LONDON AND ITS PARKS
LONDON AND ITS PARKS, Selçuk Korkmaz | 08.03.2014
London has been one of the world's most important locations throughout history, and now it boasts a population of 8 million and is one of the biggest capitals of Europe. While every year approximately 15 million foreign tourists visit London, the city retains its mix of international residents forming a totally cosmopolitan global city.
Unquestionably there are a wide variety of factors that lead millions of people to London year in year out. People from all over the world find what they're looking for in London. London today still remains a major commercial capital, and adds art, fashion and sports to the list of subjects for which it is a global capital. You'll notice that on just about every street in London there's a theater or an opera house. During London's Fashion Week the whole world turns and watches as the world's most well known brands are put on display. Aside from all of this, sports also represent one of the greater attractions of the city. London has some of the world's more famous football clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, or also presents the world's oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in Wimbledon.
London gives you the opportunity to experience anything you'll want to enjoy your days there, whether its fashion or art, or architecture or shopping. And not only that, but let's not forget the things under the surface that we all tend to overlook when we're on vacation in London. Maybe the chance to relax and put our feet up - to escape the urban chaos.
I'm talking about the parks of London, in the center of everything and yet somehow still separate from the city at large. In this regard London can offer something that few other metropolises can claim: an ordinary, relaxing day! Big cities tend to box people in, taking them away from man's natural habitat of nature and greenery. The hustle and bustle of the city fails to provide the opportunity for rest and relaxation, or even just the opportunity to listen to yourself think. Imagine just a nice, ordinary day: You wake up early in the morning and spend your day picnicking in a park, away from the stress of the city and away from the stress of your electronic devices... just you and your loved ones spending the day happy in each other's company. And then imagine that you can do all of this without heading hundreds of kilometers outside the city! I wanted to give you a sense of how to devote a day entirely to yourself, a normal day without any bells and whistles. Away from the evils of the city, with your loved ones, you can find the time to find true happiness even if just for a moment.
Next to all of London's beauty, I believe that the most special thing it offers people is the ability to get away from it all and spend time by themselves in these areas of greenery. There are exactly 143 parks of various sizes all over the city covering 30% of its total surface area. This means that whether you're the royal family or an average citizen you have some green spaces open to you. Whenever you tire of the monotony of the city, there's a surprise waiting for you outside of its hustle and bustle.
What do you say to spending a day completely relaxed, doing nothing? London's centuries-old parks are right there waiting for you!
When you think of London parks, the first thing that comes to your mind is Hyde Park and the adjoining Kensington Gardens. Along with Central Park, Hyde Park is one of the world's most famous parks even though it's not its biggest, and it is still the most visited one in the city. However, I have some bad news for you... you can't just see all of London's parks in a day - you'll have to reserve a full day for each one! Because it's so easy to get there - there are 5 tube stations around Hyde Park - and because Green Park and St. James Park are right there too, Hyde Park is the first park to head over to in London. Besides this, Regent's Park is another must-see, especially since inside of it is the London Zoo. Once you start getting farther away from the city center you get you can see Richmond Park and the 600 year history of Greenwich mark, which makes it one of the oldest parks in the city.
The most visited of London's royal parks is Hyde Park, and walking from one side to the other will take you hours. When you combine it with Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park is 253 hectares, making it bigger than the entire principality of Monaco. For those who'd like to see this green paradise relatively quickly, it's possible to rent bikes and see it that way. The Queen Elizabeth Gate is known as the Grand Entrance to the park and was built in the 1800s and is the primary entrance to the park, though there are many others as well. The park's history itself does actually date back to the 1500s, but back then it was just used as a hunting and recreation ground for the royal family and wasn't opened to the public until the 1600s.
Whenever you enter the park, you'll immediately get the sense that a door has closed behind you and that you've entered into another universe. You can leave the congestion of the city and noisy traffic behind you and enter a world of peace and tranquility. With your first step you're drawn into the atmosphere of a world apart. Here there are centuries-old trees, squirrels scampering about, swans swimming in the lakes. You can spend whole days walking calmly through the park, or ride a bike or read a book under the shadow of a lovely tree. Take your family and loved ones out and have a picnic together. Or go horseback riding and spend an unforgettable day with our all our animal friends. On Serpentine Lake you can go out in either a paddle boat or a rowboat and after you get tired, just stop off and sip some coffee at one of the cafes, enjoying the surrounding nature at peace with yourself and the world. You are the master of your own world. I can guarantee you that it'll be a day like no other for you.
Speakers' Corner is the most well-known part of the park. During the period of the Empire when the royal family held more sway, people could be fined and prosecuted for what they said. Speakers' Corner developed as a place where people could say anything without risk of punishment. Of course while there was no official legal basis for the corner, only at Hyde Park Speakers' Corner could you go up on a pedestal - but make sure your feet are not on the regular ground! - to give the speech you felt you had to give and your words couldn't be used against you! For at least 100 years, even with the fiercest of political language nobody has ever been arrested for speaking out at Speakers' Corner. In particular during the Cold War the discussions here could get very heated indeed. Today of course political debate has changed and there is now a freedom of speech, though one should make sure not to be too nasty when talking about the British royal family or you might just hurt some feelings! Even if we set aside all the political arguments and debates, Speakers' Corner leads us to some lovely memories. There can be few places better for turning to your partner and declaring your love. Wouldn't you love for this history-steeped hill to be the place where you shout out your true love for another? Even if results don't go exactly as you'd expected, there's no need to get too upset since at Speakers' Corner you can't be held responsible for your words anyway - in fact, you haven't spoken in the first place!
