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  • Writer's pictureJanette Frawley

'Travel far and wide and you should possess the secrets of man'

3 January 2022

Great excitement today as we board a train for York. Despite only being able to secure 'backward' seats, somehow it doesn't matter too much. Being able to freely travel is enough for me!

I have a ticket to visit the Jorvik Viking Centre in York at 3 o'clock, so whilst Natasha traverses the city walls, I join the tiny queue to enter this fascinating museum.

Almost immediately I am transported back 1,000 years in time. Between 1976 and 1981, archaeologists not only found evidence of Viking occupation in York, but uncovered houses, workshops, and backyards. The Jorvik centre is built on the very site of the excavation and the reconstructed sites are presented as a ride experience. As I fly through the Viking-era city, the commentary points to the many aspects of Viking life that have been derived through the excavations. At the end of the ride, the museum displays artifacts uncovered from the site.

As I return to the 21st century and the wintry January day at street level, I realise that York's long history is all around me; displayed in the streets, the cobblestones, the buildings.

York was founded by the Romans in 71AD after they ousted the indigenous Brigantes tribe of people from the area. It is not known whether the Brigantes were permanent settlers. The initial fort had been built of timber and was later replaced by the stone fortress we see today. The site of the fort's headquarters lies beneath York Minster and excavations have revealed part of the Roman structure and columns.

Due to its northern location and proximity to navigable rivers, York has always been an important trading port and after the decline of the Roman empire and by the 7th century it became the chief city of King Edwin of Northumbria. The first minster was a wooden church and was built for the baptism of Edwin in 627.

It's really difficult to retain the history of the different eras in York's long history, but I am content with the little bit of knowledge gleaned from just being here. As afternoon darkens into the evening, I catch sight of York Minster at the end of a laneway. I have found Natasha by now and together we wander through the shambles, a tiny shopping lane filled with historic buildings and quirky shops. Christmas lights sling from building to building as the cold and damp evening chill leaches through our coats. It crosses my mind briefly that perhaps I don't have enough clothes that will block out the seeping cold. I dismiss that idea almost immediately.

Completed in 1472 after several centuries of construction, York Minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York. Over the centuries, it has been destroyed, rebuilt, and damaged on numerous occasions, the last being 1984 when a serious fire broke out in the south transept. Firefighters had decided to collapse the roof of the south transept to save the remainder of the building from destruction.

Tomorrow, we collect a car and start a road trip through the Yorkshire moors and dales.

Title quote: Traditional Viking (Norse Mythology)

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