My friends don’t even live in Ipswich, and they rarely visit this ancient city. I didn’t get a chance to see them the first couple days after the party, so I had a chance to become a tourist. I prefer to be called a visitor, rather than a tourist. Some places have a negative view of tourists, but if you express interest in the possibility of living in a place, people tend to get friendly quicker than you would think. The downside of being a visitor is that the host is often busy doing regular life while you have all the time in the day. It describes why I have dipped my toes into so many different social circles, because I’ve felt as though I was a visitor in most of the places I have lived.
I love just walking through neighborhoods. I prefer to have a companion, and sometimes music or podcasts are my only partners in exploration. The first thing I noticed on my initial walk through town to get food, was that it was a very compressed city. I was just across the creek from what I thought was a strip mall, with chain restaurants. As I ventured further I found myself meandering through a series of stone building all attached to on another selling high end goods. After my second day of walking by the harbor, and through one of the many spacious parks that outline this dense urban shopopolis, a realized Ipswich is a wealthy place..
Ipswich reminds me of the history of the Sonoma valley in California. Like Northern California, East of England started as a community shortly after the Ice Age. Apparently the migration didn’t come from the north, as It did in America, The Anglo-Saxons had began to emigrate to the area from the east. It’s certainly possible the age of the city of Sonoma could be drawn back as far as Ipswich. To history’s misfortune, The treatment of native americans destroyed a lot of the history that was passed down through art and culture. Manifest destiny landed right on top of the fertile plains of America. Ipswich was simply fought after over, and over, and over again as the entrance into the fertile land of England’s centre. Ipswich has a naturally protected port, much like the Sacramento river delta providing passageway for hundreds of years, Ipswich has been a port of commerce for potentially thousands of years.
The Ipswich museum was so much more than I expected. I thought there might be a narrow, deep history of the Anglo-Saxons, and a lot of World War paraphilia. The google maps had decent reviews, and a picture of Wooly Mammoth, so I had assumed it had a couple animals that had been dug up in the area. I didn’t know I wouldn’t have enough time to see everything in a day. Granted, my day starts and the buttcrack of noon, and after sluggishly making it to the museum, 2 ½ hours wasn’t enough time. I returned the following I returned to be kicked out just before I saw all of the exhibits.
The entry has a giant giraffe staring you down as you walk into the ancient or exotic animals exhibit. Taxidermy dates back centuries in England, from rhinos to native or endangered bids. This museum had a lot of dead things in it. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the human mannequins were nowhere near as intricately preserved as the the snakes, pangolins, or golden eagles on display.
From the outside, the building did not look very large, but once I walked by all of the animals one would typically find in a zoo – a stuffed lion, zebra, lynx and monkeys, I realized that there was a lot more history in this ancient city than I had presumed. The displays themselves had a history. The deltas and natural harbor provided an atmosphere for ship making, and there are paintings of famous women who contributed to the development of the shipping industry that has survived so long. They had coinage from long before the kingdom was united. The museum wasn’t spacious by any means, and I didn’t get much time to explore the world war exhibits by my first day.
I met up with Oakey and Nathan for dinner, but they had to deal with some drama, so I took the opportunity to catch up on rest and silence before heading back to London to expect to share a room with unknown travelers who snore and fart in their sleep with ambulances and cars driving by throughout the night. Sleep isn’t my favorite activity, although it’s necessary. It never bothered me to be awoken from noise, it’s the discount and convenience that is worth the noises. My Airbnb was very quiet, and I didn’t mind watching weird british television as a way to relax.
Day 2 as the only tourist in Ipswich was even better than the first. I started to understand how the city is laid out, and was able to stare at my phone less and just walked right back to the museum. I made a b-line right to the world war 1 exhibit, and it regurgitated the realization that we have generations of people who were not alive when it was legal to bomb civilians during war. My grandmother always liked to tell me stories about having to hide and be quiet during World War 2. Being from Vallejo, a military target for the germans, Ipswich had similar issues, but in both wars. That generation is going away, and exhibits like these can maintain the desire for peace. Just one look at the baby gas mask is enough to not want to support war. And for anyone that says the militiamen were “just doing their job.”
my answer is “they should have got another job.” I don’t need to go into all of the PTSD I have seen in good people. We all draw lines of morality, and it is exhibits like this, and my knowledge of the history of war that kept me away from supporting military. Like the police, I try to stay arms length from anything dangerous.
The weapons were so rudimentary. The mustard gas bombs were simply cantines stuffed with cloth, and filled with mustard gas. From a geopolitical perspective, these wars were for the growth of an empire, not directly for resources. If you dig further into the international conflicts, they were in fact fighting for the ownership of shipping channels throughout the world. During World War 1, Ipswich was one of these harbors that the Germans would have liked to own. The city parks have memorials to all of the the fallen soldiers, and even a memorial to the unknown found in battle but could not be identified. Why not let them battle on the seas? Why drop bombs on people who are merely supporting their hierarchical upperclassmen?
