Saturday, March 14, 2009

Salisbury & Stonehenge

Guess what? The day after I arrived in the UK, we went to Stonehenge! I'm fascinated by ancient history and love visiting old buildings and monuments, and of course, it doesn't really get any older than Stonehenge. I've always really wanted to go there and was so excited to get the chance to see it in person! To get there from London, you take a train to Salisbury an hour and a half away, then catch a bus to get to the stones. I enjoyed the train ride down, even though the scenery didn't look any different from the landscapes I'm used to. But it's always nice to see for yourself what a place looks like, and besides, it was just fun to be able to look out the window and think, Wow, I'm in England! The bus that you take to get to Stonehenge is run by a private tour company. I expected just a ride to the monument, but they actually give you a very nice tour of Salisbury, explaining the history of the town and the Salisbury Plain. Salisbury is a pretty Medieval town and worth the visit just for itself; a lot of the streets there look similar today to what they were like 600 years ago. Unlike a lot of British towns, it didn't suffer any bombing attacks during WWII, and after the war they learned that German bombers had been under strict orders not to touch the Salisbury Cathedral because they were using it as a marker to find their way. Most of the land on the Salisbury Plain is owned by the military and has been a major location for pilot training. Of course, the known history of the area goes back for millennia, and aside from Stonehenge itself a very noticeable sign of this history are the many burial mounds that still dot the countryside. It's really a fascinating place to visit.

Stonehenge itself was really, really cool. Our bus tickets included entry to the site and free audio guides to the site. You walk around the stones, and there are markers along the way that tell you when to move on to the next section of the recording. Seeing this was definitely the highlight of my week!

On the way back to Salisbury, the tour bus stops at the ruins of a 12th-century castle that you can visit if you want (also included in your bus ticket). We did that as well. On the way up the hill to the ruins we made a new friend:

I think this guy was probably very used to strangers walking past his yard ;) BTW, here's a pic of the castle ruins:

And here's one of the medieval streets of Salisbury:

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