Last Sunday, I went with my brother and his friend, Wei Lun, for a day trip to Wiltshire. It was a trip organized by an organization by the name of “Weekend Trip”. Sketchy and dubious as its name might sound, the trip was actually quite well-organized. Well, apart from the fact that the coach buses did not leave London on time. But nothing in London seems to run on time. Nothing is crazily late but things have not been running perfectly on time for me. We paid 25 pounds which included the transportation costs and that is really cheap! It took us about 2 hours to get to Salisbury including a highway rest stop. Salisbury is the only city in Wiltshire and it is pretty small with just a mere population of around 40, 000. We spent 3 hours in Salisbury and that was definitely more than enough time for us to see most of Salisbury. The main tourist attraction in Salisbury is the cathedral. Built in a single architectural style, this cathedral is said to be Britain’s finest 13th century Gothic cathedral. From Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson claimed, “Salisbury Cathedral is the single most beautiful structure in England, and the Close around it the most beautiful space.” Well, I need to see more of England to judge!
Beside the beautiful architecture, Salisbury Cathedral is definitely worth a visit because it has Britain’s tallest spire, the world’s best preserved original Magna Carta (a piece of document that legally limits the power of the king) and Europe’s oldest working clock.
After visiting the cathedral, we took a walk along the river side and in the small town. As unbelievable as it might seem, the river flowing through Salisbury is very clean and clear! It is so different from the Thames flowing through London. I like this face of England. 🙂
After visiting Salisbury, we went to see Stonehenge which was a 20 minutes drive away. Stonehenge is one of those places that I know I would have to visit and pay tribute to at some point in my life. Prior to my visit, I knew very little about Stonehenge except it is still a mystery today. I like to see things that I don’t understand. These things make me humbler and they definitely give me perspectives on life. Everyone of us is so small in the bigger scheme of things. It was estimated that Stonehenge was built around 3500 BC. We were given an audio guide each and that certainly helped us to appreciate Stonehenge and its surroundings better. Now picture this: around 3500 BC, these “prehistoric people” built a temple with stones in the middle of nowhere. This temple is special not because it was built many years ago but it is special because some of these stones, in particular the blue stones, were carried here from Wales. There were no cars/ trucks back then so imagine the effort it required to bring these stones here. There are many theories about why Stonehenge was built and personally, the theory that I find most convincing is this: the temple was built to remember important dead people. There are many burial mounds all around Stonehenge and today people think that in the past, it was a big deal to bury dead people in places where Stonehenge could be seen. The temple was built with tremendous effort, the important people were buried and many, many years later, all we see is a pile of stones surrounded by sheep grazing on green pastures. Is this considered a legacy? How differently should we lead our lives if we know that whatever matters today will not matter tomorrow?
To give visitors a sense of how much effort it took to build Stonehenge, the Brits have a little interactive area near the visitor center. There is a rock on a tow system and the objective is to pull the rope as hard as you can and there is a meter that tells you how many people with your strength were required to move the rock back then. Some tourists seem to be having a good time trying to move the rock!