I vaguely remember seeing a documentary about Stonehenge a few years ago and mentally putting it on my “places to go” bucket list. I was shocked that there could be a pile of stones somewhere that modern archaeologists and historians couldn’t attribute to a definite people, purpose or technology. So, when a couple of friends at QMUL brought up the idea of going to actually see this pile stones, I was thrilled.
Is it a moss-covered pile of stones in the middle of England? Yes, but Stonehenge is so much more than that. Standing there in front of this strangely haunting structure, I found the same feeling I’d first experienced while watching that documentary. These stones…are really, very old!
“Old” might not seem like the best adjective to describe an ancient marvel like Stonehenge, but I think it’s probably one of the most significant aspects of Europe that American students find appealing, and deserves some consideration. Of course, being from the Southwest, I’ve seen really old natural wonders, like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Still, I’ve never had the opportunity to drive two and a half hours to see a five-thousand-year-old man-made structure, whose origins we still haven’t puzzled out. The accessibility of this place was kind of hard for my friends and I to wrap our minds around. To add to this confusion was the fact that we could see Stonehenge from the road we drove in on, when we had expected it to be in the middle of some valley far from any civilization. Yet, here was Stonehenge, sitting amidst sheep farms and large tour buses. If stones could talk…
After walking the circumference of Stonehenge and taking in its extraordinary strangeness, my friends and I got back on the bus and headed to Bath, home of the ancient Roman baths made from natural springs. Again, I experienced that sense of awe, which might be particular to Americans, who have never travelled in Europe. I saw and felt that this structure has existed for so much longer than all of the shops and people surrounding it.
This discovery of the very old has been eye opening for me especially in thinking about where structures like Stonehenge and Bath lie. They sit in the middle of daily life, as though nothing has changed since they were built. This aspect of accessibility wouldn’t be so apparent to me if I were just in England for a week or two. For this reason, studying abroad has been so enlightening. There’s a sense I get from travelling, that even though this amazing site is in the middle of this foreign country, it’s only a couple hours’ drive from the place I’ll consider home for the next four months.