Thanks to BVG’s U5 extension project, Unter den Linden (is this Europe’s most lovely street name?) is currently peppered with hoardings, pipes, tanks, temporary pedestrian sanctuaries, temporary traffic barriers and all manner of other markers of ongoing construction. In addition, many buildings along the grand boulevard seem to be undergoing winter facelifts, and so are shielded by great walls of scaffolding and modesty wraps printed with their own likenesses. The impression, then, as we walked from Französische Straße past Bebelplatz and on towards Museum Island, was of a city partially cocooned. The metamorphosis that this ‘cocoon’ implies is at the heart of what makes great cities sublime – constant change, for better or for worse, in all quarters visible and invisible.
Elizabeth once introduced me to a William Carlos Williams poem called January Morning, which begins:
I have discovered that most of
the beauties of travel are due to
the strange hours we keep to see them
This stanza came home to roost, for me, more than ever last year, as we wandered through the middle of sweltering Toronto days, down streets that weren’t on the itinerary, but beckoned all the same.
On one such street, we encountered this stunning example of the peculiar evolution of the urban environment – a Psychic trading from a pink-and-yellow house in Corktown.
Whether this odd thread in the social tapestry of downtown Toronto could be called a ‘beauty of travel’ is subjective, at best, but fascinating it certainly was, and it would not have come to light, had we not been aimlessly wandering on that hot August day.
Hampton Court Palace is a startling example of how the decision to add to a historic building in a contemporary vernacular looks 300 years down the track. From the west, it is a distinctly Tudor pile topped with crenellations and ornate brick chimneys.
From the east it is an imposing baroque palace, designed by Christopher Wren under the direction of William and Mary in the late 17th Century. In the middle, there is a fascinating line of demarcation where the two buildings meet.