When I moved to London last year, York topped my “things to do/ see/ experience” list. And then I got busy studying and travelling to nearer places. But I never forgot York. There is something iconic about York—perhaps attributable to its historic value and the fame of its York Minster. 6 am this morning I was, thus, off to catch my train from King’s Cross station, to keep a promise to myself.
The history of York has been said to be the history of Britain. Dating back to 71 AD when it was founded by the Romans, the city first served as the capital of the Roman province “Britannia Inferior”, and thereafter that of subsequent rulers, namely, the Angles and Vikings. It was also in York, in 306 AD, that Constantine the Great was proclaimed emperor by his troops. A Roman column marks the site; the column was once part of 36 similar ones that supported a great hall in the Roman garrison.
I spent much of the morning exploring the Roman ruins including the ten-sided Multangular Tower in the Museum Gardens, the medieval city walls punctuated with the four main bars or gatehouses, and the remnants of the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary which all told tales of times no more.
But York’s highlight is without a doubt its Minster which stands grandly in the heart of the city. The largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, its three towers can be seen from far and wide within the city. I climbed up the Central Tower. 275 excruciatingly steep steps to its top—round and round a spiralling stone staircase which got narrower and narrower with every stride up. I was sure I was going to die somewhere in the middle of it all. I was told the tower weighed 16,000 tonnes. That is equal to 40 jumbo jets.
Once back to ground level I allowed myself to indulge in much gentler, harmless pursuits. Read: Five Sisters Window made with the largest amount [100,000 pieces] of Early English grisaille (1260); the Great West Window (1338); and the 15th Century quire screen.
It was also by now getting closer to my train’s departure time and, thus, necessary for me to switch over from traveller to tourist. This required the mandatory walk through the Shambles, a once upon a time meat market and now tourist mecca, and a visit to the Jorvik Viking Centre, the world-famous reconstruction of the Viking period. I love the way history is celebrated in England. Every era, event and personality transformed into an authentic human experience.
Some promises are always worth keeping and celebrating. A visit to York is one of them.