Yesterday I went on a day trip with London Walks, which is a wonderful company and I highly recommend any of their walks and especially their day trips. Not only were we visiting Winchester, but it was also Hat Fair Day! Which has really nothing to do with the wearing of hats, rather it is a shortened form of Hatting Fair Day, which was when there would be lots of street performers, who would end their performance with "hatting" or passing around the hat for tips. The city was packed with people because not only was it Hat Fair Day, it was also a gorgeous day, the best of the year so far they were saying, so everyone was out and about. Entering the high street:
The day began with a walking tour of the cathedral, which is gorgeous and full of history:
12th century paintings, still vibrant after being covered over during the reformation:
We were touring the cathedral at the same time as a choral concert was being held in the quire - it is impossible to describe what it felt like to be walking through this church, listening to the singing.
There is just so much history scattered around everywhere you look here in England, and you realize just how young the US is in terms of history. There were many Anglo-Saxon kings and Danish kings from the 600s - 1000s buried here, but their tombs were removed at the moment for conservation. I should say supposedly buried there, because it was quite common for a church or cathedral to dig up someone and move them from somewhere else into their church, to bring in the tourists in the Middle Ages! But Winchester was the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom Wessex, so the claims are most likely true.
Next we visited the one remaining part of Winchester Castle, the great hall, with a giant round table on the wall:
It was claimed by Henry VIII that this was King Arthur's Round Table, and you'll notice that the names of the Knights of the Round Table are painted on it...but you will also see the Tudor rose, which was
most certainly not a symbol of King Arthur. If Arthur was real, he probably lived in the 600s. The wood was dated to being from the 13th century, so it is an extremely old table, but the painting on it was commissioned by Henry, probably as marketing to show off that he had King Arthur's table and that he could be associated with him.
Outside of the Great Hall were reconstructed gardens, planted with the same plants that were listed in a description of the gardens from the Middle Ages. It would have been the queen's garden, and it was just lovely with the roses in bloom - I'm finally visiting Europe at a time when everything is in bloom!
Then we had a lunch break, and I wandered around one of the parks where there was lots to see and do, and everything was free with donations accepted if you felt it necessary. Since it was Hat Fair Day, and everyone was wearing a headpiece of some sort, I decided to buy a "hat" which ended up being a little garland of flowers. Completely not practical for a sunny day, but it was cute!
In the afternoon walk we strolled around the main part of the city itself, and visited another castle, Wolvesey Castle, built around 1150 by Bishop Henry of Blois. This was another poor castle in ruined condition, really ruined condition:
It was really more of a palace than a castle, as it had no military or defensive purpose, without a moat and not very tall walls.
Winchester was a great day trip, and it was just a happy coincidence that it was Hat Fair Day!
One more free day, and then it is back to classes!