On Friday I went on a visit to the Tower of London, and crossed another item off of my “to do abroad bucket list”. With my student rate ticket in hand, I ventured in to another landmark older than my country.
Stone walls surounded me and I listened as a tour guide went on and on about the extravagant history hosted within this “fortress”. As interesting as that loud, little man was, the tour group was huge and I wanted to explore on my own. Typical.
So I was off. My own self-guided tour led me up a set of stone stairs and on to what is now referred to as the Wall Walk. If you’re going to the tower, take your time up here. If your lucky enough to be there on a sunny day like me, the river sparkles and the view is kind of perfect.
The Wall Walk took me through several towers, each told its own story and history. A few towers were dedicated to the military efforts, with little displays of chainmaille and explanations of how they used the tower in defense. I even got to try on a soldier helmet (no doubt filled with weird tourist disease now that I think about it).
As I continued down the Wall Walk through more pieces of history, I came to a room filled with crowns – awesome, impressive, can I have one? Those were my thoughts.
While on my visit, I also learned that the Tower of London was once a zoo; the animals ran around rather freely. This was not like a zoo we think of today, let me give you a few examples…
1. Uncaged monkeys lived in a room where people could walk among them. It was shut down after a small boy was attacked.
2. A tower ostrich died after visitors fed it nails.
3. King Henry III had a polar bear that would be tied to a long rope so it could swim in the river Thames.
The zoo was eventually shut down when a lady got mauled to death while petting a lion. I guess you can’t tame the king of the jungle.
After the Wall Walk, my visit took me into the official place of the crown jewels, the highlight of the visit for me. Everything in this building was so impressive, from the scepters to the spoons. Never have I seen so many beautiful, sparkling objects, ever. I had already seen the official throne used for The Queen’s coronation and now I have seen her crown as well. The tradition of it all is just so impressive.
Speaking of impressive tradition, the next stop on my visit was to the Bloody Tower, named so because of it’s tortuous past. When I say torturous, I mean it literally. This was the sight of some good ol’ fashioned tortore, including The Rack, The Scavengers Daughter and Manacles. I won’t go into detail on how those are used, but if you’re curious, click the link on through.
Side note: For those of you who know me really well (like back to Mr.Adams at WBHS well), you know that1 I wrote a paper in Junior High about Medieval Torture, so the Bloody Tower really had a special place in my heart…
The final building on my visit was the main event: The White Tower (pictured above).
The White tower is filled with armor, weapondry and all things war from when the Tower of London was in use. I saw a range of items – armor for a dwarf, a 15 foot sword and war gifts from countries around the world. I cannot begin to explain how much they packed into this tower, every turn hosted a new set of artifacts. My brain could barely take it all in.
I eventually made my way out of the tower, and back down the river walk towards my bus stop. As I wandered down that pavement I digested all the information I had taken in, and found that I really appreciate the history this country has to offer. There is just a lot of it…