Birmingham is approximately 30 minutes away from us, depending on whether the train is local or express. The city also has a couple of train stations but we picked Moor Street as our destination. The return ticket from Leamington is either 8.5 or 10 pounds, depending on the train. As I mentioned in my previous post, 4 return tickets are 50% off. On short distances the discount doesn't make much of a difference, but if you are traveling to Bath or York where the ticket costs 50 pounds, then you are glad to have that option.
After arriving to the Moor Street station, the first thing we saw was the Selfridges building. This building is a part of the Bullring Shopping Center. Even though at first sight this building could seem a little bit tacky, it is a very interesting piece of architecture. Its appearance has supporters and opponents and this Birmingham landmark certainly doesn't leave anyone indifferent.
Selfridges building Birmingham
Something else caught our eye, right after arrival. The station was packed with an enormous number of policemen. On April 6th, Birmingham City played against Millwall and apparently these two teams are major local rivals. Each derby is consequently supervised by a huge number of police officers and special football operations vehicles :-).
Police supervising the football derby
On our way to the city center we passed by The Electric cinema, which is the UK's oldest working cinema. It is over a hundred years old. It's licensed to sell alcohol and we heard from a friend that apparently if you get the ticket for the sofa section you can text the waiters to bring you a drink during the movie.
UK's oldest cinema, 101 years old
But my biggest discovery was that Birmingham is a canal city. We approached The Mailbox shopping center (it's built in a former Post Office building, hence the name) and suddenly saw water with very unusual bank shapes for a city river. Our friend, and tour guide of the the day, explained that in the time of the industrial revolution Birmingham was a very important industrial hub. Before railroads and road transport, canals were the best way to transport goods. The whole Birmingham Canal Navigations system has 100 miles of canals, which is longer than the Venice one.
Nowadays canals are only used by tour water-buses.
Gas street was the first street in Birmingham to use gas lights, back in the days, thus the name.
The cute little restaurant on the Gas street.
Exploring the water canals of Birmingham we encountered canal locks. Locks are the way to move boats from a lower level of water to a higher level of water and vice versa. Certainly boats can easily flow downhill but locks come into the game when you have to move them uphill. They also help keep the optimal amount of water in the canal at all times.
Here is the detailed explanation of how locks work.
There are no gondolas but that doesn't make Birmingham less beautiful :-).