Boat Trip to Greenwich
Being in London, one should not miss a tour to Greenwich. After all, one finds there the Royal Observatory with the prime meridian on which one should have been stood at least once. But it also has more sightseeings and a beautiful park. Specially attractive is a boat trip on the Thames that can be started from Westminster Pier or Embankment Pier and that leads alongside the Docklands up to Greenwich; We made this boat excursion and can only recommend it. But one should plan a full day for this.
The tours to Greenwich are offered several times a day and last a good hour. One gets the maps right at the landing stage at the Westminster Pier or at the Embankment Pier. They are specially required in the days of fine weather, so that it makes sense to arrive soon.
On board, one can choose between some seats in the roofed lower part and some open air seats on the upper deck. Specially when the weather is fine, of course, the upper seats are highly frequented, so that there quite a skirmish comes up for these seats. We choosed those upper seats even though the weather was unsettled and did not regret it although there were occasional showers and a strong wind. The view is simply much better than the one of the lower part.Of course, one should be dressed accordingly and not forget the respective clothes even if the weather is fine.
A member of the crew explains the passing sightseeings and their history. It sounds very good and interesting, but it requires some knowledge of the English language. A translation for example through the headphones the way we know it from sightseeing buses is not available here. At the end of the tour, a crew member waits with a big bin at the Reeling who hopes to get a tip falling into the bin.
Some big parts of the tour on the Thames pass the Docklands of London with a very interesting view to the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, the new business district of London, in which approximately 14.000 people work. Everything is outperformed by the Canada Tower, a 250 m heighted office tower.
At the east of the City of London, shortly after the Tower Bridge, the area of the Docklands begins, the former economical centre of Great Britain. On a huge complex alongside the Thames, the docks, harbour facilities and warehouses, in which huge amounts of goods from all over the world are handled, are urging. Primarily, they are imports from the colonial areas, as tabac, coffee, sugar, tea, and much more.
Witht the downturn of the colonial empire Great Britain, also the downturn of the Docklands began that lost considerably in significance and were mainly put out of service. But fortunately, they were not abandonned to their fate but made this areal to the biggest redevelopment area of London.
Once passed the tower bridge, at the east of the bridge one comes across to Butler's Wharf, a complex that was rearranged to an exquisite residential and business complex; At its end, there is the Design Museum with an exhibition of daily things and a coffee bar from which terrace one has a wonderful view to the Tower Bridge.
At the other side of the Thames, there is the St. Katharine's Dock with the restored buildings. Two historical ships that anchored here are very interesting, the towboat "Challenge" and the fire ship "Nore". Today, Tobacco Dock is the head quarter of the media mogul Rupert Murdoch. In the area of the Surrey Docks, there is the Pumphouse Museum. It is the pump house of the Thames Tunnel, a connection from Wapping to the Surrey Docks that was built from 1825 to 1843. In the proximity of the museum is "The Angel", a pub founded in the 15th century.
The "Isle of Dogs" accommodates the East India and the West India Docks. The name already says where the goods originally come from. Today, after some extensive redevelopments, it is an areal with a mix of arquitectonical interesting residential and office complexes. Amidst this redevelopment area, the skyscrapers of the new buildings of Canary Wharf outperform with the Canada Tower, the highest building of Great Britain. Millwall Dock is also situated on the Isle of Dog. On this areal, there is London Arena, a multifuncitional concert hall with 12.000 seats.
The park of Greenwich offers the most beautiful view to London. Once climbed up the hill of the Royal Observatory in the centre of the park, London is practically at one's feet. The view is really impressive. Over the buildings of the two museums, the view goes to the Docklands and the scyskrapers of Canary Wharf. A little further to the left, one can see the skyscrapers of the City of London and by looking a little to the right, one sees the Millennium Dome that is the arquitectural contrast of the redeveloped accumulators.
The park that originally was a hunting park of the 17th century, was rearranged by the landscape architect from Versailles Le Note and declated as world cultural heritage by the UNESCO in the year 1997.
Specially during nice summer days it is a popular meeting point of the London people and of many tourists. A large number of leisure centres as playgrounds, herbal gardens, duck ponds, tennis courts and a boat lake contribute to the popularity of the park. In sumer evenings, one can often listen to big bands.
But the main attraction point is, of course, the hill with the Royal Observatory, on which there is the famous starting point of the prime meridian. At this place, we experienced a calmness that was very pleasant in contrast to the hectic of the big city London. If one is for a longer time period in London, one will surely double enjoy such a relaxing day in a calmed surrounding.
Sports lovers will find interesting that in Greenwich Park, the yearly marathon of London starts. The park complex is also reserved for the Olympic Games 2012. Then, the competition in equitation, show jumping and cross country races of the modern pentathlon will take place.
