Stonehenge - An Amazing Triumph of Architecture
The 'Stonehenge Express' is a 28-seater coach; small and not one bit cramped. The coach was mildly air-conditioned and John Barton - owner-operator-driver-guide - with a mike clipped to his collar kept us all in good humour all through the 45-minute drive. He made it all so interesting with his rather light-hearted commentary and narration of interesting anecdotes, constantly pointing out to homes of famous glitterati and other important personalities who resided in the countryside. He even showed us where 'Mr. Bean' lived.
Under normal circumstances, after a hearty lunch, I'd have taken my 40-winks, but not on this trip. John made sure I didn't doze off. Isn't that what guides ought to be; expressive and ensuring that visitors are always engrossed? In sharp contrast, I remember the guide at the World Heritage site in Hampi (Karnataka), who I thought went through a routine that was extremely boring.
Actually, I was quite surprised to know that many a personality lived in and around Salisbury. I had this impression that London would be where the rich and famous lived. Apparently, that wasn't the case. Well, I guess if I had lots of 'moolah' and wished to make my home in England (and I'd love that), I'd choose to settle down in this beautiful countryside of Salisbury, with its thatched cottages, small parish churches, ancient sites and picturesque scenery.
We arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Stonehenge located near Amesbury, in the English county of Wiltshire. We showed our tickets and were allowed past the gates, walked across the road to view the most famous Neolithic Stone Circle in the World. It was an awesome sight. From across the road, the structure seems small, but as you get closer to the grassy plain where this World Heritage Site stands, walk on the tarmac and grass path around the outer circle, its then you realize its eminence.
The interesting thing about Stonehenge is that nobody really knows why it was built and the purpose it served. Interpretations have been many. Some say the construction was influenced by supernatural folktales, others say that Merlin the Magician built it and there's a school of thought that the Devil was responsible. Some historians attributed the site to it once being a Roman temple dedicated to a Greek god; others point out that this was a place for sacrificial ceremonies. Astronomers argued that its alignment was significant enough to suggest that it could have been used to predict eclipses.
For over 5000 years, these large standing stones have withstood the test of time. Built in three stages, involving millions of hours of work, bluestones from the mountains in south-west Wales were brought to the site. Some of these stones weighed as much as 4 tons. In the third stage of construction Sarsen stones from the north of Wiltshire were used and some of them weighed as much as 50 tons. How were these huge blocks of stone transported? How did they get these stones to stand upright? How many people worked to create this monument? Who managed the whole show for centuries?
Speculations and theories are been abound; but none have found answers to this great engineering feat. The Stonehenge mystery remains and the debate goes on.
|The 'STONEHENGE EXPRESS'
If you are planning to visit Stonehenge, I strongly recommend that you travel by the Stonehenge Express. The coaches are comfortable, the journey hassle-free and John Barton is perhaps the best guide you'll come across.
Tickets can be purchased at Bath Spa Railway Station, the Tourist Information Centre (next to Bath Abbey), and also from the driver on departure (providing seats are available). The coach departs from Grand Parade and Orange Grove.
Payment is by cash, traveler's cheques and most credit cards are accepted at the City Sightseeing office on Platform 1 of the Bath Spa Railway Station.
You can contact the main booking office at 01225 444102, 07836 742 422 or 07887 800 905. If you wish, you could even email John Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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