Stonehenge and Bath
One of the trips I've been able to make so far here in London is out to the famous Pagan monument Stonehenge. For the summer solstice, there are a number of people (this year, nearly 35,000) that go out and bring in the longest day of the year. To say the least, it was an experience. From the CAPA Students that are here, we had 10 go out there and see Stonehenge in a way that's very difficult to experience otherwise.
It was really incredible--usually the Stonehenge area is roped off about 100 yards away. However, during our stay there, we were able to actually go up, touch, and climb all over the stones. Now these stones have a reputation for a reason--towering over us at about 40 feet tall, its a wonder that they were set up in such a way to always line up with the summer and winter solstices. The mystery around Stonehenge is undeniable--no one is entirely sure how they got there. Maybe advanced machinery, maybe multiple strong people with a knowledge of astronomy and astrology, maybe simply aliens... The bottom line is that it is entirely impressive.
And the most interesting part is that this pseudo-sacred ground more or less becomes a carnival for the solstice. There are people playing frisbee, tag, and football (soccer, for you Americans out there), a variety of food options such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and most surprisingly Chinese, and Druids marching around, beating drums and singing songs. It was quite a different experience--growing up in a Christian household, it was certainly something different from the norm. The Druids had a tendency to be dressed in robes and carry flags and different signs to affirm their faith in the ritual which has become Stonehenge. However, most of the folks there seemed to be there simply to see Stonehenge up close and personal, and wonder about the mystery of the monument, and surrounding burial mounds.
This wasn't even all that I was able to experience. The small town of Bath, home to many famous authors including Jane Austen, is also the home of the ancient Roman Baths which existed as a social and leisure ground for the Roman Empire when it was in England, most especially around 100-300 AD. The town of Bath is exactly what you think of when someone talks about the charming English countryside--a small town with friendly folk and an incredibly rich history of culture and art. The Avon River runs through the town, and forms the backdrop of some of the most breathtaking settings I've ever encountered. In town, there was an incredibly advanced local art show, as well as local boutiques for everything ranging from sport to writing to fishing to music. The next most impressive part of the town was Bath Abbey, a gorgeous cathedral-style church that is really the centerpiece of the entire town. As the locals pass on the paths below, the Abbey watches over a peaceful yet bustling city.
And additionally, Bath Abbey has a beautiful view into the still-functioning Roman Baths. With a number of natural hot springs and pools for recreation, it seemed to be the perfect place to come and relax (that is, if I were around 1800 years ago). A number of statues of famous Romans filled the Baths, and as you progressed further into the new museum, you could see the ingenuity of the design of these Baths. They took advantage of natural springs to provide a peaceful setting and a machine-like inner working to form a system of water removall and refreshment. And the fact that you can see the Abbey from the bottom of the central pool is an absolutely beautiful yet unexpected token.
There are so many photos... I wish I could share them all. As for now, here's the view of Bath Abbey the River Avon.