The Body of Chairman Mao

Getting into Tiananmen Square was hard enough. We joined a large crowd of Chinese people, shuffling slowly forwarded. We waited while people looked at us strangely, pointed at our feet and laughing, not knowing if joining the group was even the right thing to do. Eventually we arrived at a security checkpoint, where our bags were x-rayed and our passports checked.

We were in.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Monument to the People’s Heroes

Tiananmen Square was a large open space where traffic was prohibited and areas roped off from pedestrians with guard posts throughout. At one end Tiananmen Gate, which lead into the Forbidden City, where a large portrait of Chairman Mao hung.

The Body of Chairman Mao

 

At the other, Mao’s Mausoleum, a building built solely for the purpose of housing his embalmed body. Our first port of call.

But first we had to jump through a number of hoops in order to enter.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Guard in front of the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong

First we headed to an entirely different building, where we would have to check in any bags or cameras. While I was travelling in Vietnam I was able to visit the body of Ho Chi Minh so I had an idea of what may be required here in order to enter.

Back at the mausoleum we joined another queue, this one had a lot less people in it, and another security check point, this one just a visual inspection. As we approached the entrance there was a vendor selling white flowers. Almost every Chinese visitor in front of us purchased multiple flowers to take in with them.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Revolutionary statue in front of the mausoleum

Once we reached the entrance and went inside we were greeted by a large seated stone statue of Mao. In front of him a table so full of the white flowers they had been piled up on the floor behind. We watched as visitors placed their contribution with the others and then as a man with a large cart collected up the excess and wheeled them back out to the shop.

Moving through the corridors we came to a small room where the glass coffin was held. Inside lay a black haired Mao in a grey suit. It was a very strange moment which lasted less than a minute. We were ushered around the edges of the room before passing out the other side and into the gift shop.

The Body of Chairman Mao

National Museum of China

No one was prepared for Mao’s death. Like Ho Chi Minh he had requested to be cremated but after his death it was decided his body would be embalmed. Accounts vary but it is thought the process was rushed and ill prepared due to rocky relations with the Russians at the time. They were thought to be the experts as they had already used the technique to embalm the bodies of Stalin and Lenin, as well as assisting the Vietnamese with Minh’s body. It is said that instead they had to settle with verbal instructions from the Vietnamese and try their best.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Restricted areas and guard posts

Since 1977 his body has been here, in his purpose built mausoleum for the world to visit, with some days visitor numbers reaching well into the thousands. Today, who really knows if the body that lies there is in fact Mao’s. Rumours persist and it’s often thought that due to the process not being entirely effective the body had been replaced with a wax figure, highly believable as the process leaves the skin looking shinny and even wax like.

Further Reading:

Preserving Chairman Mao: embalming a body to maintain a legacy by The Guardian

A visitors account from 1997 Resting in Peace or in Pieces

Jussi TwoSeven in Brighton

Recently I found myself in Brighton hunting for a number of street art pieces that had been placed around the city.

The reason I was here was the Finnish street artist Jussi TwoSeven whose work I had been following since my time living in Helsinki, where I had first been introduced to his work. The most recent was a large roaring bear in one of Helsinki’s metro stations in co-operation with a city museum. He had now been in Brighton painting a number of pieces in co-operation with Brighton Fringe Festival, this time wolves.

Jussi TwoSeven in Brighton

Jussi TwoSeven in Brighton

All together there were five wolves dotted around the city and they weren’t too hard to find.

Bond St

In the heart of Brightons popular Lanes is Bond St, a thoroughfare for exploring tourists and local shoppers. Bond St has it all, from small boutiques, cafes, vintage clothing and much more. A day could fly by weaving in and out of the narrow walking lanes with each turn revealing something new.

Jussi TwoSeven in BrightonWhat I enjoy about Jussi TwoSeven’s work is his interpretation of nature, and especially wildlife native to Finland, using only black and white paint. Also the scale to which he often works is very impressive.

Jussi TwoSeven in Brighton

Middle St

Just around the corner from The Victory Inn, down a small side road,  was the largest piece in the city. A blank white wall on the outside of a hairdressers made the perfect canvas for Jussi TwoSeven’s monochrome work. The Location and size made this one on Middle St my favourite of the day.

