Wales: A Visit to Shrewsbury
The annoying guide book I flipped through before departing for Europe mentioned the town of Shrewsbury in one sentence only, referring to it as “a medieval town” before continuing to more well-known destinations. I thought, Aha, this must be an interesting place!
When we arrived a castle popped up behind the train station, confirming my hunch.
And we were startled to see, on our first walk out of the modest B&B where we stayed, the monumental Shrewsbury Abbey. The church is purported to be the first meeting place of the English Parliament. Such allegations are of course common in Britain, rather similar to the various cities in the Middle East that claim to hold the birthplace of John the Baptist. Secular mythology was at work here and not the religious variety, but mythology all the same.
We also glimpsed the abbey at night. No lights bathed the structure in touristic hues. Either the church ran out of money –
for many floodlights are installed on the grounds – or there’s an odd lack of interest on the part of local residents. A beautiful, solemn structure it is nonetheless.
The next day we saw the town properly. Built on a horseshoe-shaped bend of the River Severn, Shrewsbury is compact, and indeed very medieval. Its’ history dates back to 800 AD and its modern center is a rich blend of architectural styles.
Shrewsbury is not overly visited like other old cities in the United Kingdom, and the old town possesses a kind of working-man’s seedy charm. Lots of back alleys, too.
Perhaps the high season in mid-summer brings crowds of backpackers and group tours but we certainly saw no sign of them.
The view view from a local pub was pleasing to the eye and another drinking establishment showcased the famous Welsh sense of humor.
We wandered the back streets, happily taking in the mish-mash of British history.
At the end of the day, returning to our hotel, we paused for a time to watch the full moon rise over the Severn. It was possible to imagine the distant past.
Old and new in the British Isles are inextricably linked, although what this portends was not revealed.