I've got into this nasty little habit of waking up early. Yesterday, it was 6 a.m. Today I was up at 4:30 a.m. Colette evens the damn thing out though because yesterday she stirred at 10:30 which had us out the door blazing the tourism trail at a whopping noon. It's already damn near noon today and there is sill no rustling about from the sleeping quarters. That's ok because it allows me to write about the days' previous adventures in a bright eyed and bushy tailed fashion.
First and foremost, I am calling out this German keyboard I am typing on! Katja, our host, is German. The "z" is switched with the "y" which makes spelling Zyerman (Yzerman) for the daily love letters I write quite cumbersome! Since our hosts were gone the first day and I wanted to blog, I had to copy and paste the "@" sign from another e-mail to login because I couldn't find it on the keyboard. The " sign is SHIFT + 2. And check out these crazy little characters that it produces where ordinarily there would be letters; ä, µ, ö, €. Chances are every time you see a word with a "y" or "z" I have had to backspace to correct it.
But I digress. After Colette pulled herself out of bed we decided what we were going to do for the day. Colette heard bitchin' things about the Tower of London. And me, being a non practicing-practicing Jew, heard that you could get a two-for-one coupon on the Internet! After a little haggling and dirty talk to the printer, it produced the coupon. Todays total savings thus far; 16 pounds (35 US dollars)
For those of you that don't know about the Tower of London, it's very bad ass. It's kind of castle looking and has served as a prison, zoo, mint, observatory, armory, house of public records and since 1303, has been the home of the crown jewels. It has housed 3,500 prisoners and has executed only 350, which is 10%. The tour guide joked that the 10% was about the same percentage as the state of Texas. It's a palace and a fortress, not a prison. Seriously, they make you repeat that several times on the tour!
This was our tour guide. His name is Bill. He had a thundering voice and was quite charasmatic. As we congregated at the beginning of the tour, he told us to pack in close and tight. When we weren't apparently up to par he began barking at us. "What part of close and tight don't you understand?!" He isolated a couple of French people in the audience and had them serve as comedic fodder throughout the tour. It's been a really long time since I have laughed that hard. He asked how many Americans were in the crowd and as we reluctantly raised our hands, he pointed to the whole spread that is Tower of London. He exclaimed sarcastically, "If you'd just paid your taxes, this could have been all of yours too!" Maybe it's more funny in a robust English accent.
Bill told us that in certain places, sometimes cells that held prisoners, the walls could be as thick as 15 feet. There were also several strategic, as well as barbaric, ways to protect the castle. The outside moat at times need to be filled to keep enemies at bay. So naturally they thought human excrement and animal carcases would do the trick. They were right! The exterior wall has archer holes every few feet to allow them to shoot down on intruders. The gates were made of 3-ton steel. They had holes in the walls where smoldering hot lead was poured down a steep gradient on charging marauders.
Henry the VIII's body armor with cereal bowl affixed over his crown jewels. Bill said that his exaggerated statement was more physcological than practical. Although his armor around the chest measured 54' inches around. Big tools, big shed? You decide.
"The White House" which was built around 1065. It has 4 floors with the bottom floor serving as a torture chamber. This is where "the rack" was located. Apparently, a man can be stretched in all directions 5 five inches before he is killed. Therapeutic value is lost with anything after 3! Just kidding. Ligaments are stronger then bone according to Bill, I have learned otherwise but wasn't in the mood to argue with the bloke, so at 3 stretched inches your bones are being pulled apart. Torture could only be carried out after a "torture warrant" was obtained. Only 48 of these were ever issue. However, a warranty wasn't necessary to escort a prisoner to the rack. This was mostly all that was needed to coerce a confession.
apparently was a commoner contrary to what Braveheart might lead you to believe. He also suffered a horrendous execution. Here is the summary from Wikipedia
"Following the trial, on 23 August 1305, Wallace was taken from the hall, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while still alive, emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts. His preserved head was placed on a pike atop London Bridge. It was later joined by the heads of his brothers, John, and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling, and Aberdeen."
Not exactly the clean death they portrayed in Braveheart. Here is an interesting fact that I picked up whilst on the tour. When a person was executed by axe, it was tradition to give the axe men a sack of coins. This served two purposes. The first reason was religious symbolism because you couldn't take your possessions with you to the afterlife. The second reason, the more coins given to the executioner bought you a quicker, cleaner and less painful death. But this is a palace and a fortress, not a prison!
When it comes to churches, it really takes a lot to impress me. Let me explain. Figuring a church in these parts has been collecting tithe money for, oh lets say for the better part of a millennium, you've got a lot of fear based cash backing your project. So naturally when Colette said we should go to St. Paul Cathedral, I was skeptical.
It seems you religious folks are always talking about B.C and A.D which doesn't seem pertinent to me. It's not that I don't understand it, I just don't feel that it's relevant because it happened so long ago. Instead I have invented more modern, but equally profound, terms. They are called B.F and A.B. The date was March 8th, 2006. Everything before it shall be referred to as B.F and everything after will be A.B. Everything before B.F was rosy and wonderful. People were friendly and the economy wasn't horribly depressed. After March 8th, 2006 we shall have A.B. Since then people have become assholes and the economy sucks, more importantly I graduated from college and was forced to pretend to be an adult. Since this date everything is insipid and lackluster. What is this monumental event that I refer to? It's quite simply. March 8th, 2006 is the day I saw Ben Folds in concert. It was life altering. B.F stands for "Before Folds" and A.B stands for "After Ben"
St. Paul's Cathedral has overlooked London in at least some capacity since 1402 B.F (406 A.D for you purists out there.) We heard from our hosts that if you go to St. Paul's Cathedral after 5, you don't have to pay the 10 pound (22 US dollar) admission fee. I don't go to churches for free so good luck getting me to go into one for 22 dollars. It was on our way back from the Tower of London so I really couldn't weasel out of it. Anyways, we showed up at, you guessed it, 5:05 p.m.
The church is absolutely beautiful. It stands 355 feet at its pinnacle. Inside is incredible as it has been steeped with centuries of intricate artwork and masterful design. The men's choir sang with such precision and gusto that, if still alive, it would have given Freddy Mercury a boner. Sadly, we weren't allowed to take photo's. I was, however, asked to remove my hat. This brings up the question how does the presence or absence of a hat affect a persons ability or inability to worship his or her lord? It's not like I had a hat on that said "gang bang" across the front. Colette says it's a respect thing yet can't come up with whom it is disrespecting. Was I disrespecting God because I was cold? I don't think so. In fact I am willing to bet that a ubiquitous deity of such power responsible for creating the Internet, Ben Folds and the Biggest Loser could give less of a shit about some guy, in a church, wearing a hat. Vas dies fichen! So what do you think? Take the poll.