Day 10: Arthur and Authors

After last night’s Eurovision adventures in Dr. Clark’s room, it’s safe to say that 7:30 a.m. came pretty early for a good portion of our group this morning.  As we sat down for breakfast at the hostel, several of us discussed the exciting events in store for us all.  Once we were finished eating, we packed up our day bags and hopped on a train to Winchester at 9:13.  No matter how many times we board the train, the landscape of England never ceases to amaze me.  One moment, I will look out my window and see bright yellow fields and beautiful prairies of sheep and other livestock.  The next, we will be in the city with citizens crowding the platforms and buildings as far as the eye can see.  It’s very different from the Iowa landscape that is all too familiar to us all.

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When we arrived at the Winchester train station, we quickly made our way toward the Great Hall to see Arthur’s Round Table.  I think it’s safe to say that we were all extremely excited to see with our own eyes what we have read about in the literature for this course.  Zach gave an interesting and thought-provoking presentation on Arthurian geography and gave us the historical context behind the massive table that hung on the wall before us.  The Great Hall of the Winchester Castle was built during the reign of Henry III between the years 1222 and 1235.  The cost: a mere 500 pounds.  At the time, it was one of the largest in England and is one of the most beautiful from that time period that still exists today.  The Great Hall had several functions including serving as a center for the courts of law, trading, and a place for Parliament to assemble.  Over time, the hall has changed in its appearance, mostly in the positions of the doors and windows.  The round table has been in its present position on the wall of the Great Hall since 1873.  It is thought to have originated between the 13th and 14th centuries, is eighteen feet across, and weights over one ton.  Originally, there were twelve legs used to support the table, and it is believed that the table was built in the hall itself.  The table wasn’t painted the beautiful red and white colors we associate with it today until the year 1516.  The names of twenty-four knights were also added during this time.  The table has remained in the Great Hall for 700 years.

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After we were done learning about Arthur, we walked to the house where Jane Austen passed away on July 18, 1817.  It was surprisingly tricky to find – it looked very similar to the houses surrounding it.  The only distinctive feature was the plaque in its center, declaring it the death place of the infamous woman writer.  More about her in the next blog post…

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We all got a healthy dose of Mother Nature’s mood swings today, as the weather could not seem to decide whether or not it wanted to stay sunny or drench us all in a sudden sprinkle of rain.  We didn’t let the weather get us down though, and the first half of our day was a definite success!

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