“A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step” - Lao Tzu. Well, after months of planning I’ve finally taken that first step. Now I find myself in a foreign city on the first day of my Wanderjahr. Thankfully (due to smart planning) ...by dcampSaturday, 20 July 2013
At one point or another everyone dreams about exploring the world and experiencing all that it has to offer. I first developed the travel bug when I was a young boy and its stuck with me for my whole life (and I'm not exactly a young boy anymore). ...by dcampFriday, 13 December 2013
My obsession with traveling around the world came from two primary sources – both books. The first was Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Vern and the second was A Vagabond Journey Around the World by Harry Franck. Both of these books made it abu ...by dcampMonday, 15 July 2013
Zoos are a place that we've all visited at one time or another. Some are good, some not so good. Well, over the weekend I cam across a place that made me look at the keeping of animals in a whole new light. It's called the Pearcedale Moonlit Sanct ...by dcampTuesday, 02 July 2013
When the travel bug first hit me I wrote down all of the places I wanted to visit in a 150 destination Global Bucket List. Who would have ever thought that this wouldn't end up being enough? You can find the list by reading my blog: A Tale of 2 Buck ...by dcampMonday, 14 October 2013
On my travels throughout the world, I've seen many, many great sites, met a lot of interesting people, and tasted lots of food (some good and some not so good.) Although I certainly am not a fruitarian, I do have a keen eye for fruit – and on my tra ...by neytiri12345Wednesday, 02 October 2013
Yes, I've been meaning to write a followup to my earlier blog post "Sunsets" – but, you know how things always get in the way... been busy travelling, you see... A personal goal of mine has been to see a sunrise on as many continents as possible, an ...by foamfollowerThursday, 25 July 2013
I think I must have been about 12 years old when I first started to seriously dream about traveling. It all started when I went with a friend to an enormous used book store (more like a barn) near my home in New Jersey. It was here that I came acro ...by dcampSaturday, 14 December 2013
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In the Care of Ravens
History can be a funny thing. Based upon where you come from, it’s also very relative. For me, having grown up in the United States, something 300 years old seems very old. Well, when you hit Europe you’ll need to recalibrate your “old” meter if you hope to stay sane. This is exactly what I had to do as I walked through the portals of London’s historic Tower of London on the second day of my Wanderjahr around-the-world.
The first thing I noticed was the thickness of the stone walls. Even though the tower was nearly a thousand years old (having first been constructed by William the Conquer in 1066) it remains imposing to say the least. As a prison, it's played host to a long list of famous inmates that include Anne Boleyn (the 2nd of Henry VIII six wives), Sir Thomas Becket and even Queen Elizabeth I herself. If there was ever a place that symbolises the expression “if the walls could talk”, this would be it.
As I was admiring the elaborate stone archways leading further into the depth of the fortress, a loud “squawk” caught my attention. When I turned, I found a raven perched on a stone wall.
My first inclination was to send the critter on its way, but then I noticed about a dozen tourists quickly pulling out their cameras. Not to be outdone, I snapped a photo and then consulted the information sheet that had been provided when I bought my entry ticket. As it turned out, this was 1 of at least 6 ravens that lived within the fortress grounds. Apparently, these ravens were kept in the belief that if they ever abandoned the tower, the kingdom would fall.
I only found out later that they clip the bird’s wings so they can’t fly away. I’m not an overly superstitious man, but this seemed like a reasonable precaution to me. Kingdoms tend to be hard to come by.
The tower complex is comprised of a network of buildings set within two defensive walls and a moat. Set within the inner wall are a series of towers with names that include the White Tower, Bloody Tower and Well Tower (each of which has a story of its own to tell). For instance, the Bloody Tower is known as such because in the mid-16th century it is believed to be the place where the two young princes (Edward V and his brother) were murdered by their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Oh, did I forget to mention that ghost sightings are also a regular occurrence? Especially on night shift…
For centuries, the complex has been the responsibility of the Yeomen Wardens to look after. These wardens are members of the Royal Guard (with a minimum of 22 years of service) and conduct amazing guided tours of the complex. It’s the only way to gain a full appreciation for the depth of history that has played out within the tower walls.
The tour cost about £22 (adult) and £11 (child) and is included in the price of admission. You can also hire your own audio guide for about £5 if you want to wander on your own.
The tour lasted for about an hour and provided me with just the right amount of historical information. The main things I learned were:
1. Over 2.5 million people visit the Tower of London each year.
2. During historical times (up to the 20th century) only 7 people have actually been executed within the tower. Most were taken out for public execution on the adjacent Tower Hill (112 heads).
3. The last person to be executed at the tower of London was Josef Jakobs, a German intelligence agent who was shot by firing squad in 1941.
4. The real Crown Jewels are stored in the Jewel Tower and have been on public display since 1669 (not to be mistaken for those in the permanent possession of Princes William and Harry).
5. The Tower was a prison from 1100 – 1952 and a tourist attraction since Elizabethan times.
6. The Tower was home to the Royal Mint from 1278-1279.
7. The Ceremony of the Keys takes place every day at 9:53pm and signifies the official locking down of the Tower by the Yeoman Wardens and Tower Guards with the keys kept safely stowed away for the night.
8. The tower grounds once housed the Royal Menagerie (zoo), which included up to 280 animals (including lions, tigers and bears) when it was closed in 1835.
9. The Tower of London is cared for by an independent charity Historic Royal Palaces and receives no funding from the Government or the Crown. You can make a donation on your way out or on-line at:
The Tower of London is one of those places that you simply can’t miss when you’re in London. It’s like going to New York City and not going to the Empire State Building. It many ways it represents the very fabric of the city’s history spanning back over 1000 years. You can only imagine what some of the inmates who saw out their days here would think if they knew that it would one day become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
I’m thinking an ironic laugh might be the best you could hope for - and perhaps a rock thrown at one of ravens…