Today we continued to learn about the rich history of York. Waking up early to walk to the York train station, we reserved our train tickets for upcoming journeys and then proceeded to walk along the city wall. Many of us enjoyed photographing the beautiful York cityscape as well as taking the ever-popular selfie. As we walked, we imagined the various operations that would have gone on when the wall was still functional. The height of the wall was meant both to keep out invaders and to keep in the townspeople. While many of us were alarmed by the precariousness of the steep stone steps, we all managed to complete the walk without falling off (there were gates in some sections but not everywhere).
Next on our itinerary was the Micklegate Bar Museum. This museum is dedicated to the history of many of York’s famous royals including, Richard, the Duke of York. In the two upper levels there were informational exhibits on the medicinal properties in some herbs and spices, the head of the Duke of York on a spike, and various parts of a knight’s armor. For almost half an hour we were like little kids playing dress-up, trying on chain-mail, helmets, and other cumbersome pieces of clothing (I’m sure these pictures will end up on Facebook). Needless to say, the armor was not one size fits all, and some of us could not see out of the too-big helmets. There was also a copy of Shakespeare’s Richard III on display. Having read this in Dr. Clark’s Shakespeare class, many of us were able to connect that text with the history we were learning about. It was an educational but fun experience.
After a short detour in the charity bookstore Ox-Fam (English majors rejoiced), we were dismissed to find lunch on our own. One group went to a Japanese restaurant while another went to a French restaurant. On other walks, I have personally seen restaurants for Turkish, Chinese, Indian, Italian, American, and Indonesian foods. York offers a wonderful variety of foods to choose from, and I look forward to exploring more of these cuisines.
The rest of our scheduled afternoon was spent at Barley Hall, the former home of William Snawsell, a very well-to-do English businessman. The tour was highly interactive and enjoyable, and most students in our group were able to do some playacting to learn more about the everyday life of Tudors (while laughing at the poop jokes, too, of course). What struck me as particularly interesting is that Snawsell, a very important rich man, was illiterate. He relied on his steward, who was literate, to aid him in everyday business transactions. I had always thought that it was the poor who could not read and the rich who could, so this was an eye-opening experience for me. I am sure many others in our group could say the same.
After touring Barley Hall, we broke up into smaller groups to find dinner and enjoy free time. Courtney and I wandered through the pedestrian shopping and as we were heading back to the hostel, we saw that we were just in time to attend Evensong at York Minster. As Catholics, we appreciated the differences and similarities in the short service. For example, the large choir that sang all of the hymns and other parts of the service was made up largely of men and young girls. There was kneeling, standing, and sitting, and we were surprised that there was not more participation by patrons, most of whom simply sat during the 40-minute service. However, Courtney and I both enjoyed the service and plan on attending more if we get the chance. What a great way to experience a different aspect of these majestic religious buildings!