York

To start, York was much smaller than I’d expected. Perhaps it was the fame of the name York, Yorkie, Yorkshire, Yorkminster and New York just to name a few examples, but somehow I expected something far more grand and huge from the city. I was impressed, certainly, Yorkminster was easily the biggest cathedral I’d seen up to that point and even now stands as one of the largest and most impressive in the world, but other than that the emphasis of York seemed more on small and quaint than anything. York is fairly spread out with a very focused inner core leading into a massive suburban small-town style sprawl, and that inner core rather than being the business laden skyscraper-center you’d generally expect from a big-name cities core, was actually itself a little slice of well preserved history still snugly wrapped in ye olden walls and with twisting leaning streets abound.

And that’s the most interesting aspect of York, the historic core. Walking down a small-town style street you’re faced with the ancient gates of the old wall when approaching the core, the walking path even heading through the old foot gate at the side while the street runs through the gatehouse proper. Inside you’re walking on the uneven cobbles of the past and buildings from an age long gone, or at least buildings made to look like they’re from such an era. Other than a few larger streets for vehicles the vast majority of the traffic is pedestrian through tight, twisty streets with old wooden buildings looming overhead towards each side. Most prominent and easy to find landmark is without a doubt the massive Yorkminster Cathedral, easily one of the most large and magnificent cathedrals you’ll ever see.

Yorkminster. Damn impressive. A huge cathedral of gothic design, looming over the nearby houses and business with a sort of majestic might. Carving adorn every square inch of the building it seems, with gargoyles sitting on ledges and statues of kings and queens lost passed seemingly everywhere. The stained glass windows are absolutely massive, almost beyond compare, and the central tower is hollow allowing people on the ground level to stare up and up and truly understand the sheer scale of it all. Choirs sing regularly there to help set the mood and occasionally the organ with blast its rich deep tones into the silence. That said being such a big name comes with a price, both literally and not. Tourists bustling here and there kinda ruin the mood (I was one, so I shouldn’t complain, but still!) and the usual quiet murmur of the church is replaced with babbling sightseers and annoying children. As for literal price, this is the ONLY cathedral during all my travels where you had to pay for entrance, a fact that still stings now. Oh sure, it’s impressive, and other cathedral and church usually charge for seeing the crypts and relics, but Yorkminster was the only which charged simply for entering the place. Not cool. Despite my complaints if you’ve got the money its certainly worth it if you’re into those kinda buildings like I am. Still…. charging to enter a church? Ouch.

For other sights York Castle was a bit disappointing, essentially just the empty shell of the keep remains sitting upon a small hill, scenic to be sure and neat enough, except that they charge you to enter it despite being essentially a ruin with a few standing walls. Cardiff Castle is the same, the Norman keep that is, except that’s counted as part of a fee for entry that also includes a plethora of other things. Ah Well! To make up for it I rather enjoyed the cheesy Jorvik-Viking-Center they have, which to say the least was not at all what you’d expect from a historical museum and exhibit. I refuse to give it away since I was so pleasantly surprised myself, but lets just say rides were involved. Weeeeeeee!

Nah, the main sight in York is the city center itself, its classical buildings and narrow streets, the massive cathedrals and ancient walls and ruins. The entire thing melds together to form a sort of York experience that’s not unlike stepping into the past… a past where peasants walk by listening to Ipods and there are cars on the streets and computers for sale in the windows, but still, the past! I enjoyed York a fair bit to be sure and would have to suggest it to anyone who’s touring the UK like I was. It’s not the biggest or most gaudy city, but its got a certain charm and a nice vibe to it that most others only dream of achieving.

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