Riding the London Tube can be a challenge at times, cramped trains and endless tunnels, and it does feel like a tube. yet I found it quite a worthy experience.

 

Being the oldest system in the world, there are clear marks how 11 lines and 270+ stops were constructed at different times and realigned later. Forget about sticking to a color, it is all about hopping between lines to find the shortest route possible. During partial closures of several lines on the weekend, finding your way around can be a puzzle game that is sometimes frustrating, but rather interesting to me.

Some of the stations are so old that they don’t have room to add in escalators, so elevators are installed. At Russell square, there is this spiral staircase that ascends 175 steps, equivalent of a 10 story building. No wonder most people are taking the lifts, only stupid tourists like me who had no idea would venture out and happily count the steps up from the subterranean tunnels.

One thing I liked about London is that you never know when you would walk into a grand old structure in the midst of glittering modern buildings. Such as the Royal Academy of Arts at Burlington place 2 blocks away from Piccadilly Circus (see gallery “walk about west London”), or this nice looking old pile of bricks right outside Russell Square, it used to belong to Duke of Bedford, I was told.

Around the block from the Russell Square park lies the British Museum. A student of history and science,I had been itching to visit the most comprehensive museum  for human history and cultures in the world;or otherwise known as the trophy house of grandest larceny, courtesy of my interpretation.The museum is so large (>8 million items ranging from rock fracas of 15 tons to the feathers of extinct birds) thanks to the colonial history of the British Empire. Now, I am no big fan of the colonial era of mankind, although I have to admit it fostered the unprecedented cultural and technological exchange between the conquerors and the conquerees; however the entire period  was marked by extreme cruelty, unfair treaties and all came at a huge human cost. ( If you care to know why the Chinese in the mid 19 century had their asses kicked by the British, then paid the Brits obscene amount of reconstitution so that the Brits and Americans can sell opium to china to offset the trade imbalance resulted from tea exports, here is your wiki page.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_war) that sure brings new meaning to the phrase “war on drug”, isn’t it?

sorry I digress. Undoubtedly most of the pieces in the museum were acquired during the 200 years of English expansion into the world. Look, here  is a 7 ton marble lion from Syria,

 

and 2 giant red wood totem poles from the indigenous first nation people in Canada.

The numbers of the disputed items from other countries are staggering, the massive amount of Pantheon Marbles from Greece,

thousands of southeast Asian scrolls and potteries.

Hence I call it the house of grand larceny. I don’t think there is anywhere else you will see 8 million pieces of stolen or robbed foreign goods proudly on display. Don’t get me wrong. The museum is a totally fantastic place that everyone should visit. I just think it is mind blowing to think how much the british had taken from other countries, but I don’t hate them for it. I think any nation in the same situation would most likely have done the same thing. It is just human nature. However I have to mention the raging debate between the British government and the countries that lost those precious items. Does the museum or the British government have the right to keep them? The Greeks said no, they have been asking for the return of hundreds of Pantheon Marbles for years. They even built a new museum to match the preservation conditions that the British claimed to be superior. The Chinese government wants their stuff, naturally.  Personally, I don’t know what my position is.  I look at it this way, if my neighbor down the street broke into my house, punched me in the face and poked me in the eye, then took my finest silver and put them in the display case in his living room, where more people visit each day than my humble abode. I don’t know. I would be mad but also proud that my stuff is showing off to the world, especially if it happened during my great great great great grandpa’s time. It would’ve been nice to have them back, but hey, the world doesn’t operate on niceness last time I checked.

Let me know what you think and check out more amazing stuff from the museum at the galley page “trophy house of grand larceny”.