Monday, December 17, 2012
What do you think of Stonehenge: magical, or just a bunch of rocks? I always thought of the place as magical, as evidenced by my thoughts on my first trip to Stonehenge five years ago. But when I went back last weekend, I wondered whether the legendary circles of sarsen stones would awe me as much the second time as they had the first.
My trip took place on a day that was almost identical to the previous one. It was winter, it was freezing, and it was brilliantly sunny and beautiful outside. I arrived on a tour with Rabbie’s instead of a train, but the rest was the same. The crowds were sparse given the time of year, and I walked right up to the ticket booth, collected my ticket (compliments of VisitEngland), picked up an audio-guide, and proceeded through the tunnel under the road.
When I emerged, I stood face-to-face with Stonehenge. Well, there was a bit of distance in between. The site was roped off so that visitors couldn’t get too close, a welcome change from the days when tourists used to buy hammers in the nearest town so that they could chip off a piece of the sarsens as a souvenir.
As the voice on my audioguide went over all of the various theories of why Stonehenge was created and how the stones were transported from what is thought to be a quarry way out in Wales, I only half listened. The stones themselves, silhouettes in the warm sunlight, were mesmerizing.
Maybe it’s just me. I have always been a sucker for history, and the further something dates back, the more awe-inspiring I find it. I used to spend all of my lunch breaks at the British Museum, and I have traveled the world to see the likes of the Pyramids of Giza and the ancient city of Damascus.
As I circled Stonehenge, taking in the scene and learning about the craftsmanship involved in the construction and the fact that the sun falls through a different slot in the stones every month of the year, I knew I wasn’t the only one that felt the importance of the place. Other people were standing in admiration, too.
In fact, the only ones that didn’t seem impressed by the sarsen stones were the resident sheep, who grazed in the adjacent pasture as if unaware of the greatness that pervaded their surroundings (okay, so maybe they were completely unaware. But they have an excuse. They’re sheep.).
Once I had completed my circuit of the circles, I returned to the tunnel, handed in my audioguide, and headed for the van. I felt satisfied that my second trip to Stonehenge was as satisfactory as my first, and assured that everyone else felt the same way (save for the sheep, who are feeble minded and therefore don’t count in my incredibly precise analysis).
Then I received a text from a friend in the area. “Just drove by Stonehenge,” it began, “it is such s*&!”. Deflated and resisting the urge to classify my friend as a sheep, I decided to put the question to my readers. So, to return to the first sentence of this post, what do you think of Stonehenge: is it magical, or just a bunch of rocks on the side of the road? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!