November 8, 2015

Salisbury & Stonehenge

A day trip to two iconic sites in Wiltshire, a county in England’s southwest.

About a month ago, I was wondering where the tallest church spire in the UK is. I found it to be less than 150 Km (∽90 miles) from London; moreover, it turned that the location is just a stone’s throw away from possibly the most famous pile of rocks on Earth: the Stonehenge. Well, there was the plan.

I opted to see the cathedral first, to reserve late afternoon light to the Neolithic monument.

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Morning Salisbury’s streets were lifeless.

The cathedral was built in just 38 years, completed in 1258. The tower was added by 1330.

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Not just the spire, the cathedral's cloisters are also Britain's largest.

I got inside just in time before their service and decided to stay for the mass, leaving the exploration of the interior for later.

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Modern buildings of this scale are nothing unique. But at the time of construction, cathedrals like this were sticking out of cities formed by mostly small wooden houses and unpaved roads more than anything. That's always powerful to remember on sites like this.

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There is also one modern element worth mentioning: the “Font” (2008), a cross-shaped fountain used for baptism.

Although the water is in constant motion, the water surface is completely calm. It works as one large mirror, reflecting all the cool windows.

I was hoping to be able to climb up the tower as well; unfortunately, the only tour for today was already sold out. That being revealed, I checked out another highlight of the place, the Magna Carta, a charter written and signed 800 years ago (!), in 1215.

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This is the room where the Magna Carta is stored. Some years ago, I would care less about some historical writings. Although I am still a couple of light-years from being a bibliophile, I will admit that I truly enjoyed the exhibited piece.

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Last look, and it was the time to move towards the second part of the trip: the Stonehenge. Getting about 4 Km (2.5 miles) from the monument, there was a massive traffic jam. With no interest in spending the rest of the day sitting enclosed in a metal box on wheels, I stepped out and finished the rest to the site on foot. I was really looking forward to the prehistoric set of megaliths. After a bit of walking in the countryside

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..the icon was in sight.

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Notice the crowds, the turnout here is huge. Considering the prices, £15 per adult, this is profitable as heck.

They have sidewalks going to the gate from each side, which is great. What’s not is the fact that they are selling tickets at the visitor centre next to the parking lot, 1.6 miles away from the entrance. I would get over that; however, there was another issue: while the site closes at 5 p.m., they won’t sell you a ticket after 3 p.m., and when I got to the gate, it was 2:53 – no way for me to reach the centre in time. For a country that promotes “green ways” of transportation like the UK does, it’s quite a shame to disadvantage anyone who bike or walk there from any other direction than the car access. I did. Anyway, I asked a security guy at the gate if they don’t sell the tickets here – negative. I asked about any possibility of access – negative. No ticket, no way. “Ok. I’ll get one,” I thought and started to talk about the issue with some Asian tourists that just left the site, who had no problem supplying me with the ticket. With that in hand, I’ve returned to the gate. But, the security, after he saw the ticket, said “I’ve no idea where you got this, but you didn’t buy it, so you need to get the hell out.” As he said this, he picked his radio and said my description with a “safety threat” label to other guards. Then he added, “In fact, you are on private property, (I was one step in the gate) get out. Now.” On the one hand, I understood he was “just doing his job.” On the other, the situation could be handled much better. The ways of communication make an enormous difference.

Back at the stones, any more attempts to talk with this guy would be pointless, so I walked away. I calmed down when I got on a small hill on the other side of the valley where I had a good view of the ‘henge on one side and a sunset on the other.

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The sun was soon at the horizon, and a bus took the last bits of the crowd away.

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When the site closed, I returned closer and did something that always brings my mood up: take some pictures.

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Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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