If you are only in London one day, I advise you to go to the Imperial War Museum. Our professor told us during class to expect to see huge cannons, airplanes, bombs and parts of the Berlin Wall. While I believed her, I did not know the impact it would have on me.
I could have spent days in the museum.
As we exited the tube, we headed down streets where I would have normally felt uncomfortable. I’m sure we were in an “OK” neighborhood, but I was getting a bad vibe.
Then, as we rounded the corner, perfectly centered in the middle of two huge iron gates were two cannons. As we walked past the cannons, I noticed part of the Berlin Wall as we headed up the steps to the museum.
Once the glass doors opened, I was overwhelmed by Nazi planes, the Royal Navy devices and YJ’s.
As expected, the World War I and II sections were distressing and heartbreaking. But the Holocaust display was depressing. Unlike many of the people on the trip, this was my first time at a Holocaust exhibit. While many of these people had seen the shoes left behind in the concentration camps and videos from survivors or family members of those who had been in the camps, I had never seen or heard these stories. Though these people were telling their stories 50 years later, you could still hear the pain and suffering in their voices. As they described what they witnessed, goosebumps formed on my arms and neck and tears formed in my eyes.
Reading about it in textbooks or watching it on the History Channel holds no comparison to walking the winding path lined with photos, Nazi clothes, blue-and-white striped pajamas and hand-written letters filled with fear and hopelessness.
However, back in the WWI and II sections, I traveled through the trenches, was motivated by the war posters and scared during the blitz. Though it is nerdy to admit, the most important inclusion in these two sections were the newspaper clippings. To see how the media handled the outbreak of the war and the surrendering of troops approximately 50 years ago was fascinating. For me, it was interesting to compare how the British media documented these historic moments to how the United States portrayed September 11th, the capturing of Saddam Hussein, the issues with Gaddafi and the death of Osama bin Laden.
While my morning was thought-provoking and meaningful, my evening was light and whimsical.
I can officially say I saw my first British play! As a group, we attended Blithe Spirit, a comedy. If you haven’t seen it, or even if you have, it reminded me a lot of the movie, “The Ghost of Girlfriends Past.” Though it wasn’t about girlfriends, the plot includes a married couple and the ghost of his first wife who died at a young age. The dead wife comes back infuriating the husband’s current wife because she cannot hear or see the first wife. While I was extremely tired and just did not find it all that humorous, the audience seemed to enjoy it. Maybe when I get married, I’ll enjoy it more…MAYBE.
The next day we traveled to St. Mary Woolnoth church. Though it looks like an ordinary building from the outside, it is the home of John Newton and William Wilberforce. A hymn we are all familiar with was written and sung here: “Amazing Grace.” I will say this was the first time I felt slightly uneducated because I had no idea the history of the hymn nor that it was written in London.
This weekend I’m heading to Salisbury to see Stonehenge (WOOHOO!) and then Amsterdam with some friends.