Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Trip to London, U.K. (July 2016)

England, British Isles, Britain, Great Britain, Kingdom of Great Britain, United Kingdom, Commonwealth Nations, Commonwealth of Nations...

These are words that are confusing to many people as to who they are and how they are related. I have done a quick research first to help myself understand the differences correctly and second to help others if there is anyone who is as confused as I am.  

Let me begin with England. England is a state that is located in the Island of Brain bordering with Scotland and Wales. England is the birthplace for the Beatles and William Shakespeare. England used to be an empire of its own, but has been scaled down.

Britain represents the island of Britain that contains the states of Scotland, Wales and England.

British Isles includes the Island of Britain, the Island of Ireland to the left or west of the Island of Britain and over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands.

Great Britain commonly refers to Britain, the Island of Britain.

United Kingdom refers to a sovereign state that includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It used to be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but the name has changed in 1949 when the Republic of Ireland (southern four 5th of the Island of Ireland, except the one 5th of the Ireland remaining with the U.K.) became an independent state. The national flag of the U.K. is often called the "Union Jack" or "Union" flag that comprised all state flags, except that of Wales. These four states are not independent sovereign states, but operate with predefined autonomy from the U.K. Here is how the current flag evolved.

Kingdom of Great Britain commonly refers to Great Britain or Britain. But it also refers to the official name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island. 

Commonwealth Nations (Realms) refers to 16 nations that share the same queen, Queen Elizabeth II.

Commonwealth of Nations refers to a voluntary association of 53 states one of which is the United Kingdom. Most of them are former colonies of the British Empire or their dependents. Commonwealth of Nations should not be confused with Commonwealth of Independent States that represents a free association of 9 states out of 15 states that formerly formed the Soviet Republic.

British Empire    The British Empire comprised all of the above, colonies, dominions, protectorates and other territories ruled or administered by the U.K. At its height, in 1922, it was the largest global power in history overseeing one fifth of the world population and a quarter of the Earth's land area. During and after World War I and II, the British Empire had gradually lost its power and to many this Empire came to an end when U.K. handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997. But, U.K still has 14 British territories 

Enough? Wow! Confusing... But, to summarize, U.K. is a sovereign state, (Great) Britain is an island and England is part of the Britain island. 

At any rate, I have been to London, Edinburgh and Oxford for different purposes, but I have never fully grasped this great but complicated nation. So this summer, Kristin and I spent a couple of weeks in the U.K. to explore and learn about the country, practically four different states. We stayed in Greenwich, London for a week and this blog post is for London.

U.K. has a population of 64 million of which 53 million live in England, 5.3 million in Scotland, 3.1 million in Wales and 1.8 million in Northern Ireland. London's population is 8.7 million and the greater metropolitan area has more than 10 million inhabitants. London is often referred to as "The City." It is the administrative capital for England as well as the U.K.

The British Empire thrived due mainly to its naval dominance at sea. It made Pax Britania possible.
So we wanted to check out the National Maritime Museum first.

Greenwich is an early-established district of today's London and is part of East London. 

We explored National Maritime Museum that displays and exhibits various stuff related to the British naval history. The British Empire became dominant at sea because of its naval power. Admiral Nelson is a national hero who laid the foundation for the British naval power. A lot of talking about how great Nelson was and how important the sea has been to the U.K.

We also explored the Royal Observatory. We found the history on the development of time 

To dominate the sea, naval navigation was crucial. So the U.K spent tremendous amount of time, energy and efforts developing the concepts of time. We visited the Royal Observatory and Museum where we were able to see how the concept of time evolved and how compass has developed. The Observatory also has the Prime Meridien Line or the Line of Longitude. This is an imaginary line of longitude that goes from the north pole to the south pole. From this line, they have established 24 imaginary and arbitrary lines corresponding to the 24 hours of a day. From this line, the 180 degrees to the east represent the eastern hemisphere and the otehr 180 degrees to the west represent the western hemisphere. In Latin, meridiem means the mid-day. From this, the first 12 hours were referred to as am or ante-meridiem or before noon and the next 12 hours as pm or post-meridiem or after noon). How interesting! 

