Inside the gated community called London

To relax before Christmas we had the great idea to spend a few days in London.

Before we left we both had a very busy month at work, with me presenting my project on Tuesday to an affiliation committee for the money and then on Thursday in Munich to a group of collaborating group leaders, on Friday night we flew back from Munich, on Saturday at noon we wanted to take the plane to London. 

To my unpleased surprise I brought a stomach bug from Munich that kept me awake all night, loosing fluids at both ends. Great conditions for a plane ride. I stopped eating and drinking in the morning as the tiniest glass of water resulted in my violently getting rid of it again. Doro got me some intestine-closing drugs that I thankfully took and then we headed off to the airport.

Although we didn’t fly with the cattle airline this time was probably my most uncomfortable flight ever. I was thirsty, hungry, tired, and developed quite a fever. Wrapped in my coat and scarf I spent the 90 minute flight shaking in my seat.

What a lovely start to my long awaited holidays.

Also poor Doro, who had to take care of me when she really just wanted to get some bagels.

We stayed at an Air Bnb place. I don’t really like the concept of Air Bnb, as it leads often enough to the loss of affordable housing in favour of income through tourism. This time fortunately proved me wrong or at least set a very good example of how it should be done.

Mike, our host, welcomed us in his flat in London’s eastern „In“ suburb, Shoreditch. We had a room to ourselves but before we headed off again, Mike welcomed us with tea, a printout of the best go-to places in the area and a detailed explanation of the surroundings on the map. We had already a vague idea of what we wanted to do, but it was really good to get some local knowledge as an influence for our trip.

We then headed off to get some food, I could get half a banana and a plain bagel. The photo below is all I remember from that night because my fever rose and we headed soon back to our room to sleep.


The next morning our host went to his holiday trip to Ireland while his daughter kept us company. I felt already a lot better, and after a cup of tea, some porridge and some plucking on the ukuleles I was ready to explore the city. Mike has lots of guitars and ukuleles lying and hanging around and I happily accepted his invitation to play around with them as much as I liked.


A lovely cross between ukulele and guitar. Four strings but identical tuning to guitar. I want one of those.

Unfortunately we missed the great Broadway market on Saturday due to our late arrival, but on Sunday we followed a few people to find the very busy flower market of Shoreditch. It was amazing how many people went absolutely mad to get some freshly cut flowers or pot plants.








Some drunken dubstep fan was throwing his moves to the only music source he could find, a folk guitarist. Quite a sight on a Sunday morning.

Getting his swagger on to some folk music.

Below with sound!


We continued our tour through the streets around Brick Lane.


We found a covered market selling all kinds of street food. Against Doro’s advice to keep it gentle with my stomach I chose a collection of Japanese delights with fried tempura, gyoza and what-not. Doro had a Malaysian pancake with ginger marmalade, that was mostly coconutty and sweet and sharp. My stomach survived well.





A few streets further I almost bought a bamboo saxophone because the guy selling it looked killer and also sounded great. I totally would have learned to play it.



As the weather wasn’t too great and our feet were hurting we sat on the tube and went to Victoria and Albert’s museum.


The face of „I will totally get back there later and have so many cookies“


The Victoria and Albert’s museum featured the exhibition „Disobedient objects“, showing various objects of civil disobedience as well as some background information to it. The exhibition is fairly small but very interesting, ranging from early pro-gay-rights protests in the seventies to the Occupy Wall Street and Gezi Park protests of recent history.


Self made paper shields to protect against riot police with batons. The front was made to look like book covers to transport political statements.
And here is how to make one yourself.
Stamps to deface monetary bills with slogans or images as a tool of everyday protest and spreading messages.


Concept for an inflating protest camp during Occupy Wall Street.
Handy guide on how to make a gas mask to protect from tear gas, like the Erdogan riot forces used during Gezi Park protests. The police troops set a new sad record on the amount of tear gas used against peaceful protesters.

After the small exhibition we toured the main museum which features different pieces of art from different epochs. I like the „Middle East“ section as it showed once more how retarded the European Middle Ages were compared to other civilisations in the world at the same time.


A huge tapestry lit only a few minutes every hour to keep it preserved.


An old friend. Installation by rAndom design, who presented their stuff in Namur during the Kikk festival.

I will never understand how people keep these around their homes (or museums).


She totally kept her word. Cookies were consumed.

The evening had fish and chips at Poppies. Very good fish and chips.


The next day we walked up North to Broadway Street, which is still nice even without the famous market.


Cat on a boat!



After some Gözleme (when in London do as the Berliners and grab some Turkish food) we hopped on a bus and rode back to Shoreditch.

Falafel is a typical British food that is very hard to get in other cities like Berlin


We headed for the Barbican musem. A magnificent beast if you have a thing for grey concrete walls, car optimized buildings and skyscrapers.



The main access to the Barbican leads through a long tunnel. At least you can’t see the grey concrete towers from down there.



Knowing about the architectural atrocities outside the interior tried its best to look modern and welcoming.

The Curve, a – you guessed it – curved hall, featured a chronological display of an artist putting light sensitive blue dye on newspapers and exposing that with sunlight and random objects. When you can’t really convince with your idea, just do lots of it and people will believe, that you’re an artist.




Up on the third floor was the photography exhibition, titled „Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age.“ The high price of ten pounds per person scared me for a bit but in hindsight I am very happy to have spent the money. The exhibition was well designed, focussing on several photographers with individual compartments and a very good selection of works. Very inspiring for architectural photography. Unfortunately photography was forbidden inside and so I can’t show you any pictures here. You can find examples on the website I linked to.



I don’t know how often we stopped by the Bagel place in Brick Lane. It is as cheap as it is tasty. We ended up taking a dozen with us to Berlin.



If you’re hungry, ask for a Salted Beef Bagel. You’ll get a beast filled with a cow’s worth of slow cooked beef with hot mustard.

The last day had us roaming a bit more around the Barbican and going shopping to add cheese, IPA and drugs (ibuprofen, paracetamol and others are so much cheaper in UK than in Germany) to our dozen of bagels. We also had some Indian food on a popup lunch street food market.







London was great fun, but we were quite exhausted from our activities before the holiday. Some mornings we wished to just stay in bed, but that would have been a waste of our time abroad. And back in Berlin we got our sleep.

Another thing I observed for the first really in London was the gates and walls. Everything is enclosed, buildings, gardens, street corners, markets. We constantly dodged fences and other limitations trying to steer us in predefined directions. I always thought of Germans of being exclusive and defensive about their property, but this is nothing compared to the feeling I got in London. I put together a few pictures about this in an earlier post.

Happy new year, everyone!

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