Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

When in Wales: Modern Beauty and Medieval Footprints

Wow, I think we can all agree I have been putting off writing a post for way too long now. One of my goals while I am here abroad is to live more presently, and as such as soon as things start to get exciting I get caught up in day to day life without taking time to reflect. This morning though, I have made myself a nice cup of tea and a delicious omelet and am sitting down to write. Since I have kept you waiting so long, I think I will catch you up with a more recent event and then may go back in my fill later on.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Wales with IFSA-Butler and many of the other American Students here and discovered one of the hidden gems of the United Kingdom. Admittedly I needed a break form the hustle and bustle of the city, so an escape to the mountains of Snowdonia was the perfect excuse to get away. My weekend was spent hiking and soaking in the rich history of Welsh Princes and medieval land grabs by England. Although this may not sound the most exciting to the average person, I felt like a kid in a candy store surrounded by the natural beauty and historical wealth of Northern Wales.

We stayed in Llanberis (thlan-ber-ris), which is a small town near the foot of Mount Snowden. This area has become a bit of tourist destination over the years, but it is also home to a number of climbers and boasts of some great climber cafés that will serve you a proper pint of tea. I found this information through one of our guides, who led us on a hike through the abandoned slate mine that once created this town. Part of the abandoned quarry is now home to the Dinorwig Power Station, but it is also a gorgeous place to climb.

The head of the trail is just past Dolbadarn Castle built by Welsh Princes in the 13th century. Although only one turret really remains, this site is quite important to the people of Wales even to this day. It is significant because it is one of the only remaining castles built by the Welsh.  Most of the other castles that are still standing in Wales are English castles built during the medieval time also as a protection from the Welsh people.  One such example is Caernarfon (kyre-nar-von), now a world heritage site, that had a dual purpose as a beautiful castle along the sea and a fortress for English nobility.

In addition to a fascinating past, Wales is home to possibly the most beautiful country side I have ever seen. Although it will be difficult, I want to describe to you the view from my bus window on the way back to London. It is early fall, so the colors of the trees were beginning to change as we rode southward surrounded by green trees turning burgundy and gold. The land was speckled with small farmhouses and divided into a quilt of green pastures stitched together with low shrubs that could be mistaken for the Smokey purple of grapevines on a sparsely populated vineyard. Hills rolled on for miles and mountains spilled directly into the sea. If I had to compare the landscape to what I know in the states it would be to combine the North Carolina Mountains in the early fall, the farms of Central Pennsylvania and the shore of Mystic, Connecticut on a very calm day. Replace the cows with sheep and put these images under the muted filter of an English postcard and voila…Wales!

Needless to say, if your imagination is good enough to picture anything out of those words, it is easy to understand the magic of this place. So if you don’t hear from me again I have gone off to the mountains to herd sheep!

~ Wonder at Wales ~

As I mentioned before, Dinorwig Power Station has been built into the abandoned slate quarry in Llanberis. Unlike most energy sources, this power station burns more energy to create power than it puts out. Rather than consistent usage then, this station emits power bursts at times when the country needs additional energy like half time of the Rugby match between Wales and South Africa the weekend I was there when the entire nation went to put the kettle on (I kid you not, this was the actual example given to us by our guide and she was so serious). In an emergency this plant would also serve as a start up generator for the whole of England.

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