I decided that England is a dreadfully dismal place to be in the whole of God’s cheery earth, as the National Express East Coast wound it way southwards towards York. Clear skies in Edinburgh soon became a memory as the train chugged through England – and fog intuitively seemed to roll in at the Scottish borders after Berwick-upon-Tweed, hugging the coast line and passing Holy Isle en route to Newcastle, Durham, Darlington and finally, York.
Even the weather hates the English, I thought childishly. Thankfully the 2.5 hour-long journey to York was mostly without incident, save for screaming children who got excited over sheep and inconsiderate parents sitting in the quiet coach. I gratefully got off the train, straight into the fog and right into the old town of York. Light, misty rain followed soon after. Despite the abysmal weather, York has history spilling out from its very name, and admittedly does pack quite a punch. 3-miles worth of the York walls still encircle the old town, and a short walk around half of it (they are actually wide enough for running on them) gave me the view that the Romans, Vikings, Anglo Saxons, and Normans had as well.
A detour en-route to the old town took me along those walks, past Micklegate, and past the last bridge across the river Ouse, and finally into the heart of the town, where all the shopping is concentrated on Coney street and the lanes that grow haphazardly around it.
York Minster, a gothic cathedral that rivals Cologne, dominates the town, and stands at the end of the spidery tourist roads.
It so happened that my day visit coincided with the Jovik Viking Festival, a week’s worth of brutal Viking debauchery (and some educational talks for good measure) which I strangely did not get to experience as all the exciting events will only be taking place in the weekend. Even the queue to the Jorvik theme-park museum (which promises an actual reconstruction of Viking life in the 10th century right down to its cesspits) was regretfully too long – in winter. One takes what one gets – a small Viking stand near the Jorvik Museum that is meant for educating children about Viking daily life.
Even the obligatory ghost tours start only at night. Instead, I found myself walking through a farmer’s market, and nursing a necessary hot cup of tea while resting the legs in a bookshop/cafe combination along Micklegate.
In a town of ancient history, archaeology and artefacts, perhaps the biggest irony was the stroll through York Gardens, around ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey that led to the city art gallery.