If you're looking for a place to read a book, you couldn't do much better than choosing the shade of one of the huge 500 year old plane trees. However I'd recommend something else: There's a small canal that runs past the new Diana Memorial Fountain that really produces just an amazingly relaxing environment. The feeling of calm the running water gives off is completely priceless: even if you don't have a book to read, the relaxed atmosphere is still worth taking a short break at. It's a bit more quiet and relaxed here, compared with the rest of the park, and it should be kept this way. Unfortunately, this doesn't necessary apply to children for whom the water and grass and everything provides a source of endless pleasure and excitement.
The name of Kensington Gardens comes from its place at the foot of Kensington Palace, which was once home to the Welsh princess Lady Diana. After Lady Diana lost her life in a traffic accident in Paris, there were so many flowers placed at doorstep of the palace that you'd think the colors of the flowers were all dancing with one another if it weren't for the deep sadness they represented. You can still feel that same deep sadness around the palace and inside the park today. This all makes Kensington Gardens considerably more somber in spirit, as well as quieter and more calm, than the lively Hyde Park on the other side.
To see this level of tranquility you'll probably want to head over the lovely setting of the Italian Gardens. The 150-year old gardens are said to have been bestowed to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert. The Italian Gardens are a romantic setting for couples, with cute little small ponds and fountains.
Once you've gone as far as the Italian Gardens, what do you say to taking a journey back through your childhood? Peter and his dear friend Tinkerbell have been welcoming visitors in their charming corner of the Italian Gardeners for exactly 100 years now. Just as your children will spend a wonderful time here, let out your inner child and enjoy yourself as well. The Peter Pan statue will make those adults who didn't want to grow up travel back to the past of their childhood once again.
The love of the English for Lady Diana can be seen both in the Kensington Gardens and in Hyde Park. Because of Diana's love for children and the work she did for them, the monuments to her have been especially made with children in mind. Every year hundreds of thousands of children flock to play games in Diana Memorial Playground. In its center is a large pirate ship and is an absolute wonderland for children. And as we know, holidays aren't just for ourselves, they're also for our children! But let's leave the games to the park and let everyone enjoy themselves to their hearts' content.
After Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, the next stop on our list might as well be Green Park and St. James Park. There's an interesting story behind these two parks. In the 16th century there was a rebellion against the marriage of Mary I to Phillip II of Spain. Over a hundred years later, whether or not it was related to this uprising, Charles II bought the surrounding area and turned it into St. James Park. St. James remains incredibly important for English history as its surrounded by Buckingham Palace, the Parliament Building, and St. James Palace. Green Park tends to be more for people who work in offices, families out for a picnic, people out for a walk, and runners. The differences between these two parks represent the differences between the people and the royal family.
Other than walking through all four of these intertwined parks, for those with less time on their hands there's another possibility. The Diana Memorial Walk is about 12km long and goes through all four parks and just about every palace, monuments and just about everything other thing of note along the path. Naturally, again you'll be completely immersed in a sea of greenery so if your time is limited then this is your path to relaxation!
Regent's Park, as with Hyde Park, is one of the more visited parks in London. The final shape of the park was given in the 17th century by John Nash and I believe that we can see just how much import the English give to their parks in explaining it in its entirety. Regent's Park is not just a green space, it's a living space as well and this makes it different from other parks in the city. During the daytime you can enjoy the full park experience in all its greenery while in the evening head out to a cafe or restaurant for a wonderful evening meal. This space is both a nice wide spice for sport activities as well as the home of the London Zoo, which is the oldest zoo in the world. Also the Waterfowl collection in Regent's Park features dozens of bird species. If you're lucky, you might be able to catch a play in the parks open air theater, though you'll probably have to go sometime between May and September to catch one. If you're trying to plan a perfect, unforgettable day, you could spend the daytime picnicking in the grass, followed with a bit of jogging or sports of some other sort and then in the evening catch a play in the open-air theater.
To really escape the city and get as close to nature as possible, then Richmond Park in London might actually be the place from which you take the most pleasure. Just don't be too shocked if you happen to pass a deer or something on one of your walks through the park! Protected as a natural habitat, coming across this level of nature within the city is truly a rarity. As with Regent's Park, nature photography enthusiasts will love Richmond Park for its endless number of amazing photographic opportunities.
One of the oldest parks in the city is Greenwich Park, while at the same time it's one of the smallest of the royal parks. This park crosses the "Zero Meridian Line" and it's worth it to pay a visit to the Royal Observatory. Along with this, the view over the Thames River and St. Paul's Cathedral is enough to make you make sure you're in Greenwich Park for London's sunset!
One has to just know that there's enough to fill the pages of an endless number of books about the parks of London. But however much is written, as with what I've just finished telling you, there's no way that pure words can encapsulate the magic and beauty embedded in London's parks. What you really have to do is head out on your own and experience the parks "in the moment" for yourself. For people looking for an alternative vacation, London offers many many things of beauty with both its parks and the more well-known beauties. Hyde Park and Regent's Park are unquestionably must-sees, and between them is Greenwich Park both for those interested in science and gorgeous sunsets, as well as the even more nature-filled Richmond Park. It's fair to say that you should make sure that you don't miss Green Park and St. James Park once you've already gone next door to Hyde Park. But of course there are even more parks than just the above, and for those who have a sense of discovery there are dozens of parks, with dozens of uniquely beautiful scenes. The only thing you need to do is live out the dream of an ordinary day, splashed with a touch of greenery....