We are getting closer to the end of our one-year journey around the world. From early on we have always wanted England to be our last stop. A grand finale on a wonderful journey, and a wonderful year. We are staying with Alexandra’s family and thus Anton now has a great opportunity to play with his two cousins and slowly adjust to the fact that he has to share toys, books and attention with others once again.
We have just been on a one-week trip to Scotland, and now London will serve us as a base for smaller trips around England. In the coming week we will head towards Devon, Hampshire and Cornwall. England is a huge country! You can drive for many hours to get from A to B. But you will never get bored! Even from the highways you can see the landscape up close, as it constantly changes. Mountains, large lakes, vast fields with horses, pigs (organic and presumably happy!), cows and of course sheep. We seem to travel through the most “sheep populated” countries on this journey. And England certainly has a fair share!
On our way up to Scotland the other week, we made a stopover in York. This is a very interesting, ancient city, founded as far back as 71 A.D. The oldest, inner part of the city is surrounded by a wall, dating more than 1000 years back. And spread out all over the city you find many houses that are 500 years or older. This is really a fascinating scenery. We walked through “The Shambles”, one of the oldest neighborhoods, where the houses are very close and where you can easily get a feel for what it must have been like to live in the city back in medieval times. No wonder that fires would frequently wipe out the cities back then. The houses are REALLY close and they were bone-dry, ticking bombs, just waiting for a spark. Nevertheless, many of the ancient houses in York have survived, and today they are important evidence of an era long gone. Initially we also wanted to see the cathedral, York Minster. But the entrance fee, a hefty 10 pounds, just to enter, was a bit too much. And then you could even pay 5 pounds further to get up in the tower! We just saw it from the outside!
We strolled around the old town for a few hours before entering the National Railway Museum. Anton really wanted to see this. They have hundreds of carriages and engines on display, dating all the way back to the birth of the railways in the UK. The highlights are the royal carriages and of course the Hogwarts Express, known from the Harry Potter movies. Even though I used to have a vast collection of Märklin model trains when I was a kid, and even though I really had a passion for it back then, I am not sure that the National Railway Museum would have been on our list of things to see in York, had Anton not been with us. But as is often the case with those types of attractions, there is a lot of things to see for people of all ages, and we had a great time, all three of us. We stayed the entire afternoon.
On another one of our trips we went to Stonehenge. The neolithic monument that dates back 4500 years is still a great mystery to the scientists. How was it even possible to build such a thing back then? Some of the stone can be traced to origins 300 kilometers away. It must have taken a lot of people a lot of time to erect the large complex. And just HOW is a puzzle! I am fascinated by mysteries like these. Before I leave this planet I have to go to Giza, Egypt to see the pyramids there. They are also a bit of a mystery. The same with the ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru, which is also on my “bucket list”.
Near Stonehenge lies the ancient city of Salisbury. Here too there is a nice, old inner city and then Salisbury Cathedral. This is the great attraction. Already when driving towards the city from afar you are impressed by the cathedral. The tower rises high in the horizon. Built in just 38 years, from 1220 to 1258 it was quite an achievement at the time. It is truly a magnificent building! In fact it is perhaps one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen. There are so many details everywhere that you are completely overwhelmed with impressions. By the way, the cathedral was the main inspiration for Ken Follet for his novel “Pillars of the Earth” and it even made an appearance in the TV series of the same name.
As we entered the cathedral, a choir was rehearsing. I have a thing with church music. In my younger days I used to sing in a choir with my dad. And sometimes we would have concerts in various churches. So whenever I hear a choir in a large cathedral, I have to sit down and listen for a while. Of course! And while we sat there, listening, Anton and I had a chat about my dad who passed away in 2005. At the moment Anton is asking a lot of questions about him. He is clearly occupied. It is somewhat “abstract” and hard for him to understand, that my dad cannot just come and visit us, and that we cannot just call or Skype.
“Doesn’t he have an iPad?” - he asked. “Well, yeah... I don’t know” - I answered.
“But what about a computer then?” - he continued.
“He might have that” - I said. “But I am not sure he has internet! This is the reason why it is better for us to talk to him here in the church, and why it is a good idea to light a candle.”
“But can’t he just use the clouds and build a staircase to climb down to us some day? I really want to talk to him. You know, for real”
“We can suggest that to him” - I answered.
It is not entirely easy to explain children about the big things in life. About death and how it really is the end as we know it. But when children want answers you have to do your best.