Monday, July 11, 2011

York, York, What a Wonderful Town

We had a fun outing walking around York, an ancient city in the north of England famous for its Minster and its Viking roots.

The Minster is the main cathedral of the city and is quite beautiful. My wife and I saw it on our last trip to England, six years ago. Our recent visit was on a Sunday morning, so the Minster was not open for visitors. It still functions as a Church of England house of worship. We are sure to come back another day and let the children see it. I've been enchanted by the Minster ever since I read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, where a wizard enchants the Minster's statues and they come to life.

We managed to see a bit of the Viking side of the city. The most prominent part is the Jorvik Viking Centre. The Centre contains exhibits on the history and archeology of the first Viking settlements in the area. The items on display were interesting and informative, including weapons, human skeletons, and the remains of buildings and animals. They also had a mock archeological site where you walked on a glass floor and could see what the excavations looked like.

A big selling point of the Centre is the recreation of a Viking village. Visitors can ride through the village with an audio tour. Jacob liked the ride so much that we rode it a second time. I was happy to ride a second time. On the first trip I chose the "child-friendly" English audio tour for Lucy's benefit. That tour was narrated by a young boy from the ancient village who gave his perspective on things. The second time I listened to the "regular" English audio tour (they also had French, German, Japanese) which had a nice woman narrator giving more detail about the archeology and history. One way they try to sell the tour is by saying it has "authentic smells" of a Viking village. The smells were mostly unnoticeable. The blacksmith's house did smell like a hot metal forge, but the rest of the ride had a fairly generic smell that never changed. They had a lot of gritty details, including how they handled the lack of plumbing.

After the ride was another room with more exhibits and some people. One fellow in Viking garb was demonstrating how they made coins. He'd put a blank silver coin on a stamp base, put the other half of the stamp on top, and then smash it with his hammer. He'd make any comer a coin for five chickens. Or a small pig. Or £1.50. One boy paid him and the fellow said no one had paid him in chickens for a long time. Then he gave a mighty whack and handed the freshly minted coin to the boy. Jacob wasn't with me when I saw this, otherwise I think I would have had to offer up five chickens.

Of course, the exhibits exited through the gift shop, which had lots of interesting knickknacks and customers. We did not stay long. Once outside, we discovered a bunch of owls:

Nobody wants to look at the camera today!

The trainer seemed bored waiting for a customer.

Why does the smallest bird take the best picture?

Lucy and Jacob were both interested in the birds. A the sign told us that anyone could get their picture taken with a bird of prey for a not too small fee. We watched for a bit, but no one in the crowd tried it out.

We wandered some more, finding street performers and lunch along the way. I had the ever popular bangers and mash (sausages on mashed potatoes). We almost made it back to the car before the rain came pouring down again. We tried to get some shelter in a tea shop, but no tea shop could be found where we were.

We will definitely come back to visit again, especially to see the Minster and to walk on the medieval walls of the city.

No comments:

Post a Comment