Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stones & Suds

In the morning, our first stop was to visit Stonehenge. I've wanted to visit Stonehenge for a very long time. And the brisk early morning with the sun rising against these ancient stones with white sheep bleating in the background was inspirational. I think I could live in the English countryside, with a few sheep.

Returning to reality and the stones. The "front" side of the stones is found with the Sunstone. During the summer solstice, the sun shines against the stone and onto the columns.

These large columns were somehow moved into place in around 2500 BC. They were extremely heavy, but they believe they were put on log rollers and transported.

Historians debate why Stonehenge was built- religious site, burial site, communal site? At the final phase of construction it would have looked like this replica in the museum.

As you can see, some of the stones have since fallen down over the centuries.

Probably one of the best things we did here, was come early, several minutes before opening. We got there before the crowds and got to enjoy the stones in quiet and without having to dodge people with selfie sticks and weird poses.

Our next stop was the city of Bath to see the Roman Bathhouse. The Roman Empire used to stretch as far south as Africa and as far north as England. And they were not interested in giving up their lifestyle during their conquests of land and people. They brought their culture, architecture, and religion with them. All of these were mixed together at the Roman bathhouse.

According to the audioguide, the Celts actually found the hot springs first and dedicated a temple nearby to the goddess Sullis; however, once the Roman's took over and built their own temple, it was dedicated to the goddess Minerva. The temple was attached to the baths.

The top of the temple is in pieces but features a Gorgon's head- some linking the temple to the Roman water god Neptune.

We entered the temple and even got to see the altar where sacrifices would have been made.

Inside the main area where the water comes up from the ground is a pool of very hot water which was reserved for the priests and for people to thrown in riches in exchange for Minerva answering their prayers. Many different types of coins have been found in this area.

Next we walked into different bath areas- some reserved only for women, some for men, some were saunas, etc... The Roman baths were more than just a bath time ritual, it was a place for the community to get together and relax and visit.

Then the Roman's built a kind of sewer system which allowed the 'dirty' or cool water to exit from the baths and into the river. Roman's were amazing engineers for their time.

Now the Roman Bath house water is kind of a green color due to the algea, but that is because there is no roof. During the time of the Roman's this pool had a huge curved roof which prevented the outside elements from affecting the bathers.

This was such an amazing place. They had so many artifacts and interesting audio guide segments that it was easy to spend hours here. I had not expected to see so much from this area, but it was definitely one of our favorite parts of our trip in England. Bath had other things to offer as well (beautiful architecture, Georgian homes, Jane Austen exhibits), but I'm glad we made sure to see the Roman baths.

Lastly, as previously mentioned, the Roman Empire stretched as far as England, but it did not cover the entire isle. Our next trip is the boundary between the Roman Empire and the uncivilized natives (Celts, Pics, Brits,...)- Hadrian's Wall.

Chauffeur's Corner (Brian):
Stonehenge was definitely a nice visit, with the morning light and crispness to the air. Unfortunately it had rained recently, so they had the back half roped off, so we couldn't walk around the entire site. It was interesting to learn more about the general area, as there are several archaeological sites nearby, not just Stonehenge. Also some years ago, the preservation society restricted the up-close access that millions had previously enjoyed, so as to minimize the impact on the grounds at Stonehenge. I didn't realize that originally a paved road ran right next to Stonehenge as well. We spent less than 2 hours at Stonehenge and it seemed like the right amount of time for us.

I didn't really know about Bath before our trip, but it looked like a good place to see some more history come alive. Bath was even better than I thought it would be. The Roman Bath was very impressive. It probably isn't right to compare engineering marvels from different millennia, but I liked the Roman Bath more than Stonehenge. There was a lot of historical pieces in the museum in addition to the structure.

The rest of the day was spent driving....and driving...and driving to Carlisle. It was roughly 7-8 hours from Bath to Carlisle. We checked into our hotel, which had its own history - Hadrian's Wall was actually uncovered where the front desk was located. The next morning as we were leaving we found out that the largest outpost of Hadrian's Wall was actually located in the hotel's parking lot. We had already eaten some food on our way to the hotel, but we decided to have a snack and a Guinness (Brian).

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