Greenwich Market was established in 1737. So it is 280 years old. The size is small but it continues to attract tourists for lesser hassle compared to the markets in other parts of London.

Greenwich also has Cutty Sark that is a British clipper ship built in 1869. It is known to be one of the fastest ships of its kind until steam propulsion ships came to exist. 

London is the City of museums with more than 200 museums. The city is a heaven for museum goers because most of large and national museums are free for admission, including British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery. Instead, they solicit donation with suggested amounts of GBP5. It is amazing!. We chose to explore a few representative museums.

Victoria and Albert Museum, often abbreviated as the V&A, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victori and Prince Albert. We explored this wonderful museum sufficiently, including Korea, Japan, China, South Asia, SE Asia, Europe, Sculptures, Metal Arts, Sacred Silver and Stained Glass, Jewelry, Theater productions, Medieval Times Britain etc.

After exploring the V&A, we met up with Young Kwon, a long term friend of mine, who has a laser business in greater London. We had dinner at Kimchi, a jazzy Korean restaurant in Holborn, London. It was fully packed with non-Koreans and we had delicious Korean foods for the first time in a long while. Based on our unpleasant memory in 1997 when we were disappointed with so little quantity of food at Silla, we were concerned about the quantity of food, but they all were adequate. We enjoyed the time!

The British Museum is one of the largest museums in the world, along with Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and Louvre Museum in Paris. This museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection numbers some 8 million works collected from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its origins to the present. We explored Money History, Korea, Krishna in Indian fabrics, Africa, Living and Dying, Rosetta Stone, Ivory Mask, Coptic Christianity in Egypt and Ethiopia etc. We took a look at a special exhibition about Sicily also.

Coptic Christianity in Egypt

Tate Modern is a modern art gallery. It is Britain's national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group. It is based in the former Bankside Power Station. It holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art, being the world's largest of its kind. Picasso's art work and an art expressed on a patched card boards appealed to me. On the way to Tate Modern, we walked on the trendy Southbank where people stroll and hang out. There were a lot of people picnicking on the green with St. Paul Cathedral in a distant background.

National Gallery, founded in 1824, is an art museum in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster. It holds a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. We explored the special exhibition of Painter's Paintings, titled "From Freud to Van Dyke." 

Borough Market is one of several markets in London, which attracts tourists regularly. It is a wholesale and retail food market in Southwark, Centeral London. It is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. It celebrated its 1,000th birthday in 2014. Wow... History has a different meeting in London. There was far too many people for us to handle.

London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames. It is also known as the Millennium Wheel. The structure, erected in 1999, is 135 m tall with the diameter of 120 m. It is the largest in Europe and remains one of the largest of its kind in the world.  It attracts almost 4 million tourists a year.

Big Ben is Great Bell located in the Great Clock tower right next to the Westminster Building. It is the icon for London. Big Ben is almost right across London Eye over the Thames River. Together, they are important landmarks of London.  

River Thames flows through southern England. With the length of 346 km, it is the longest river in England and the second longest in the U.K. This river flows not only through London but also alongside other towns and cities, including Oxford, Readiing and Windsor. We took a cruise boat to travel from Greenwich to London Eye to experience the river and the views of the city from the water. We saw quite a number of interesting building and structures, including London Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, St. Paul Cathedral, Gherkin (a pickle-shaped 180 meter high glass building) etc.

Trafalgar Square is a public square in the City of Westminster, Central London, built around the area formerly known as Charing Cross. In this square are Nelson's Column, Gift Horse and National Gallery. Nelson's Column is a monument built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

London is full of history. Actually, history comes alive in this city that transcends the time horizon. Even one week is too short to explore the city adequately. But we must move on. - Jeffrey

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