Jussi TwoSeven in Brighton

 

From here I walked. down to the seafront, passing the pier before heading back into the city just before the Aquarium. I knew roughly where I was heading as I had been wandering through this part of town the last time I was in Brighton only a few months earlier.

Edward St

Two smaller pieces were painted on the walls of the Brighton Youth Centre on Edward St. One along the main road, the other slightly hidden by a small car parking bay by the entrance. Can you spot the black and white wolf?

Jussi TwoSeven in Brighton

What finally brought all these individual pieces together was when I saw a video on Jussi TowSeven’s own channel of each wolf in sequence giving the appearance of movement. Though separated across the city the pieces worked together collectively.

Jussi TwoSeven in Brighton

I am interested to know if there are any other great works of street art that grace the walls of Brighton? What are your favourites and are there any you can recommend?

Further Reading:

Take a look at more of Jussi TwoSeven’s work in my pervious posts Jussi TwoSeven and Art in the Metro.

Also on his own Facebook page.

Melbourne Trams

Melbourne Trams

As we where staying in an Air BnB a short walk in one direction from Central Station and Queen Victoria Markets in the other, it was easy to get around Melbourne by foot. I find it’s the best way to see a city and stumble across a place you aren’t expecting.

And that was exactly what happened.

A short walk from Carlton Gardens on the way to Fitzroy we came across a neighbourhood of gothic houses, each one very different from the last. They had their own character and distinctive features that made them different but some how they fit together.

The same but different.

Melbourne Trams

Free City Tram

To get further a field I wanted to take advantage of the free city tram that runs regularly in the central area between the hours of 10am – 6pm, with extended hours at the weekend. The tram provides connections for tourists but also information about the city and the areas in which it stops. It’s a fantastic way for people new to Melbourne to move around.

You’ll know the free trams from their distinctive appearance.

Melbourne Trams

we jumped on the free tram outside Finders Street Station heading towards Docklands

Docklands

Though billed as a tourist area it is difficult to see exactly why tourists would come here. During the months I lived in Melbourne I rarely visited this side of the city and wanted to give it another chance, especially as it was still under development back in 2009.

Docklands is home to the Melbourne Star, a viewing wheel much like the London Eye. When I arrived in Melbourne all those years ago it was in the news as an extremely hot summer had caused the structure to warp. Now it was up and running but we had very little interested in taking a ride.

It was a beautiful day and we walked along the water, taking in the views and admiring the modern architecture on display. After a couple of hours I felt like we had exhausted all the Docklands had to offer, though I hadn’t worked out what that was apart from residential buildings and offices. Feeling  defeated we headed back to the tram stop for the pleasant journey back into the city, of course by the free tram.

Melbourne Trams

One thing that for me made the free tram especially appealing was the complex MyKi card system used on all other trams and methods of transport. When I was last in Melbourne in 2011 the new system was being launched with a number of problems and much public criticism. It seemed that those problems had been eventually ironed out and locals were getting around freely.

From a tourists perspective it was a little difficult to comprehend. I had to first purchase a card, that I couldn’t return, then I would then need to added value to it to make my journey, but I had no idea how much that journey would cost. Tickets or cards cannot be bought from the driver or at the tram stops so planning ahead is vital.

Melbourne Trams

Interested to find out about the face on the building in the background? Read my previous post The Face of Melbourne.

The system may seem complicated at first but if you really want to explore Melbourne and its vibrant neighbourhoods then becoming familiar with its extensive tram network is a must. Fitzroy, Carlton and St Kilda are all worth a visit and of course are connected by tram.

Further Reading:

For routes and timetables for the City Circle tourist tram visit the Public Transport Victoria Website.

While living in Helsinki I became very familiar with its public transport and how easy it was to use. Read my post Helsinki Metro to learn more.

The summer heatwave that melted the Melbourne Star.

The Face of Melbourne

The Face of Melbourne
The Face of Melbourne

The first time I noticed the building was from the ANZAC memorial, far off in the distance a black and white face 32 storeys tall staring back at me. It was far away but I could make out the portrait clearly. I was intrigued and needed to know more about the building and, more importantly, whose face it was.

The Face of Melbourne

The face belonged to a man named William Barak.

The Face of Melbourne

William Barak

William Barak was born into the Wurundjeri clan in 1823. After serving as a tracker in the Native Police at 19 he followed in his fathers footsteps and became ngurungaeta or clan leader. Throughout his life he became a political leader and spokesman for his people, becoming a prominent figure in the struggle for Aboriginal rights and justice.

