Trecker’s Travels: 411 on the London Underground



Down the street from where I’m staying sits one of the busiest train stations in London. The Camden Town stop is one of the Underground’s oldest and deepest stations, and handles an enormous amount of traffic. On a sunny weekend day, you can barely cross the High Street for the crowds, and it seems like a wave is coming at you, babbling in multiple languages, all heading for the shops and Camden Locks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the London Underground lately by dint of spending so much time on it. It is hot, crowded and faintly miserable. It is also utterly indispensable: in my case I’m 15 minutes from Arsenal, about 30 minutes from Shoreditch, and never further than 45 minutes from any stadium in the city limits, save perhaps Dagenham and Redbridge.

Camden Town’s stop — not to be confused with the Camden Road overground stop about five minutes north — is so busy that it closes up shop to departing passengers on weekends. When that happens, you have to clamber down a steep 96-step spiral staircase. If you go down an extra set of steps at the end of Platform 2, you will find yourself in an air-raid shelter that was used during World War II. Doctor Who fans have seen the shelter: Tom Baker prowled about it in the 1977 episode “The Sunmakers,” — I’ll give you an extra mark if you name the other sci-fi series in which it made a cameo.

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Trecker’s Travels, Day Ten: Going van Gogh

Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer
By: Jamie Trecker
The calendar says May, the weather says October. Amsterdam, or at least Mother Nature, isn’t exactly welcoming Chelsea and Benfica with open arms. With the rain, and the wind, and the rocking of the houseboat up and down, up and down, I decided to do what people do in Amsterdam in bad weather: go to van Gogh.
The Museumplein is one of the most-visited areas in the entire city. It’s also one of the most controversial. Once a bus terminal with connection to the airport, today it looks like a barren college quad. There’s nothing wrong with that, until you learn that it cost millions upon millions of euros to make this open field. And it’s not even done yet.
The Museumplain is emblematic of Amsterdam’s struggle with public works in general. Amsterdam can be breathtakingly beautiful, particularly along the Golden Bend – but what they have done to some of their public spaces is tragic. A case in point is their contemporary art museum, the Stedelijk, the scene of a series of fiascos during a painfully long redevelopment. The result, an unflattering tack-on derided as “the Bathtub,” has been an architectural laughingstock since it opened.
But there are treasures amid the carnage. The Van Gogh museum, itself recently re-opened after a face-lift, is currently showing an engaging exhibition about how the master worked. It’s a great survey of his process, his contemporary influences and the dizzying end results before his suicide in 1890.
Van Gogh was not a born artist: he barely knew draughtsmanship and struggled to keep up with his colleagues. But he was a hard and ruthless worker, with a mean editorial eye. Van Gogh was also broke – his brother Theo floated him all those years while struggling vainly to sell his works at the gallery he owned – so he frequently re-used canvases. One of the most cunning things about the current exhibition is how the curators have framed his canvases so you can see both sides. On one frame, may sit a study for the “Potato Eaters;” on the other, one of his later, dazzling self-portraits.

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Trecker’s Travels: Manchester


By: Jamie Trecker

MANCHESTER – This is the third time I’ve been in Manchester in the last 18 months. Or is it the fourth? You start to lose count when you’re on the road for soccer, because much of your time is spent getting from rail stations to the grounds and back again. Was that game at the Etihad or was I in Liverpool, over at Goodison that day? Was that hotel a converted print shop, or am I thinking of the one next to the railway, the one with the high ceilings that carried and held the drunk fans and their songs long into the night.

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