Star Wars is everywhere. This is no shocking revelation for many people. For instance, Star Wars products flood our department stores. It is all over television, and for the past few years, it has usually been on movie screens for most of the year. The point is, here in the United States, it isn’t hard to find Star Wars. Recently, my wife and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary by cruising around the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Norway. Star Wars was the last thing on my mind as we departed for this trip. In fact, as much as I love it, I was kind of leaving Star Wars behind. I had never been to Europe, and I was primarily interested in taking everything. Although I wasn’t actively trying to avoid Star Wars, I was a little surprised at how much it still invaded our experience.
Star Wars in the Market
Our trip started in the United Kingdom. One of the first things that caught my attention was in the Greenwich Market in London. If you aren’t familiar with the Greenwich Market, it contains shops and stalls featuring local artists, craftsman, chefs and bakers. A person could spend all day visiting the shops and just trying all the food the Market has to offer. I had a goal on this trip of finding some artwork for my office. Once, I entered the Greenwich Market, it didn’t take long to find my first piece. As I rounded a corner my eyes fell on a large print of Darth Vader decorated with the Union Jack and various Punk rock paraphernalia. The name of the piece is Darth Punked. I was immediately smitten with it. The artist, Stu MacKay, was at his booth, and I had the opportunity to visit with him for a bit. He loves Star Wars and spent time working on the Official UK Star Wars magazine. I grabbed a print, and it is now hanging on my office wall.
Vader at Westminster Abbey
My next experience occurred the following day. It was a Sunday in London, and unfortunately that meant that many of the most famous London landmarks were closed. The silver lining was that I had more time to simply wander areas of London that I might have missed otherwise. After touring the Tower of London, which is a must do, we were on our way to Westminster Abbey. My wife and I emerged from the Tube, the nickname for the subway system in the London Underground, and were progressing towards the Abbey when a familiar bit of music caught my ear. It was “The Imperial March.” Like any good Star Wars fan, I could catch the tune above the noise of London’s incredibly busy streets. A quick look around revealed the music's source. There was a man perched on top of a platform dressed as Darth Vader. He was posing for pictures with tourists and had “The Imperial March” playing on a loop.
“Busking” is fairly common in London. At least I noticed it a lot more than in the United States. There are frequent signs directing street performers where they can and cannot perform. This guy was in the clear. I, of course, had to get my picture with this Vader. After waiting for some kids to take their turn posing with the Dark Lord, I dropped a few pounds in Vader’s collection plate and stepped up. He immediately handed me his lightsaber and asked, “How is it going, mate?” I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. We all know David Prowse, a British gentleman, played Darth Vader. However, James Earl Jones provided Vader’s iconic voice. So, it caught me a little off guard to hear this Vader speaking with a British accent. After a few pictures, he wished me a “good day,” and we were on our way.
Vader wasn’t the only busker I found in London either. There was a fairly good Yoda at Trafalgar Square. However, I didn’t get the chance to wade through the crowd to meet him.
Shakespeare and Star Wars
Eventually that day in London took us to the Globe Theatre. You may remember the Globe as Shakespeare’s theater. This recreation stands near the location of the original theater. If you had any interest in the theatrical works of Shakespeare, I recommend a visit. It wasn’t until we finished our tour of the theater and entered the gift shop that Star Wars caught my eye again. The gift shop had a collection of books available for purchase dedicated to the theater, Shakespeare’s life, and his work. It also had the complete collection of Ian Doescher’s Williams Shakespeare’s Star Wars. Of course, it did!
Many of the next few days of our trip had more subtle Star Wars sightings. There was the occasional t-shirt here and there. Things changed when we got to Edinburgh, Scotland. We were riding in a coach on our way for a tour of Edinburgh Castle. As we came around one particular bend, I was glancing out the window and a rather large Star Wars display inside a store window came into view. A statue of Chewbacca next to Han frozen in carbonite peered from the window with a replica Artoo standing nearby. A sign reading “The Rebel Base” in a Star Wars font hung above the window. The shop was the Galaxy store, and it also featured Harry Potter, Marvel, DC, and other franchise products. I didn’t get the chance to go in, but the sighting put a smile on my face.
The Role of the United Kingdom
Upon reflection, it is the history of the United Kingdom that makes so much Star Wars a surprise. There are a several millennia of history there. That is what I expected to find in the United Kingdom. But it shouldn't be a surprise at all. After all, England played a huge role in the creation of Star Wars. So did Ireland in The Force Awakens. Therefore, it isn't so surprising that there is plenty of Star Wars in the United Kingdom. Then there is Norway.
A Certain Droid in Norway
Perhaps some of the more notable discoveries were found in Bergen, Norway. Prior to this trip, I had never heard of Bergen. It lies on the west coast of the country and it is the former capital of Norway. Our ship arrived in port, and it was a very short walk into town. As we explored the city, we came upon a building where people hung a lot of art on the walls. I was a little surprised to find BB-8 there. There we were in a historic area of town. Not a block later, I found another piece of art featuring Star Wars. This one was a little controversial and involved the World Trade Center attack from 2011. I’ll simply say it included an AT-AT. Again, finding this in Bergen was a surprise.
Granted, my trip was to the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, and not some remote village along the Amazon river. That said, I was still surprised how easy it was to find the influence of Star Wars even when I wasn’t looking for it. One of the things I learned on my trip was that although the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Norway have some obvious differences with the United States, they do share some cultural characteristics. An appreciation for the Star Wars universe is one of them.
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