Barak lived during a time of great change. During his lifetime the number of white people living in southern Australia had climbed from almost none to over a million. As a young boy he witnessed the signing of John Batman’s 1835’s land purchase contract, which would have large consequences for his people.

The Face of Melbourne

Today Barak is remembered for his artwork. They depict indigenous life during that time and their encounters with Europeans, many of which have a permanent place in the National Gallery of Australia.

The Face of Melbourne

During the few days I was in Melbourne I came across the building a number of times, mostly by accident, but it was always a pleasant surprise. The building uses shadows created by negative space and white balconies to form the portrait of William Barak which can be seen from many angles.

Though having the face stand out in the Melbourne skyline is an example of times changing many feel that displaying the face of an Aboriginal elder and land rights activist on the front of high-end city real estate is a huge juxtaposition.

The Face of Melbourne

Being in Melbourne was the first time I had seen an example of architecture like this. Have you heard or know of any other examples of people or faces used in architecture? Share them in the comments below, I would be interested to see them.

Further Reading:

Views of the building from above and why Melbourne’s new William Barak building is a cruel juxtaposition from  The Conversation

Enjoy views of Melbourne from the balcony on armarchtecture.com.au

My History of Australian Aboriginals and their part in Tourism in Australia.

A more extensive look at the life of William Barak.

Melbourne Then and Now

My first day in Melbourne I knew exactly where I wanted to go. From my time there eight years ago I had become familiar with the city and knew that one of the best views was found from the roof of the ANZAC memorial, a 15 minute walk from the construction site that was currently covering Flinders Street Station.

In 2009 a friend encouraged me to travel to Australia and I did. I stayed for two years working and traveling around the country, before returning home. During that time I got to know Australia very well and made some great friends. It was a shame to leave but I knew some day I would be back, even if it was only to visit.

That very friend was now getting married and I was in Melbourne again, walking similar footsteps to those I had trod for the first time years ago and seeing those familiar sights.

Melbourne Then and Now

I would be spending a few days exploring Melbourne before travelling down to the Mornington Peninsula to meet my friend and his future wife, then the wedding would be held there in a couple of weeks.

But first I had to see melbourne.

The weather was overcast but that didn’t spoil the view. From the roof of the memorial you can see 360 degrees, but looking north across Melbourne’s skyline was by far the best. I tried to think back to the last time I stood here and wondered what had changed since then.

There was only one thing that I could notice. Straight down the middle, a building I am sure I would have remembered if I had seen it before. Can you spot it?

Melbourne Then and Now
Melbourne Then and Now

Melbourne 2009

Melbourne Then and Now

Melbourne 2017

Of course the two photos are taken years apart on two different cameras but look closely at the skyline and see if you can see the face of an unknown person. I was intrigued by the building and its mysterious face, during my few days in Melbourne it became an obsession. I had to know more.

Tuned in for my next post for more about the face in Melbourne’s skyline.

Take a look at the two views and let me know if there are any other differences you an spot.

 

System Failure

The last few months have been a whirlwind, devouring all my time and this blog has suffered as a result of that. This is something I want to remedy starting now.

Last year I packed up my life and moved countries, back home to the UK. Before getting completely settled I took a month holiday and went to Australia for a friends wedding, visiting Amsterdam and Beijing along the way.

System Failure

But the one thing I can blame for my silence is the destruction of my computer (largely from my own doing). It has played havoc with my workload and productivity, which is partly my fault as I am still procrastinating over which one to replace it with.

Though, I will not let these problems stand in my way any longer. I have been working on a few ideas in my head and it won’t be long before I put them together for you to see. Because of my recent travels and the change in my living situation I am sitting on a bunch of great content that I need you to see. I hope that I can find the words (and the time) to bring these to life.

I would greatly appreciate that you stick around and see what I have been up to in my absence, as well as what I am will be doing in the future. 2018 has started well and I aim for that to continue.

In the meantime visit my other accounts where I try to post more frequently:

facebook.com/allabouttheimagehelsinki

Instagram.com/tom8enjamin

twitter.com/tom8enjamin

The View from Helsinki Cathedral

The Helsinki Cathedral is an icon of the city and goes by many names, in Finnish its called Tuomiokirkko. Events and gatherings take place throughout the year in Senate Square with the Cathedral as its backdrop, locals gather on the steps during the summer, and its domes can be seen from all over the city.

