Thursday, July 7, 2016

Monday, July 4: The Romans Were Here! (And So Were The Vikings)

This was our last day in York and we set out bright and early.  Here is David in the courtyard of the wonderful apartment where we stayed:

We had a few more items on our list of things we wanted to do before we left York and the first was to visit the "undercroft" of the cathedral.  This was something we'd really been looking forward to; the undercraft is sort of the basement and it has exhibits about the past of the Cathedral.  This includes artifacts related to the current cathedral as well as the older cathedral that was in the same spot before it AND from a Roman building that was there before that.  I had time to visit it briefly during my first visit to York and I remember a Roman mosaic and several other really nice things.   We've heard that there's a lot more there that has been gathered and organized in the years between my visits.

So we arrived eagerly at the cathedral in the morning and saw that there was extra scaffolding around the building that hadn't been there the day before, and a sign saying that the cathedral was closed for the next few days except for services.  They were "striking" the set of the Mystery Plays and I guess that was a pretty big job and they needed to keep the way clear for the workers.  It makes sense, but we were very disappointed.  If we had known earlier it would have been so easy to schedule things differently and to have seen the undercroft another day.

So we were kind of sad and grumpy for a few minutes, but then we remembered we were in York and life was still pretty wonderful and there were still lots of things to do.

First, we went to the Museum of York, which is a great museum full of exhibits about the history of York -- first natural history (fossils, etc), then all the different people who had populated the area from pre-history through Vikings and Romans and on.  After we'd absorbed as much of that as we could, we sat down in the beautiful gardens surrounding the museum and ate our picnic lunch.  The gardens include the ruins of an old abbey and there was a school group there and families with small children running around and it was just lovely to be there.

The gardens also include a very unusual feature: Roman stone coffins.  Apparently when they were digging to create the gardens they found them and just left them as a display.  (The bones inside were re-buried respectfully elsewhere.)

From here we went to our second museum of the day: the Jorvik Viking Museum.  This was more challenging than usual because this museum had to leave its usual home last December when the building was flooded and at the moment its contents are split up into three parts.  One part isn't open to the public yet, but we visited the other two locations.    We learned a lot about the history of the Vikings in York and their way of life.  There were several museum employees dressed in Viking costume and ready to tell visitors about various aspects of the Viking way of life.  All were interesting, but the one that really caught my eye was a young woman doing some kind of needlecraft:

She was creating fabric out of yarn, but it wasn't knitting and it wasn't crocheting and it wasn't weaving.  I asked her about it and she told me it was called naalbinding and it's a old Scandinavian craft that pre-dates knitting by over 1000 years and is still popular in Scandinavia.   It creates a very thick, warm, durable fabric that looks kind of like rows of braids.  She also told me there was a book of instructions in the gift shop -- so of course I snapped one up immediately!  It looks like it will be great fun to learn how to do this, but I need to wait until I get home.  It's going to need some time for concentration and also a type of yarn I don't have with me.

After all this museum walking, David decided to go back to our apartment for a bit of a rest, but I wanted just a little more time to stroll around this beautiful historic city.  Here are two pictures I snapped of interesting old buildings:

And finally, I decided to find a view I'd read about on the web before the trip.  Marks & Spencer has a 4-story location in York and the view of Yorkminster from the top floor was highly recommended.  I found the store and the top floor and discovered that the windows with the good views were all in the tea room.  So I treated myself to a cup of tea and drank in the sight at the same time.

A nice way to say goodbye to this city that I've come to love.

Tomorrow, Edinburgh!

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