Monday, May 16, 2016

Castle, Bath, and some Birds!

May 12: Cathedrals and abbeys dot the landscape here in Europe.  It's amazing to think of how much money and effort was put into building  these beautiful places of worship, that almost every town seems to have.    Some are more ornate and well-kept than others, but each is beautiful in its own right.   

Today we went to Tintern Abbey in Chepstow, Wales.   Wales was a new country for us (although you don't get a passport stamp arriving from the UK), so we were extra excited to be there.  The Abbey is now in ruins, but even still it was a sight to behold! It was clearly once a very grand building and it inspired awe in us even in its ruined state.  The surroundings, with the green rolling hills, were quite lovely too! 

We ended up eating lunch here. 

We also visited nearby  Chepstow Castle while we were in Wales.  Castles aren't quite as run of the mill as cathedrals in Europe, but again it is amazing to think of how many resources were used to create these grand buildings, which were essentially meant to be a show of power.   Like Tintern Abbey, Chepstow castle is also in a ruined state, but it still proved to be an interesting place to roam for a couple of hours.  The castle started being built in the 1000's and was built section by section in piecemeal fashion over the course of the next few hundred years.

These beautiful wooden doors have been hanging continually (even in its ruined state) since the 1100's! 

These little cubbies proved to be the perfect backdrop for one of my favorite recent pictures of Glen and I!

I loved this postcard we found in the gift shop near the Abbey.   It was a beautiful little glimpse into welsh culture. 

After Chepstow, we headed to Bath (England)!  Not to take a bath, but to visit the ancient Roman baths and learn about the significant influence of the Romans on British culture. 

But first we stopped at the Bath Abbey! This was another stunningly beautiful (and well-kept) building, that also was the one that did the best at sharing the good news of their gospel beyond just having the biblical artwork and stained glass on display.  
They distribute a pamphlet to everyone who comes, which essentially bears powerful testimony of Christ and was a touching reminder to me of the ultimate purpose of these grand buildings--to worship God. 

Next it was on to the baths!   Up until this point I had no idea the extensive influence of the Romans on British history and it was fascinating to learn a little about it.  In their height of power (around 60-70AD), the Romans  initially started building a temple near a natural hot spring and  dedicated it to the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva, and the British goddess of nourishing and healing, Sulis--which they conveniently combined and called Minerva Sulis.  

Over the course of the next 300 years they built up this entire bathing complex for the everyday people to use.  

Romans valued health, fitness, and cleanliness, so essentially this served as an ancient health club.   It was not only a place to bathe, but to exercise, worship, and socialize.  
It was absolutely amazing to see the extensive   waterworks and structures that they had created for these baths to function, basically for 2000 years. The power of the archways they built, that are still standing 2000 years later, is a testament to their ingenuity and ability to organize! 
After being educated and amazed in the baths, we walked out to the streets of Bath and were met with some levity!

A "bird charmer" (essentially an eccentric man bedecked in a suit with pockets of birdseed) would place pigeons on people's head to get them to laugh.   He would help arrange the birds to provide for the perfect photo opp, then as people snapped pictures he would hint for a tip.  We actually very much enjoyed it and were  happy to tip him afterward.  

Since I know it's the question you're all thinking....Only one of them received a little "gift" from the birds.  


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