Monday, December 5, 2016
Historic Places: York
I had been anticipating this stop since we first planned our trip. This was what I had been waiting for, a city that allowed me to experience settings that have retained elements from the time period that I write about. It was tempting to run my hands along the walls on the off chance that a famous Plantagenet might have once placed their hand in that same spot.
To enter York, we passed through an arch in the medieval wall. I was astounded to learn that great portions of the wall were demolished in 1800 to create space and easier access to the city. Of course, the medieval gates were inconvenient for a modern city and the wall had long since fallen out of use for defense, but it is still a sad story. Thankfully, those who fought to preserve the wall saved what they could, and York displays the most complete medieval city wall system in England.
Now the city's efforts go to preserving and restoring the wall instead of tearing it down. Two of the gateways, called 'bars', include small museums that I was eager to see. We made our way first to the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar.
Our intention had been to then make our way to the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar, just to keep things fair, of course. Unfortunately, we were there on a day that it closed early and had missed our chance. Instead, we walked along the wall where I imagined soldiers standing guard and armies camped out in the distance laying siege to the town. The kind city of York now provides a fence along the open side of the walkway to ensure proper safety for the wall's modern users.
One does not need to be standing upon the city wall to see York Minster. The huge cathedral dominates the city skyline and dwarfs all other structures in the vicinity. To imagine this giant, beautiful structure built before any modern technological advances is mind-boggling. Each surface of the building boasts intricate carvings, ancient stained glass, soaring towers, and unimaginable beauty. Folks, they just don't make them like this anymore.
(See those tiny people down there? I couldn't even fit the entire side of the church in one picture!)
I can only imagine how inspiring it must have been for the people hundreds of years ago to see this wondrous building. It does not fail to awe modern visitors any less.
No, it's not just you. Those buildings really are leaning in toward each other across the street, sideways into each other, and every which way. They may look like they are about to fall down, but the buildings in the Shambles have been carefully preserved to maintain the historic structure while keeping it safely intact. It's so wonderful to see an area like this preserved instead of torn down for another boring modern structure. It would be impossible to build anything new that could match the charm of the Shambles. Just as they were hundreds of years ago, these shops are open for business to the curious people strolling down the cobblestone street.
This is a city that I simply must make my way back to someday.