National Maritime Museum and Queen's House
By coming from the landing place of the boat trip, the view goes first to the buildings of the Royal Naval Colleges, the former royal naval officer school. The building is opened from 8.00 a.m. to 06.00 p.m., but in the building itself only two rooms can be visited from 10.00 a.m. to 05.00 p.m. Right beside, there is Cutty Sark, the last tea clipper that was in service until 1954.
Also from 10.00 a.m. to 05.00 p.m., the National Maritime Museum is open that has considerably much more exhibitions to offer in three floors than the Royal Naval College. It is considered as the biggest museum of the navigation history. At least more than 2 million objects referred to navigation and boats can be admired here. One department is dedicated to the big exploring trips and their personalities. The passengers and the cargo navigation are two further subjects, uniforms of the British Marine are shown and, as a special highlight, the State Barque of the Prince of Wales built in the year 1732.
Of course, in an exhibition referred to the history of the navigation, Admiral Horatio Nelson, the most famous ocean hero of England, should not be missing. Among the souvenirs of him, also the uniform of the Trafalgar battle he weared when he died is there.
Thankfully, the National Maritime Museum also considered adults and children who want to have a vivid museum experience. In the department "All Hands", chidren fully get their money worth. Here, they can try and practice all the skills needed in a sailor's life. On the virtual bridge, all wannabe-captains can steer a big ship into the harbour by a simulator. What is interesting for the owners of a London passport is that by visiting the museum, they get museum guide for free.
The same opening times as the National Maritime Museum are also valid for the neighboured Queen's House. In the year 1619, the building of the house began, that Jack I. wanted to build for his wife Anna of Denmark. But Anna died in the same year, so that the building was suspended until the year 1629. Then Charles I. retook the plans and let it complete for Henrietta Maria. A gorgeos building was originated with the first self-supporting corkscrew stairs of England. Beside these stairs called tulip stairs, also the gorgeous ceilings with carvings and paintings, the marble floors and the wrought-ironed balustrades are noticable. A collection of paintings of the navigation and the orangerie round the sightseeings in Queen's House.
The Royal Observatory is surely not known to everyone, but by mentioning the famous prime meridian everybody knows where one actually is. It is realy a ground full of history. In order to guarantee some exact geographical measures, one would need an exact determination of the longitude. In the year 1714, the English admiralty offered a reward of 20.000 English pounds, a stately amount of money at that times, for the solution of the problem.
The solution was a constant, the prime meridian, from which it was possible to determine the longitudes with the different time zones. Of course, a spot in England was choosen for this value and people decided Greenwich. This fictitious line goes here through the Meridian Building, marked by a steel rail embedded in the ground. There is no visitor of Greenwich who abstains from standing at least once on this line, with one leg in the eastern and the other leg in the western hemisphere. At the end of the rail, a monument of metal is installed that should announce the zero-point. Those who want to make one of the popular pictures that show him and his family at the prime meridian, have to be very patient. The queue is long and, typically English, one is instructed by a museum employee.
The actual Royal Observatory was accommodated here up to the year 1957, then is was displaced to Cambridge. The Flamsteed House, in which the exhibition of the Old Royal Observatory is exposed, was named after the royal astronomer John Flamsteed. Today, an old collection of old instruments, thereunder many old chronometers, are shown in the building. Some of the rooms are arranged in the style of the age of John Flamsteed; Every day at 01.00 p.m., one can set his clock here. A red ball falls punctually from a mast on the Flamsteed House, the time ball.
The new millenium was supposed to be an epoch-making one, thus the planners and arquitects of London started some big projects. While the Millennium Bridge is an impressive construction that is strongly used, the Millennium Dome in Greenwich became a problem child. Thereby, this building is also an arquitectural piece of art that is unique in the world.
A huge tent roof made of teflon with a diameter of 365 m is fixed at a height of 50 m at 12 masts heighted 100 m. The construction, in which the famous Wembley-Stadion of London would get in two times, offers space for 35.000 people. In order to complete the megalomania,.the biggest subway station of the world, the Station North-Greenwich, was built close to this hall. All this devoured some terrific costs of 1,14 billion euro. Unfortunately, the planners were wrong in their calculations, the planned masses of visitors of the exhibition during the change of the millenium failed. But the maintenance costs of the building are huge, thus some new possibilities of usage were searched.
In the year 2005, the Millennium Dome was relabelled to O2-Arena and is used for concerts since. But it is still known under its old name. The Olympic Games 2012 are supposed to provide a new beginning for which the Millennium Dome is supposed to serve as a sports complex for gymnastics competitions and basketball games.
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Author: Michael Nitzschke, Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz