Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Day of Really Old Stones

I visited Stonehenge today, and didn't find it to be what I expected. It was alot smaller than I thought it would be. Maybe it was just because you couldn't get very close, but I was a little bit disappointed. All around there though, are ancient barrow mounds, and you can hike out a little ways to see them. I enjoyed walking through the fields and on the hills better than marching around Stonehenge with the other tourists.

Then I went to Avesbury and it wasn't what I expected either. The ring of stones is bigger than Stonehenge, but they're very spaced out and don't have the cross pieces on the top. There's no admission or anything to see them. You can just walk all through the sheep pastures (Mind the sheep dung!) and over the huge grassy ridge that the prehistoric people built around the stones. The views over the countryside were spectacular, green rolling hills and neat little fields as far as you could see.

On the way back into Salisbury I stopped to see Old Sarum, the orginal site of Salisbury. All that is left is a ruined castle on top of a tall mound. From the mound you can look down onto the outline of the original cathedral. It was very green and moody and windswept. Very much like the England I had in my mind before I came.

After that rugged day in the countryside, I have come to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. It's a typical, very urbanized city, and I don't care for it very much so far. I went to see Cardiff Castle and it was pretty interesting, though. The site goes back to 79 AD when the Romans built a fort there, and you can go down into an excavation to see the old walls. Normans built a keep there around 1000 AD and a castle grew up around it. In the late 1800's a really rich marquess lived there and had it refurbished and redecorated in keeping with Victorian ideas of a Medieval castle. It's admittedly very beautiful and opulent, but I doubt that the Normans had the walls inlaid with Italian marble and the ceilings gilded with 22K gold.

Tomorrow I'll take a day trip to another castle outside of town (I'm beginning to see how heavily castles are going to figure into my itinerary), and hopefully I'll get to see some countryside. I'm liking hiking around through the grass much better than making my way through traffic.

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