As soon as I knew I was leaving Helsinki one building came to mind, the Helsinki Cathedral. I had little time left in the city and I knew that I must try and visit the dome and see the view from the top before I did. I had seen and heard about others doing it so I made the arrangements.

Since leaving Finland I had buried the photos away in my archives and sat on them a little too long. It is finally time to share those with you and hopefully you will see what is so great about the landmark and the beautiful city that surrounds it.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki doesn’t have the most impressive skyline when you compare it to other capital cities but it still has its fair share of remarkable buildings and some great examples of impressive architecture.. Below you can see St John’s Church, Mikael Agricola Church named after the godfather of Finnish Language, and my personal favourite the tower of the Helsinki Fire Station.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Once we had climbed more than a handful of narrow stairways we came into a opening, In the center of the space were the bells and surrounding them were windows facing in every direction. I was able to walk freely around the room and open any of the windows, allowing me obscured views over the city.

Luckily, the day was perfect. An almost clear sky allowed for excellent views and, even more importantly, some of the best photographs I have been able to take of the city I had called home for the last five years.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The National Library of Finland has also become one of my much loved buildings in the city. From the outside the building carries little dominance compared to the other buildings surrounding the Cathedral but inside the details and architecture are different to anywhere else in the city.

See inside the National Library of Finland, though I won’t spoil the impressive main hall, that has to be seen for yourself.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Surrounding the Helsinki Cathedral are many official buildings including the beautiful House of the Estate (pictured below) and opposite it the Bank of Finland, as well as government buildings and part of the campus for Helsinki University.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The tall granite tower of Kallio Church could be seen to the North, it is much closer than it seems and can be reached easily by tram, metro or even walking from the Cathedral. In comparison the two are very different in design, many of Helsinki’s places of worship are, including the relatively new Chapel of Silence in Kamppi and the well-visited  Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church) in Töölö.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Senate Square

If Helsinki had a tourist center Senate Square would be it. The historical buildings date back to the early days of the city and the statue of Russian Emperor Alexander II located in the middle of the square is a reminder of the time Finland spent as an autonomous part of Russia.

Helsinki Cathedral is the jewel of Senate Square and dominates over the surrounding buildings. All built around the same period with many of them being designed by the German architect C.L Engel, the creator never lived to see his masterpiece finished. After his death a number of modifications were made to the design of the Cathedral.

In the harbour you can see the small ferry coming in from the island of Suomenlinna, a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike during the summer months. Another building worth mentioning is the Sederholm House, now the home of the Helsinki City Museum, and the oldest building in central Helsinki dating back to 1757.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

Another reminder of Russia’s influence in Helsinki is the nearby Uspenski Cathedral. Constructed a few years after the completion of Helsinki Cathedral and designed by a Russian architect by the name of Aleksey Gornostayev. Unfortunately, Gornostayev died before construction began.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Inside the Helsinki Cathedral

Hidden inside the structure of the Helsinki Cathedral is the original wooden frame. As we climbed higher and higher the smell of wood grew stronger. Wood is the backbone of Finland. Not only was it used heavily in the early days of construction but it is still relied on today. If you ever manage to venture outside of the cities you will soon understand why, trees grow in such abundance across the entire country.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The old wooden crane that was used to build the structure and lift the heavy bronze bells into place still remains in the roof. It is almost impossible for me to understand how the Cathedral would have been constructed during the 1800’s and the effort needed to lift the bell into the roof is an achievement in itself.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

On the way up we stopped to admire the clock mechanism, a central unit with two metal rods reaching out to the clock faces on each side of the dome. After leaving the Cathedral I went around the outside and looked up to the clock that I had squeezed behind to photograph only a few moments ago.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The Final View

The final view was from inside the dome itself. It may have not been the most impressive but it was still from the highest point that could be reached inside the Cathedral. A small dirt covered window facing East allowed for a view over the roof tops and into the suburbs. At the time I didn’t realise but this was my last view across the city and what an excellent one it was.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Further Reading:

If you love views then I am sure you would be interested in seeing views from the other places I have visited in the Helsinki.

Helsinki Cathedral from the Fire Station

The View from Kallio Church in summer and winter

Photos of Helsinki Cathedral

Coming soon: Climbing Kallio Church