Sunday, 24 July 2016

We took a stroll around the village to start our day and then set off for some sight-seeing.

Winchester, Capital City of England 1000 years ago. 

The Kingdom of Wessex was the part of England that resisted the Vikings and was the last place to fall to the invading Normans following 1066 when “modern” England began. (Wales held out a lot longer, but that’s another story!).

We’ve travelled around Europe quite a lot in recent years, mostly on river cruises with Viking, where the ABC of touring means “Another Bloody Church/Castle/Chateau”, so Winchester was a real surprise. It wasn’t just “Another Bloody …”.

It’s because the history here is really history; dates go back to the first millennium: the Middle Ages seem almost recent.

The Great Hall is (allegedly) where Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table lived and met. The names engraved around the table included names such as Lancelot and Galahad. The space is impressive.

On the opposite wall the entire lineage of English Royalty is displayed.

Outside are pretty medieval gardens that lead you to much more modern British history: the home and museum of the Gurka Rifles.

Just beyond this is a beautiful square of seriously upscale properties, perhaps once the residences of senior army officers, as it's called Peninsula Square (Duke of Wellington, and all that).

We then strolled through narrow streets to the Cathedral. Another blast of serious history.

It claims to hold the remains of the Kings of Wessex: Canute, Ethelred and others who died in the Dark Ages; 1st Millennium Britain. Stones in the floor and on the walls cover the entire 2nd Millennium: dates including the Plague years (1666-1667); pretty well every war in which Britain’s been involved (and there’ve been quite a few!) and the tomb of Jane Austen. A total overdose of history in the most beautiful of buildings.

The rest of the city is dotted with interesting or historic buildings and lovely parks and gardens, as well as being a place well equipped as a 21st Century city in which to live.

Why we’ve never visited Winchester before is a bit of a mystery. Our only excuse is that it’s one of those places you’ve heard of, but not often heard about. Not often somewhere surprises us; Winchester did.