Tuesday, February 28, 2012

York in the snow, the Abbey again, and a Rugby match!


Yet again it's been a while since the last update. We've both been quite busy with uni work, and have both been ill with the flu off and on over the last few weeks. The good news is that we're both healthy and fighting fit, and it's starting to get warmer. It's a little over two weeks until uni breaks for easter, and we head off for our month long trip to Sweden, Berlin, Budapest and Paris. We're both very excited, even if there are a few essays and whatnot to be completed before end of term.

Well, despite the uni work and sickness, we've managed to get out and about and do a bit. A few weekends ago now, Steve headed over from Manchester and we headed out to sample a bit of the Leeds nightlife. We checked out a couple of good pubs, and a few pints (ale for me, scrumpy for Laura) later, we ended up finding a pub with some decent atmosphere, decent-ish music and grabbed some food. Pub food is pretty good over here, and sooo cheap - 4 pound (~$6) for a burger, chips and a pint. On a Friday night. In the city. Anyway, the demographic was pretty interesting, running the gamut from first-year or 'fresher' students right through to old blokes in flat caps. Very different to Oz, where heading out for a night on the town seems mostly to be for younger people.
Anyway, a few hours and a few shots later, we headed back home and crashed, Steve got the sofa.
The next day we got up later than planned and then headed off to York, about an hours drive away.

- History alert-
York is, unsurprisingly, the capital of Yorkshire. It's mind-blowingly old, being founded in 71 AD by the IXth Roman legion who built a wooden fort on the River Ouse. The fort expanded into a settlement, then a city, which was called Eboracum. It ended up as the Roman capital of the province of Britannia Inferior, and besides a host of Roman emperors including Hadrian and Septimius Severus visiting the city, it was in York that Constantine 'the Great' was acclaimed Emperor in 306 CE.

The city came under Anglo-Saxons control some time in the 5th century. The city, now called Eoforwic, was established as capital of the powerful Kingdom of Northumbria by King Edwin in the 7th century. In 866, Danish Vikings under Ivar the Boneless raided and captured York, setting up their kingdom of Jorvik which lasted for over a century. The last Viking ruler, the wonderfully named Eric Bloodaxe, was driven out by the English King Edred in 954CE.

In 1066, the pivotal battles of Fulford and Stamford Bridge took place, pitting the English against more Vikings, this time Norwegians under Harald Hadraada. The English came off best, but later in the year they were defeated by the Normans under William I of Normandy.

William captured York in 1068 and immediately began construction of York castle. In the 1080s work began on a church which would eventually become the magnificent and imposing York Minster. Throughout the middle ages York often served as royal court for the English kings, due to its strategic position close to the Scottish borders - Edward I was based there during his campaigns against William Wallace. The Scots gave as good as they got, raiding as far south of York on occasion. There is actually still a York bylaw which says it is legal to shoot a Scotsman with a crossbow from the city walls after dark.

In the 1480s, King Richard III of the house of York used the city as his base during the War of the Roses (so-called as the House of York had as it's symbol a white rose, the opposing Lancastrians Red). After Richard's defeat and death at Bosworth in 1485, York underwent a period of decline, made worse by Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s.

The city was besieged by Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil War, and, after defeating a royalist army at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, they returned and sacked the city.
In the following centuries, as industrialisation kicked in, York's position was supplanted by the industrial powerhouses of Leeds and Hull.
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So, that's the very brief history of a very old town. There is still so much history about, with the city still being surrounded by the medieval walls, the streets retain their medieval character, windy cobbled lanes with half timbered houses which look like they are about to topple over, all dominated by the massive York Minster. Thanks to the snow, the walls were closed off to us, so we wandered around the old town for a while, ending up at the site of the castle, now a museum. We did manage to check out Clifford's tower, the surviving part of the castle, and grabbed some lunch. There was a Viking festival of sorts going on in the town, and some very brave (and beardy) souls were dressed in full Viking clothes and armour and had set up campsites in the snow with period-authentic Viking tents. You can see these guys in the pictures at the top of this update. Below are some more pictures, Clifford's Tower, Micklegate Bar (in York, city gateways are called bars. Oh, and streets are called 'gates'. Confused? Anyway, Micklegate is a gate in the city walls, still in use) old houses, The Castle Museum buildings, and various churches and snow fight pics. There's also a pretty crazy picture of the flower garden. This was at uni, and the little plants were not only still alive but flowering through their holes in the snow.


It was absolutely freezing, far colder than Leeds, and so after a bit of a snowball fight out the front of the Castle museum, we decided to head back to Leeds so Steve could check out Kirkstall Abbey. We'd realised that you could actually get into the site, and wander around the grounds. The abbey church was immense, and it's amazing that such craftsmanship on such an immense scale was achieved in what was effectively the dark ages. And it's still standing now! I wonder what our shopping centres and houses will look like in 1000 years time.

Anyway, it was great to get a chance to explore around the actual grounds, and we managed to locate some creepy stone coffins, some 18th century graffiti, the Abbots quarters (two stories with two fireplaces! There were only three fireplaces in the whole Abbey! It must have been good to be abbot) and, of course, the medieval privies. Oh, and Steve managed to locate some fortifications, though I have a feeling they may have been a later addition.
After a great day we said goodbye to Steve and headed home. Below are some pictures. The first one hopefully gives some idea of the scale of the abbey - the thing is immense. The others are from the church, Steve in a castle, on a medieval privy, me going up the stairs to the Abbots room and picture of the cloister.


The next day, I managed to come down with the flu (again!) so the rest of the week was spent on cold and flu tablets. Realising I wasn't getting any better, after a lot of running around and much filling out of forms, I managed to get into see the doctor just across the road from our flat.
Mum and Dad had let us know that Dad's rugby league team, the Manly Sea-Eagles, were heading to Leeds for a showdown against the local team, the Leeds Rhinos. Mum and Dad shouted us tickets, and with the antibiotics kicking in, we decided to rug up, and head out to Headingly Carnegie Stadium for the match. This, as it turned out, was a fantastic decision. Despite the fact that there were probably a dozen other Manly supporters out of a capacity crowd of 17,500, the atmosphere was amazing. The crowd was chanting and singing (they even belted out God Save the Queen and 'Rule Britannia' a few times :)) and having a great time, made better no doubt by the fact that Manly were soundly beaten. To be fair, it was freezing cold and pouring with rain from time to time, and the Manly players looked rather freezing. The Rhinos played really well, and it was a great game to watch. Even better the crowd were all really friendly, the Rhinos supporter next to Laur even shook her hand at the end, and said good game. After another awesome night out, we headed back to the flat.

Well, that's about it for this update. We've since returned to York, checked out some of the excellent museums, and done a few more things. But thats for the next update!

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