November 2, 2018

Old (Not New) York

by Steve W

After a brief stop in Leeds, we took the train further north to York, a city that was the northernmost part of the Roman Empire in the year 71 AD. But as one of our favorite philosophers has asked:

What have the Romans ever done for us? - Monty Python

After the Romans came the Vikings, and then the Normans, who built walls around the city of York, sections of which remain today, including the gates (or "bars") to the city.

Sections of the wall appear to have openings where archers could shoot their arrows from the protection of the wall. However, these are actually decorations added during a Victorian-era restoration of the wall, and are not correctly designed for archery.

I can see you but you can't see me.
There are sections where you can walk along the top of the wall.

A view from the city wall into the garden of a luxury hotel.
Like many older parts of Europe and the UK, York and the surrounding area have a number of churches that date back hundreds of years. Unfortunately, in the 16th century, Henry VIII, in his efforts to pull away from the Catholic Church and form the Church of England, had many of these churches destroyed. Left are only the shells of the buildings, but they are still amazing to see after all these years.

One of these is St. Mary's Abbey in the city of York proper. The abbey dates from the days of William the Conqueror in the 11th century.  Only some of the outer walls and some parts of the foundation are still intact, but it is easy to imagine the splendor of this abbey before its destruction.

On a different day, we traveled to Whitby, a town on the North Sea, where another abbey was built in the 7th century, and later destroyed by Henry VIII. The remnants of the Abbey are said to have inspired Bram Stoker in his writing of "Dracula", as Stoker learned about the real Vlad Dracula (Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler) in the local library of Whitby.

The town of Whitby is a typical seaside town, updated for the tourist trade, with a statue dedicated to Capt. James Cook, who was killed in Hawaii on his third trip around the world.

On the same day we visited Whitby, we traveled to the North York Moors, with its hills and valleys (or "dales") covered in moss bogs and grasslands.

Back in York stands the Minster, a magnificent 7th century church in the center of the city. In 306, Constantine the Great was proclaimed the Roman Emperor in York, and a statue of him sits outside the Minster.

The Minster is impressive from the outside and visible from many parts of the city.

As is often the case wherever we go, it is undergoing repairs, with workers trying to match the newer stone with existing stone.

The Minster is also impressive on the inside, with lots of stained glass, elaborate ceilings and a pipe organ with over 5400 pipes (currently being refurbished).

Inside are the usual crypts, statues, and tombs of former clerics, wealthy citizens, and other notables. One of the things we found interesting was the poses of the deceased parties on top of their tombs. Who the heck are these guys waiting for?

In almost every town we visit, there are at least a couple of signs or establishments that require no description but are unique in and to themselves.

We had a great few days exploring York and the surrounding area. Next stop: Edinburgh, Scotland.

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