York, England
November 2000


Leaving northern Scotland we headed south towards England.  Our next stop was the city of York in North Yorkshire, England, where we planned to spend a few days.  Along the way we thought we'd drive through Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, and further south we wanted to see Hadrian's Wall in northern England.

Edinburgh turned out to be a very interesting place with a grand old castle high on a rock hill right in the center of the city.  It would have been a great place to stop and explore, but we still a long drive ahead so we pressed on. 

Hadrian's Wall was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 A.D.  It established the Roman northern boundary of England and runs 73.5 miles, the entire width of the country.  Why a wall so long?  The Romans tried over and over again to conquer Scotland and the resident Scottish Highlanders.  They wanted to claim Scotland as part of Roman Britain, but the terrain, weather and Highlanders proved to be too tough for them.  The Romans were too far from home to bring in ample forces and supplies, so they gave up.  The Highlanders hadn't had enough though; they started raiding the Roman villages.  So the wall was built to protect the Romans.  Only fragments of the wall are left today and, unfortunately, we didn't get to see them.
We're sure we drove right along the wall for several miles, but by time we got to the place where the wall is supposed to be, it was so dark we couldn't see five feet off of the road. Being so far north, it gets dark early during November.  So, on to York --

We stayed at this nice Bed and Breakfast in York, (it's the section with the first set of windows by the sign and the floors above -- the rest is private homes.)  This is where "packing light" becomes very important -- we had to carry our suitcases up the three flights of stairs in this mid-1800's building.  But the location was great; from here it was just a four block walk to the gates of the city. 

Yes, I really mean "gates to the city", with the York Minster rising high out of the center of town.  (Toto, I'm sure we're not in Kansas anymore.)

This is the north gate.  Once inside, it's like stepping back in time.  Going up the stairs from the right we entered the guard house above the main gate where we could look out through the two arrow slits.  From here the large bar gate can be lowered and the entrance protected.  We walked along the wall, which is about fifteen to twenty feet high that runs around the city. 

In the U.S. something like this would be a National Historic Site (or at least a hefty priced tourist attraction.)  But here it is a real, modern day operating city with about 100,000 residents.

York's history includes Druids, (the original inhabitants of Great Britain,) Romans, Vikings and Normans, (who were originally from France and began the blood-line of the British monarchy that we know today.)  The structures around town are a mixture of all.

In 71 A.D. York was the Roman provincial capital.  Constantine was proclaimed emperor at the undercroft of the York Minister in 300 A.D.  When Rome fell, York became the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.  Churches were built during 600 A.D. and it became a Christian center of learning.  Then the Vikings came and took the city -- the name was changed to Jorvik and it was used as a Danish trading center.  Then it was the Norman's turn to invade and conquer.  They are the ones that built the castle and large walls that are present today.

Two rivers meet here forming a large "Y".  York, sits in the upper "V" portion so the rivers provide protection from attacks along two sides.
 
Above is a section of Roman wall, and the wall on the right is a combination of Roman, Viking and English construction.  You can tell a Roman wall by the layer of red brick.  Theories are that the red, harder brick either provided a moisture barrier, added strength, or was just because they had always done it that way.  In Roman walls we've seen in other countries, there is always a line of red brick.

The walls in York are very interesting because you can count the ages by the different bricks in the walls: Roman on the bottom, then Viking, Norman and then "new" ones from the 14th century.
 
This is the remains of a Roman Gothic church.  Although it looks eroded, it's demise was not the work of nature.  In the early 1500's, the divorce-obsessed King Henry VIII ordered the destruction of anything that was Catholic.

I was impressed by the labor hours that must have gone into the construction, let alone the techniques that were used to quarry and shape the round rock columns. 

The magnificent York Minster, in the center of the city, was spared by the King so it could be used as the northern location for his newly created Church of England.

Of all the cathedrals, churches, and abbeys we visited in Europe, (including the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris,) the York Minster is the one not to miss.  Unfortunately, the film we took of York Minster just doesn't show it's size or grandeur.  If you're interested in seeing it, visit their website at www.yorkminster.org.

Before heading into town each morning we'd sit down to a traditional English Breakfast.  No matter where we went, breakfast was typically tea, bacon (not like the U.S. -- it's a thick slice of chewy pork -- more like a slice of ham), a sunny-side up fried egg, toast and always a steamed whole ripe red tomato.  The tomato was a little odd at first but since the boys hate tomatoes and Cheryl didn't care for hers, I began to like them after three of four each morning for a week.

So off to town
Throughout Europe we found street markets open early for business and York was no exception.  Within the walls of the inner city most streets are very narrow and vehicle access is restricted to early morning, evening, or business deliveries.  The street on the bottom right with the York Minster in the background is call the Shambles.

Six hundred years ago bloody hunks of meat hung on hooks that are still visible under the eaves of existing stores.  The butchers would clean, cut, and slice the meat on tables along this commercial slaughterhouse street.  The blood and scraps would wash down into the gutter in the middle of the street, (see photo below on the left). The condition of this street gave the English language a new word.  Yes, this is where the word "shambles" comes from.

Go ahead, you try to get Mitch past a "Hot Sausage Wagon" without stopping for one.
Now here's what at first may look like an ordinary double decker tour bus.  But it sounded more like a college party.

The guys on top were all wearing Mexican style sombreros and had obviously had a few drinks.  As they slowly passed us, they all sang-shouted, "Who let the dogs out, ruff, ....ruff, ruff, ruff, ...... who let the dogs out, ruff ...... " 

See, not all of York is old and historical.

Here's a cool business sign.  Most businesses have signs that are in a shape that represents their craft, such as a shoe for a cobbler. 
Cheryl would really like to RV through all of Europe, but the large American models are way too big for the European roads.

She did like the looks of this model.  Here's an "RV" called a Caravan, (actually it's an old gypsy wagon.)

Max likes his apples peeled so we'll take one of these too.
These are both displays in the York Castle Museum

Dr. John Kirk was a country doctor in Northern Yorkshire.  In his travels from 1890 to 1920's he saw a traditional way of life disappearing and unrecorded.  So he began to collect everyday things.

Today his collection is housed in the York Castle Museum.  It includes everything imaginable such as kitchen tools, medical equipment, toy, tools, farm equipment, clothing, lock and keys, furniture, weapons, armor, bicycles and more. 

This is a picture of Dr. Kirk's "RV" taken during a 1903 caravan holiday collecting bygones on the North Yorkshire Moors.
Here Mitch and Max look out the window upon the streets "inside" Dr. Kirk's Museum.  Small shops have been built and completely furnished with Dr. Kirk's collections of everyday items.  Some of the trades represented are blacksmith, candle makers, furniture makers and general mercantile to name a few. 
Here's a few of the old metal toys and below was a surprise -- Rose's Lime Juice.  I would have thought this was a recent American product, but here we saw a bottle (a three foot tall bottle,) of Rose's Lime Juice with an established date of 1865 from London and the West Indies.

That's one thing about traveling.  I find myself looking a labels quite often to see where a product is made or imported from. 

The York Castle Museum has been described as the closest thing in Europe to a time-tunnel experience, and we'd have to agree.


 
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