Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roman Ruins

There are days I miss the States—those simple comforts like hot showers, fresh laundry, and dry shoes—but I haven't caught myself wishing England away yet, though I hardly see that ever happening; the fact still stands that I am living in one of the most historically stunning cities.

After two weeks here in York, I came to think I knew the city well—walking down the same streets every day seemed to shrink my mental map of York—but just as I thought I'd seen it all, I was shown differently. The other day, I took advantage of the free walking tours of York where I ventured beyond the city walls into Roman York.

For two bitterly cold hours, a guide led us along a trail marked with golden castle pins set in the cobblestone roads staking out locations of interest. And there are hundreds, half of which I don't remember the meanings seeing as my brain was frozen solid. However, the pins I do remember are sites one would never see in the States, sites so old I could hardly comprehend their authenticity. 

Our first stop was the west wall of Eboracum, the Roman name for York, called the Multangular Tower. Standing strong since the Romans first settled in 71 AD, the wall demonstrates the strength of Roman architecture, and the beauty. Also excavated nearby were ancient Roman coffins carved from stone. "Dead beds" as the guide called them.

Not far from the Multangular Tower, stands the haunting skeleton of St. Mary's Abbey. Built in 1055, the Abbey has experienced extensive destruction over the centuries and has only been restored enough to maintain it's original structure. I have to say, rounding the corner to find these ruins nearly took my breath away— it would have succeeded if the cold hadn't already stolen my lungs. And as we stood there in this open park, this grand structure towering almost as high as the trees, I found it extremely difficult to focus on the guide's soft-spoken stories while all I wanted to do was walk up and touch the ancient stonework set in place by the hands of long-dead men. 

History is present here, standing tall above our heads and layered in moist moss, reminding us of the people who came before and welcoming the people who have only just come. I think I can hold off with my hot showers just as long as I can walk through the gates of St. Mary's Abbey on my way to the store every other day.