Story and photo by Laura Rutkowski
London is notorious for attracting swarms of tourists to its well-known landmarks and museums. While London’s hotspots are remarkable in their own right, I am interested in a different London.
The London I speak of is concealed well, hidden along cobbled streets, marked with poorly placed or nonexistent signs. Venturing off the beaten track allows for an intimacy with London, an intimacy that is spoiled when shared with hoards of tourists. A lesser-known gem of London exists in the form of the Freud Museum.
Located at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, the museum is the former home of the father of psychoanalysis, Dr. Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis is a technique used in therapy to bring forth repressed thoughts and experiences so they can be dealt with effectively. Freud and his family fled to London after the Nazis took control of Austria in 1938. Turned into a museum by Freud’s daughter, Anna, the quaint home contains not only Sigmund’s possessions, but a whole room dedicated to Anna as well.
Most impressive of all is perhaps Freud’s study, where books line the shelves and his desk sits comfortably in the decadent room. The appearance is unexpected to say the least. A mixture of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Oriental statues, figurines and ornaments clutter up the room in an endearing way. The main feature of the study is Freud’s psychoanalytic couch, where Freud’s patients were asked to free associate. Free association involves speaking about anything that comes to mind without choosing something specific to talk about. Adorning the couch are a lavish Iranian rug and chenille pillows. Undeniably, the couch looks very inviting to lie on. In fact, the room does not convey the predicted clinical image, but rather, it shows off Freud’s taste and personality.
Other areas of visitation in the house include the dining room, conservatory, Anna Freud’s room and landing. In addition, the Freud museum hosts exhibitions in a designated room, showcasing different kinds of art and Freud-themed work. In the video room, home videos of the Freud family can be viewed. The museum gift shop is located in the conservatory, where practically anything can be bought, from Freud finger puppets to books detailing his works. While the Freud museum might be an acquired taste, or a place for psychology majors such as myself to revel in, the museum is also fascinating for anyone to experience. Previous knowledge of Freud is unnecessary, because the museum provides ample amounts of background information.
London is a city full of people, constant bustle and an abundance of things to do. Sometimes, choosing what to do is the problem, because there are so many options. I recommend seeking out the underside of London that does not flaunt itself or aim to please the tourists who come to gawk at it. London is a city bubbling over with culture that is dying to be taken advantage of. The Freud museum is just one of many pleasant days out that might be overshadowed by other attractions.
In the end, no one wants to stand out as a tourist in the city they are visiting, so get out and experience the real London.