilliam Museum. I am impressed by the variety of objects on display. The museum is not big, but there are all kinds of objects and paintings. One of the paintings surprises me, and it seems a sort of rare animal drawn in an abstract style. Actually, it is a still life painting by Pablo Picasso by the title of Bowl and Apples.

I move from exhibit to exhibit, from the Egyptian collection to Asian art. It takes me around one hour to finish my tour in the museum. It’s a small place but totally worth a visit if you are in Cambridge.

As I pass by in front of a church, a small object gets my attention. It’s a little door with the devil peeking at the door. Later on, I see a guy knelled in the ground taking pictures of something. As I approach, I discover what the objective of his camera is. It is a small, teleport machine. I have some small talk, and I discover that there are other street art installations around the city like these. Once home, a Google search finds that the art group Dinky Doors are behind the stunt. It’s a welcome surprise to find such a thing in a city.

I start to head back to the train station in misty rain. It takes an hour from Cambridge station to King’s Cross or as shown in the screens “London Kings X”.

May 2019 trip to the United Kingdom. The British Museum.

The British Museum deserves its own post. Probably it deserves many posts. If London is one of my all-time favourite cities in the world, the British Museum is my favourite place in London.

Temporary exhibits are a refreshing change for any museum. I visit temporary exhibits often, even more often for museums that I already have visited in the past. But, permanent exhibits are not so permanent. The British Museum collection has over 8 million objects. Just around 80,000 are on public display at any given time.

Some things do not change. I took the first picture in 2014 with an iPad’s camera. The second picture is from 2019 with a Panasonic DMC-G80. But the Gold wreath has not changed.

Others things do change. I remember that in Room 33 (China, South Asia & South East Asia) three ceramic seated figures dominated the view. I was so impressed by this ceramic figures that my eyes looked in their direction as I enter the room. But, they are gone from their original place. Their original place at least for me.

Today, I visit the Manga マンガ temporary exhibit. Afterwards, I will continue with the permanent rooms.

All the big names in manga are represented here: Dragon Ball, Captain Tsubasa, Astro Boy and much more.

In a big screen, there is a short documentary about Comiket. I have attended Comiket 93 and 95 at the Tokyo Big Sight. It’s interesting to see your own history in a museum.

The British Museum is an incredible place. But as such, it is not free of complexities. Hoa Hakananai’a (‘lost or stolen friend’) reflects one of the complex issues with a museum with artworks from around the world.

Easter Island governor begs British Museum to return Moai: ‘You have our soul’

The Guardian. Agence France-Presse. Tue 20 Nov 2018 18.21 GMT

I am sympathetic with the wish of the Easter Island inhabitants. And, as the museum recognises itself the statue is not a gift, but it was obtained in suspicious circumstances. Whatever the final decision, I hope to be able to visit this Easter Island cultural artefact again.

And each visit, I discover something new. Ram in a Thicket is a statue sculpted around 5,000 years ago in Iran. Maybe I have seen it in the past, but I do not remember it. I usually wander the museum without any goal in mind. A more systematic approach will assure that I see every object. But, I prefer to have serendipitous encounters with the artefacts.

When it was discovered, the 16.5-inch figure had been crushed flat by the weight of the soil above it and its inner wooden core had decomposed. This wooden core had been finely cut for the face and legs, but the body had been more roughly modelled. Woolley used wax to keep the pieces together as it was excavated, and the figure was gently pressed back into its original shape. The ram’s head and legs are layered in gold leaf which had been hammered against the wood and stuck to it with a thin wash of bitumen, while its ears are copper which are now green with verdigris. The horns and the fleece on its shoulders are of lapis lazuli, and the body’s fleece is made of shell, attached to a thicker coat of bitumen. The figure’s genitals are gold, while its belly was silver plate, now oxidised beyond restoration. The tree is also covered in gold leaf with gold flowers.

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, December 17). Ram in a Thicket. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:34, June 16, 2019

There is much more to talk about and see at The British Museum. I will come back again for another visit. But like a man cannot step the same river twice, next time it will be different.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

Heraclitus

Weekend in Malmö & Copenhagen

Recently I went with a friend on a trip to the Czech Republic. He had a new plan. He invited me to visit his home town. I couldn’t say no, I knew it was going to be good.

After the flight from Stockholm, I get a five-star guest room at my friend apartment. So, I do not need even to get a hotel to get well rested.

If there is a defining quality of Malmö’s outskirts landscape is the yellowness of its rapeseed flowers. Nature is everywhere in Sweden. So, when moving from the countryside to a big city the contrast is not so acute as in other places. Swedish Lapland natives will find this assertion blasphemous used as they are to the most isolated silent and beautiful locations in the country. But, compare Madrid or Barcelona with Stockholm or Malmö and silence and greenery dominate the Swedish cities in ways you can’t find in their Spanish counterparts.

