Sunday, July 1, 2012

Stonehenge and Bath

Yesterday was the second weekend trip with my group, although it was a day trip this time around, not a weekend trip.  We went on a wonderful trip to see Stonehenge and the beautiful city of Bath.

Our first stop of the day was Stonehenge.  If you say you're going to Stonehenge, people will most likely remind you that it's in the middle of nowhere, and they're right.  You're literally driving along this road, and there's Stonehenge right there on the side of the road like it's no big deal.  It is in the middle of nowhere, but you get to see some beautiful English countryside, so it's worth it in my opinion.

The history of Stonehenge is a little confusing, so please be patient with me.  Stonehenge is from approximately 3,000-2,000 B.C. (very specific, I know).  There's a lot of confusion about when it was actually built, and it's believed that it may have been built in phases, which is why some stones are older than others.  The stones were dragged from other locations (as far as Wales even) and set up in this circular fashion.  For why you may ask?  Well, nobody knows.  Some believe that it was an astrological calendar (that seems like a more logical reason), a pagan altar, a castle, the possibilities are endless.  The tops of the stones with the stones resting on top of them are carved so the stones fit together like pieces of a puzzle. 

Now, before it became a World Heritage Site, Stonehenge fell into massive disarray.  You could even rent a hammer from the local blacksmith from the nearby town, come up here and break off pieces of stone to use for your own building projects!  Obviously, that's impossible to do now, you can't get up close enough to touch it or anything I'm afraid.  It's a beautiful location in a gorgeous part of England, so I would check it out if I were you.

After Stonehenge, we headed over to the gorgeous city of Bath in south western England, home to one of the best preserved Roman bathhouses.  It's also home to some of the rich and famous in the world, including John Cleese and Nicholas Cage (he just moved like a year or two ago though), which is pretty cool.  Jane Austen also lived here from about 1801-1806, although she hated living there since she thought it was a city made of people who were very fake and snobby.  Even so, two of her books take place in Bath, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

Now, the point of our trip to Bath was to see the gorgeous Roman Bathhouse (pictured above).  Going to a bathhouse was a huge social ordeal.  You didn't go just to get clean, you also socialized, got a massage, maybe worked out some business transactions, played some sports, etc.  It was a huge thing to do.  There was the Great Bath (above), along with hot baths, cold baths, etc.  There was also a temple to Minerva attached to the bathhouse, so you could make a tribute to the goddess.

The bathhouse's water comes from a natural hot spring below ground.  At the time, this was very magical and mysterious to the Romans, which is why they built the bathhouse on top of it.  Today, the spring pumps about 15,624 gallons of water a day at a rate that could fill the average bath tub in about 8 seconds flat, which is pretty impressive.  The bathhouse is also a museum with artifacts from when the Romans had power in Britain (they came to Britain twice and stayed for a bit longer the second time in 43 A.D.), including parts of some ruins, gravestones, coins, etc.  They found a massive collection of coins a few years ago, it was common to make a wish and leave a coin, similar to what we do now at wishing wells.

So, you might be asking yourself, well, did you get a chance to actually drink/use any of the natural water that supposedly had amazing healing powers?  The answer is yes, I did.  They had water from a hot spring that was clean enough to drink, and you could at the end.  Let me tell you, that water wasn't exactly the best.  It was hot and tasted like metal.  We still tried it though, you know, for the full experience.  I have no idea if it has healing powers or anything though, I wasn't exactly sick or anything before, so we'll have to see if that works out or not.  Overall, Bath was very interesting. 

Our tour guide for the day was wonderful as well.  He was very funny and engaging.  He definitely knew what he was talking about, and the way he presented it was hilarious.  I'm assuming he caters his facts to the audience, and it must be hard to get the attention of a group of American college students.  He did a phenomenal job though, I wish he'd be our guide for all our trips.

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