The ‘Treasures’ of Traveling

When I travel I dive into the smell and taste of new food. I take in the breathtaking beauty of vast landscapes. I enjoy meeting people and listening to their stories.
When I travel I take a few pictures and collect souvenirs.
Not the objects you’d expect.
I collect stories.
In the midst of people, in a public square, on a bench at the coast – I sit down and write down all these treasures that beg to be told.

I just came back from a vacation. Two weeks in the UK with many great adventures and encounters. So here a few of my ‘treasures’ from London.

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A street in Aldgate at rush hour with one office building next to another.
Facades of steel and glass designed for people with long hours and large paychecks. In between the skyscrapers you can still detect remnants of the people who used to live here: small brick houses with coal stained chimneys next to modern art temples of money and business. Instead of tiny shops you find exclusive bars and high-class take away restaurants for the people who can’t ‘waste’ time on meals.

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Instead of low-class workers you now see men and women in elegant suits hurrying down the streets – coffee in one hand, blackberry in the other. They are no longer walking, they are running as if they can’t get away form this place fast enough. Their expensive costumes are paired with bulky trainers because their feet just can’t take it anymore after a day in high heels.

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This is a place for business, strictly business.
This is London.

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London9A street in West End at night.
Picadilly Circus is pulsating with cars, with tourists, with life. The streets are heavily trafficked by the all too familiar red Double-decker buses and black cabs. They. Are. Real.

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People are invited to get lost in the crowds or spend a lot of money in the many shops within the neo classicist buildings. If you just stop for a moment you can pick up a variety of languages and faces from all over the world. In between the shops you can see the shiny billboards of the many theaters celebrating the arts in countless musicals.

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The stories range from murder mysteries to romance to historical dramas. You dive into a world where everything’s shiny, all conversations are put into song, and in the end it will all work out well. Afterwards you walk out into real life again, carrying the stories with you and wishing that sometimes life would have a score to it.

This is a place for dreams.
This is London.

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The smells of Whitechapel.
You take the Tube to the East End and when you get off the train it feels like you step into a whole different world. Just a few blocks away from the sophisticated business quarters at Aldgate the streets are suddenly crowded with people wearing long beards, turbans, hijabs, or burkas. The mosque is located right next to the Synagogue. Shop signs are in Tamil or Arabic and advertise restaurants which sell pilaw and masala instead of pie.

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The area where workers from the nearby dockyards used to live a century ago is now home to people from all over the world, forming an incredible mixture of languages, religions, and cultures. It’s one of the poorest suburbs, but also the one where world travelers might feel most at home.

This is a place for diversity.
This is London.

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The Mall around Buckingham Palace.
Thousands of people from around the world press their faces against the iron gates to just get a glimpse of the Changing of the Guards. Men in red embroidered coats and large fur hats march up and down to the ‘James Bond’ tune. The ceremony seems like a relict from the past, and yet the monarchy is as present in the British society as ever. The English love their Queen and you can’t help but admire this lady who’s seen and lived through so much and managed to stay true to herself and her values nevertheless. Across St. James’s Park you can see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The old buildings have seen great events and heated debates, and they will soon be the place of a historical decision when the British vote on the Brexit. London and its population are crucial to the polls, and Europe is awaiting the results.

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This is a place for glamor and decisions.
This is London.

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The sounds of Covent Garden around noon.
The Piazza that used to be London’s biggest fruit and vegetable market is now filled with many elegant stalls selling everything from imported shawls to handmade jewelry. Instead of groceries you can taste original fish and chips, inhale the rich flavors of tea, or admire the delicate shapes of wooden toys. The surrounding pubs are flocked with business people and groups of friends enjoying a light lunch and a pint. Yes, it’s only noon, but it’s never too early to start drinking Ale.

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Covent Garden is the stage for all the artists who haven’t made it to the West End yet. The streets become their entertainment – jugglers, magicians, comedians, and opera singers. If you allow yourself to pause and sit down for a moment you discover something beautiful: a soft melody in the midst of the street noise. A song that makes you wonder like a child. A small glimpse of the extraordinary in the ordinary.

This is a place for celebration.
This is London.

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Four days in this beautiful, complex, enchanting and intriguing city. I take away sore feet, tanned skin, and a few pictures. There’s still so many places to discover, so many stories to tell. I’ll be back.

Author: Katha von Dessien

Teacher. Believer. Third Culture Kid. World Traveler. People Lover. Writer.

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