Our first day, I get a tour around some of the working-class neighbourhoods in Malmö. We visit Hyllie, Annelund and Rosengård. And, I have the opportunity to hear about my friend’s childhood and how the neighbourhoods have changed since he was a kid. As a reference, the Øresund Bridge that transformed the city by joining Sweden and Demark was finished just 20 years ago in 1999 when we were in our twenties.

After wandering around all morning, I have the opportunity to taste some delicious food at Bosniska Köket. And repeat lunch at a Falafel N.1. It is a sunny day in the south of Sweden so it is sensible to take the opportunity to eat outdoors meanwhile the good weather lasts.

I visit bridges, parks, roads and places that are not touristic places but that gain a special relevance thanks to the memories that my friend shares with me.

We end the day walking around one of the many parks in Malmö. This day has been quite different from my usual travel days. Instead of museums, monuments and other historical places I have had the opportunity to see and experience more of what one may call the “real Malmö”.

Once in Malmö is just a matter of half-an-hour to get to København (Copenhagen). And that is my goal early in the morning. After trying three different ticket machines until one decides to take my credit card – problems of a cashless society – I get into the train to Denmark.

I visited the National Museum of Denmark several years ago in a previous visit to Copenhagen. But, I had less than an hour to go around before it closed. So, I wrote in my to-do list to come back with enough time to enjoy it.

I visit exhibits about Vikings and Denmark history. But, the museum also offers many interesting historical artefacts from all around the world. The museum is fantastic and I spend two hours enjoying the place.

Finally, I walk the distance between the museum and the very famous Little Mermaid statue. Dozens of tourists approach the place to take a picture with the mermaid. There is a big contrast between the noise and traffic of people here and the silence and slow pace of the working-class neighbourhoods that I visited yesterday.

As the day comes to an end I take the train back to Malmö. In my first trip to the city, I visited the Malmöhus Slott (Malmö Castle), the iconic Turning Torso building and the Ribersborg Beach. This time I prefer to just to roam around the city centre. Malmö is a beautiful place.

Next day in early in the morning, before taking the flight back to Stockholm, there is a last surprise. Two rabbits come to say goodbye before we leave Malmö.

My April 2019 trip to Czechia. Summary.

It has been an amazing week in great company in the Czech Republic. Thanks to my friends I have been able to visit some beautiful landmarks around the country and taste great Czech food and beer. They have driven our rented car across the country from Prague to Karlštejn, Plzeň and Karlovy Vary. We have shared experiences, but also they had the opportunity to practice their passion, Golf, in the green courses and good weather of the Czech Republic. Five days difficult to forget.

Day 1. Prague.

Day 2. Karlštejn & Plzeň.

Day 3. Plzeň & Karlovy Vary.

Day 4 & 5. Prague.

The Czech Republic. Day 4 & 5. Prague.

The last two days in Czechia, we stay in Prague. Our first day in the country, I had the opportunity to visit the city. But, Prague is one of the most well-conserved cities in Europe with a big historical city centre as it was not so heavily affected during World War II as other similar cities in the continent. So, extra time to visit Prague is welcome.

Prague has one of the higher ratios of tourists to locals that I have seen in any place. Its cheap prices, its beautiful architecture and its good temperatures from April to October makes it very attractive for all kinds of travellers.

During the two days, I visit all the top recommended places, some of them for a second time:

  • Charles Bridge Iconic 14th-century structure with views Prague.
  • Prague Castle Complex dating from the 9th century.
  • St. Vitus Cathedral Shrine & home of national treasures.
  • Astronomical Clock 600-year-old clock in the main square.

I walk the pedestrian streets for hours. The weather is fantastic and I do not want to miss any detail of the city.

But, the most efficient way to travel in Prague is by tram. The old tramcars Trata T3 were built in the 60s and link the city with its recent past. The 24 CZK (1€) ticket and the card pay-system inside the train are very attractive in price and ease of use for tourists like us.

On this trip, I will try to get something special to bring back home. And, if there is something in touristic places is shops. I purchase some of the usual souvenirs for myself and for friends and family. But, as soon as I see a hand-made puppet shop I get in love with its craft. It takes me several visits to several shops until I decide which puppet I will bring home. It is a unique work that will remind me of this trip, Prague and my friends when I am back home.

The city still has one last surprise for us. Close to our apartment, far from the most touristic areas, we discover Havlíčkovy Sady (Havlicek Gardens) with a very unique restaurant at the top of a hill. Viniční Altán (Vineyard arbour) offers quality drinks and views of the garden and the neighbourhood. Sometimes the best places are close to home. It is a nice way of ending the day.

Next day, early in the morning, we head back to Stockholm. It has been an amazing trip in great company.

And, I almost forgot! My two friends went on Sunday morning to play a golf competition. They won the first prize!