London, a city without one soul.
A journey to London is nowadays an obligatory passage for everyone who considers himself a true global citizen, no less so than visiting Mecca is necessary to think oneself a true Muslim.
Hence, everyday, thousands of tourists are carried, by tube or bus, back and forth between Buckingham Palace, the British museum, and Big Ben, glancing at the London Eye, Tower Bridge, and the Shard, with a brief stop at Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and St. Paul’s Cathedral, before having their trip culminate in the ode to consumerism of a walk along Oxford street, Harrods or Selfridges.
It really is a pity, however, that most of them will leave London never having seen beyond its monumental and touristic surface, because its real soul is a true enigma.
If in Rome one sees the eternal city of emperors and popes, loud, messy, beautiful, with history in every corner, Paris has the spirit of the Ville Lumière, solemn, joyful and melancholic at the same time, and New York is the frantic melting pot of western cultures that dominated a century, London defies any sweeping definition.
In Kensington one thinks it is a quiet celebration of ancient English affluence, in the city it looks like the temple of the future money. Westminster, behind the Houses of Parliament, could easily be a neighbourhood in Cambridge or Oxford, Soho has the vibrancy of the mitteleuropean capitals.
Spitalfields by itself is such a varied background that it prevents categorization, and nobody would believe Vauxhall, modern and tranquil, and Camden Town are in the same city, unless they saw for themselves.
One can walk from Covent Garden to China Town in minutes, and feel to have gone all the way from Vienna to Hong Kong. It is this seeming incoherence, the impression that the whole city is but the random concoction of unrelated neighbourhoods, that gives London a fascinating feeling, the absence of one common soul, if not one made up of hundred entirely different ones.
Therefore, some advice to any future tourist in London: on the way between Regent’s street and the Tower of London, or the Chelsea stadium and the Greenwich meridian, get off at the wrong stop, look around the places tourists don’t get to see, and be amazed by how a few hundred meters can change everything: in this London portrays one of the miracles of human existence, that our species finds a thousand different ways to do just one same thing.