I also had a chance to visit the Tate Modern, a modern art museum that had some art from early 20th century Germans. Their history has been preserved despite how atrocious their military tactics. And we need to preserve it in all of it’s breadth. This display at Tate Modern had painting of opulent roaring 20s style art from Bavarians, but also displayed a completely different story from the Jewish artists on display. It was obvious that more than one culture was prevalent during both World Wars. It is why America build a culture of minority rights into its constitution. You can track the opulence of the German people through their art. They perceived a need to maintain their perch atop the materialistic geopolitical totem pole, that they shifted their morals into the disaster that is now but a memory.
And then I got upstairs! the first floor had an open space to see the balcony above, and it looked as if there were paintings on the wall. Instead, they were well designed descriptions of different eras the Suffolk region of England has survived. With artifacts in each display, it was a trip through thousands of years. Most small museums have these kinds of displays, and it is always fun to see weird stuff and imagine if it was some sort of joke that just happened to pass through generations. Intergenerational memes! Then I Took a right into another room, and my jaw dropped. There was a healthy egyptian display with tombs and 4000 year old Egyptian artifacts. There may have been some of that coinage that traveled from the Egyptian Empire to Ipswich and was discovered in the area. I had to weave around the 0 people that were in this exhibit that explained how these tombs weren’t solid gold hammered by some ancient metalworker. Instead these tombs were engineered with a gold paint, showing how old some of the engineering and knowledge of chemistry really is. There were some small displays of native civilizations to display the potential linkage between the ancient empires, and the travelers who explored and took risks traveling from the comforts of their villages. The vikings have a history of leaving shit everywhere! Their barbarism can be found through most of the northern Hemisphere. There wasn’t much on display from Vikings, but the museum valued them enough to explain that the original settlement of Ipswich was often disputed by different explorers through the centuries.
I left the museum, walked through a different park on my way home, and got a little bit of rest before deciding to go drinking like a teenager again. We all went out a nice, surprisingly cheap restaurant; a carvery. After asking a few people in town, and having the repetitive answer, “there is nothing good to eat here” I was very happy with the feeling of a home cooked meal nowhere near the price of buying the items alone. For those that want to learn English cuisine here it is: Yorkshire pudding is bread ,Blood pudding is sausage, chips are fries, and food generally has smaller portions than their American cousins. The English walk more and eat less, there are a lot of skinny people in comparison to America. This makes for a more enjoyable people watching experience.
I told the guys I wanted to go out drinking, so we bought some whiskey and beer, and I got to witness a different exhibit. I’m not the kind of guy that wants to go on the dance floor. I like bullshitting with people, not dancing. I found my lane. The lane tends to merge into the dance lane, and I find myself awkwardly fading away somewhere else. We pre-partied in my hotel room, met a couple more of Nathan’s friends, and walked to the club geared up for a night out. I merely prepared for how I was going to avoid the dance floor. We all talked about it, so they didn’t needle me too hard when they all wanted me to jump on the dance floor with them. We did end up drinking 1£vodka redbulls and 1£ jaeger bombs. Too many too count, and just enough caffeine to prevent me from getting any sort of rest when we got back to the hotel room. A couple friends slept on the floor, others got a ride home.
It’s one thing to be a tourist, go to touristy bars and maybe stumble into a nightclub and catch a glimpse of how similar the collective conscious of party goers can be. It’s entirely another go hang out with kids half your age and feel like one of the boys. Of course it was a shallow night, that’s what the club scene is all about. People getting drunk and/or stoned, and enjoying themselves with old friends and new.
The following day was a real struggle. Nathan was going to give me a ride into London, even though the train is just as fast. I was willing to pay him what I paid for the train, and he would be able to put a few pounds in his pocket. He dropped off his friend, and must have fallen back asleep and it seems that traffic is really bad in the area. the area is mostly small country roads, with all of the traffic lights in ipswich seemingly as old as the city itself. Traffic was a common sight in Ipswich and it seems to be worse the older a city is. The train is very expensive, but a quick, smooth ride so I didn’t mind nursing my hangover with a bottle of Lucozade and a gentle ride as opposed to the windy country roads in a car begging my bowels to remove all the toxins in reverse order.
I was lucky to experience Ipswich in most of its forms. It is a nice urban city with a deep history. It has some nice views and elevation. It has a small club scene, and many pubs and fancy restaurants. I’m not the kind of tourist that frequents pubs alone, nor did I have a companion to bring to one of the many swanky restaurants in the small city. Food is fuel, and I’ve spent much of my adult life limiting my drinking days. I somehow adopted Doug Stanhope’s mantra, “Excess in Moderation” so It has taken me a couple days to return to homeostasis and write about meeting kids that grew up in the area, and checking out one of the most history museums in the world.