Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Lincoln Field Trip

When I was in second grade, my class went on a field trip to Fort Snelling, essentially the most important historical building in Minnesota. It was really quite cool – an army outpost built in 1819, designed to protect American territory from the wicked, insidious British forces that were (apparently) a major threat to national security. Or something nice and oversimplified like that.

Last Wednesday, the entire college went on a field trip to Lincoln. Which is by no means the oldest settlement in Britain. But was a Roman outpost. To put it rather inelegantly, stuff is just so much older here. In the United States, virtually nothing from the precolonial period is still surviving. But here, it’s not uncommon to see structures more than one thousand years old. Incredible.

The day of the field trip was cold. Extremely cold. Being from Minnesota, I know how to dress for bad weather. Geared up in my incredibly unattractive ensemble of leggings, tights, jeans, wool socks, a tank top, long-sleeved top, flannel top, sweater, scarf, mittens and coat, I thought I would be duly prepared. And I didn’t freeze to death, although I was quite chilly for most of the day. However, we did experience a miracle—the sun was out, and was shining gloriously at that. I tend to be rather more pensive here than at home, but the sun managed to dispel the intense and brooding mood that had been plaguing my friends and me of late.

Part of the walking tour
Because such a massive horde of American barbarians was descending upon the city at once, we were divided into a number of groups and sub-groups. I am pleased to report that the city of Lincoln managed to withstand this invasion better than it did the Romans, although I am sure we wreaked some form of havoc or another. There were four main activities planned for us. Almost all of which took place largely outdoors, I may add. My group first did the independent walking tour. Well, actually, I am rather shamed to report that, while the hardier members of my group may have done just that, a couple friends and I did a significant proportion thereof, got cold, and then found a cozy little bookstore to while away the remainder of the hour. We did see a good amount of the city, including the aptly named Steep Hill, which, I can assure you, is not a lark. Beautiful town, however, and immersed in history.

The magnificent Lincoln Cathedral
We then proceeded to the Lincoln Castle tour, which was perhaps the most frigid part of the day, what with the exposure on the walls. That said, it was really quite interesting. Our guide was an adorable little old lady named Dorothy, who knew a great deal about the castle and delighted in regaling us with some of the rather less palatable facts about the...rather ignoble history of the British prison system. And hearing it come from her tiny body and grandmotherly face made it even more interesting. Basically, the Normans built the castle on an old Roman site around 1068. Eventually, it was used as a prison and was the site of a not-insignificant number of hangings. It also houses one of the few extant original copies of the Magna Carta, and is still part of the English Court system.

After a break for our thoughtfully-provided bag lunches (read: ducking into a coffee shop and trying desperately to warm up by drinking a hot beverage, as well as attempting to stuff our faces with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as inconspicuously as possible), the next stop on our grand tour was the Cathedral. Which was simply magnificent. I am fully aware that it was built in a manner designed to impress a sense of awe on the onlooker, but even with that knowledge, I was overwhelmed by its beauty and majesty. The sheer vastness of the building, the intricacy of the carvings and statues, and the light coming in through the elaborate stained-glass windows created an overall impression of grandeur and reverence.

Finally, we went on the “Roman Walk,” which my wordplay-besotted mind thinks should be called “Roamin’ the Romans,” or something similarly groan-worthy, but I digress. We saw a number of ruins, which we quite interesting, but honestly, by this point in the day, we were too cold and too overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new and impressive sights that we—well, myself, at least, but I feel like this was not an uncommon problem—had trouble focusing on the extremely important, but rather less magnificent Roman well and arch. Saw a lovely statue of Tennyson, but I am afraid we glossed over that rather quickly. Twas a shame. I do so love Tennyson.

My friend Emily and I braving the cold.
Overall, near-frostbite aside, the Lincoln field trip was a really good experience. While the cathedral was particularly glorious, everything we saw was beautiful. And as interesting it is to hear about history—about castles and cathedrals, battles and prisons—it is so much more rewarding when you can physically, tangibly experience a place. I love to read about history, but when one reads about a place, one only learns about the place. However, standing in the Lincoln Cathedral, I finally understood the sense of awe about which I had always read. That alone would have made the entire trip more than worth it. 

1 comment:

  1. Enjoy your time at Harlaxton. Seriously. It goes SO fast! Travel as much as you can. Stay for an extra semester if at all possible!