I took a day trip to Bath this weekend to check out the one of the only cities in the world that is, in itself, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The city is built such that from almost any vantage point, you can look out beyond the streets and thoroughfares and see the hills and country side beyond. This brings a lightness and openness to the streets that reminded me a bit of Salzburg. The city is also known for the graceful neoclassical (read: Georgian) buildings and gardens, and the lively center of social life in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. But Bath’s main feature, of course, is the ancient Roman baths and temple that was built to take advantage of the natural springs beneath the city and honor the god Sulis-Minerva.
It was really breathtaking to witness the complicated engineering work of an ancient civilization that lived 2000 years ago.
My mother and I took an excellent free walking tour lead by a local docent, and we learned that the Celts were the first occupants of the region now known as Bath. The hot springs were the center of their religious life, and when the Romans expanded their empire to Britain in 43 AD, they undertook the complicated project of building a temple around the springs, and building up the city, which they called Aqua Sulis. When Rome fell in the fifth century, the baths fell into disrepair, until they were “rediscovered” again in the 18th century.
Bath’s history was wonderful, but the modern-day city is good fun as well, with loads of adorable cafes and shops. Around noon the city really filled up and the crowds were pouring into the streets. I was happy to see this popular tourist destination during the off-season, as I can’t believe what the crowds must be like in the summer!