I grew up astounded at how old the Declaration of Independence and the Liberty Bell were.
Then, I came to England.
The history of the U.K. extends hundreds and hundreds of years before the States’ — and here, it’s still no big deal for streets to have shops built in the 1500s. (OK, maybe the Tesco Express hasn’t been there for that long, but the infrastructure has.) Last week, I spent a lot of time learning about different aspects of the country’s history.
It began with a trip to the People’s History Museum, which documents the history of, well, the people in the U.K. Instead of going chronologically, or by exhibits, the museum’s content was organized by color and theme; for example, there was a color for peace and prosperity, and another for hardship. It was a bit difficult to follow (and geared more toward children), but seeing the history was still interesting. I especially liked the interactive portions, in which we could dress up in period clothing and create “Socialist art.” Ours is below.
On Saturday, I took a day trip to York, where the Jorvik Viking Festival was taking place. Before it started, I walked around the city, which had lots of street vendors, entertainers (I heard a rendition of “Wonderwall” and saw the Magic Ball Man perform) and historical streets, such as The Shambles. We also passed the Guy Fawkes Inn, where the guy himself was born in the 1500s.
The festival began with a parade from the York Minster to a grassy spot in front of a museum, where the Vikings battled. Later on, we went to several tents, where we could try on armory, hold weapons and — my favorite part — shout to vote for our favorite contestant in a beard competition.
The next day, I went on another day trip, but this one had a few stops. The first one was Fountains Abbey, the largest monastic ruin in the U.K. The abbey itself was beautiful, as were the gardens on the same grounds.
Then, we took a steam train (yes, like in “Harry Potter”) to Haworth, home of the Bronte family. We toured the house in which the famous authors lived — it’s now a museum that houses their artifacts. As a huge fan of literature, I was all about this, and I could see how their environment could have helped shape their work.
After the tour, we walked around town and went in some of the adorable small shops — including a cafe that made one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had. A pretty solid way to end a pretty solid weekend, in my opinion.