Sunday, October 5, 2008

Walking the Walls of Londinium

Walking the Walls of Londinium was a true eye-opener to the age of this vast city. I knew that London was old. It is obvious in its architecture and layout in comparison to more modern American cities. Still, with the fact that the city has burned down quite a few times, which called for complete reconstruction, its appearance does not adequately reflect the city’s age. From this walk, I was able to see that through the many centuries of fires, wars, and havoc, artifacts still remain as evidence of its ancient Roman civilization—the walls Londinium.
When I walked out of the tube station, to my left was one of these ancient walls with a statue of Trajan, the mighty Roman Emperor. The Emperor’s arm is lifted upward, as if to glorify his mighty fortress around him, which now lay in ruins. Gazing onward, the Tower of London can be seen. These two monuments of history in such close proximity began to define this area’s significance in history in both the ancient and medieval times.

Along the walk, it is evident that this area, historically being the center of civilization, has remained an area of importance to the city. One of these is the large Port of London building with the statue of father Thames in its edifice. Opened in 1922, this was where much of the world sea trade was conducted. As on continues on the walk, they’ll soon find themselves in the midst of London’s financial district.  Suddenly one is surrounded with modern buildings, skyscrapers, and business people in their black suits. This is London’s Wall Street. The extra-modern, pickle-like building “The Great Gherkin,” almost looks like it came from the future. This mix of historical variety in the buildings and their functions, show the lasting importance of this area as the center of business and commerce.

Though this is the financial district, and business people are typically working in their offices of towering edifices, there still exists the charming traditional form of commerce—the market. Right next to Liverpool station is a fine shopping area filled with expensive boutiques and dining. At its center it’s an open-air market, filled with tents and people selling various items. I among them I found stylish dresses, art, food, etc. Though this is a very normal thing in London, I could not help imagining that these sorts of markets have existed throughout history in this area. Perhaps, even the Romans would set up shop for the day and sell their produce or togas and whatnot.
My very favorite part of this walk was the small park hidden betwixt buildings and a church. It would have been very easy to miss, but thanks to Bassett, I made a special stop here. It is dedicated to average citizens who lost their lives performing heroic acts.  The park was filled with memorials of these noble people, which were very interesting to read. One read, “Alice Ayres, Daughter of a Bricklayer’s Labourer, who by intrepid conduct, saved three children from a burning house in Union Street Borough at the cost of her own young life—April 24 1885. This small park had the greatest feeling of peace I have felt in this city. Here, rather than a sense of history of the place, I felt a strong sense of history of who these people were and are today and the courage and valor that they honor in the ordinary.

At the end of the walk we arrived at another excavation site of the Roman Walls. My group of walkers seemed to have walked through a vast path of history and come full-circle—back to its beginnings. It is evident that Londinium has gone through great change since the Romans, but I believe it will ever remain as a historical center of society.

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