Tuesday, September 16, 2014

East Village to East London: Whitechapel & Shoreditch (Part 2)

When most people think of the Lower East Side, they usually think of Jewish immigrants on Essex Street hawking pickles, elbowing Italian pushcart peddlers, Irish bartenders and Chinese laundry workers in that crowded grimy area of Manhattan where the other half lives.

Similarly, the East End is often equated with the Whitechapel and Shoreditch area, where the immigrant hordes of London settled their tempest tossed selves. I'm skipping my way through the history, but if you're interested in learning about it in greater detail, there's more here and here.

The Jewish history of Whitechapel is still really evident. Not sure what this building was, but it clearly was something Jewish once. This shop is where the Jack the Ripper tour begins. 

Looks almost heraldic. 

There supposedly were over 150 synagogues in the area once. Now it's mostly Muslim. 

Like the Lower East Side (and everywhere that poor people are gathered en masse), there's a radical past in this area too. The Freedom Press was founded by Peter Kropotkin in Whitechapel. Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxembourg and Maxim Gorky are known to have attended meetings in this area. They also probably drank together here and pounded on tables while having heated discussions.

The area has gentrified greatly, particularly Shoreditch, which I'm sure is unrecognizable to people who've been there for twenty years. But its working-class roots are still really apparent, though Shoreditch can seem like the Meatpacking at night.

Alleyway to a few Bangladeshi shops.  
Love the hand-painted signs on some of the shops. "Serves you right." 

The alleyways in Whitechapel where Jack the Ripper skulked are still really evident. The sign says that one of the Jack the Ripper suspects worked at this pub.

Typical night in Shoreditch.
Typical night in Shoreditch for the other half. Well, at least they have each other. 
I didn't manage to get any pictures of the Shoreditch joints that I liked except this place. It's an art house cinema with a bar and you can bring your drinks and sink into an extremely comfy velvet armchair. Those lighted boxes? They have a deep well for you to put your drink so you don't knock it over in the dark. Genius. I also really liked The Book Club
And more than any other area in the East End, this is still clearly an immigrant neighborhood, though now the immigrants mostly hail from Bangladesh. I learned a little about the history of Bangladesh while there that makes me eager to learn more. Did you know, for example, that Bangladeshis fought to split from Pakistan so they could retain their language? Naturally, this deeply resonates with a girl who grew up speaking Taiwanese when it was considered a subversive language.

Entrance to Altab Ali Park on Whitechapel High Street. There was a church here since the 1300s and archeologists have even found remains dating from when the Romans were in London. The last church on this site was destroyed in the blitz. There's a memorial here for the martyrs of the Bengali Language Movement and the park is named after a Bangladeshi guy who was killed in a racially motivated incident. 

Scene on Brick Lane. 
Treats at Tayyab's, a famous Indian restaurant in Whitechapel. 

Former Bangladeshi shop in a Victorian building that survived the blitz. 

One of the several mosques on Whitechapel Street. 

Bricks on Brick Lane. 

This is also the area known for street art in London. You can see my pics from the Shoreditch Street Art tour here. The tour starts and ends at the two biggest street markets in this neighborhood: Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane. I've already written about the Brick Lane market. Here are some pictures from Spitalfields Market, which is much more upscale.

Entrance to Spitalfields Market. There's been a market on this site for over 350 years. 

Bald twin lady heads. Some nice antique finds here, but prices are steeper than Brick Lane. On the other hand, you can't find a whole bin of silk top hats in great condition in Brick Lane. 

The spire of Spitalfields Church and I Goat by  Kenny Hunter. It stands on packing crates and it's the winner of a 2011 open competition. 

Some kinda demonstration in front of I Goat

Yeah, I did a double take too. 

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