Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Walking through History

I never realized how "young" Canada was until I walked through cities that are centuries older than the ones I'm used to.  Sure, I've known that Canada was younger.  In learning about the history of Canada, you can't really ignore that fact, eh.  But, it's another thing to see with your eyes and in a way feel how much older the cities are.

In the cities and villages I've seen in the UK, the craftsmanship does not differ only in physical structure but in materials as well.  It's funny the things that you don't realize until you encounter something different.  I never realized how accustomed I am to brick houses until I saw houses built from big stones and plaster.  Or realizing that my schema of a neighbourhood is of wide streets, big houses, long driveways and open lawns.  And then I encounter narrow alleyways, painted houses with no driveways and lawns surrounded by hedges or walls.  It's still a neighbourhood, but it's different.
View of Edinburgh Castle and the surrounding city from Holyrood Park

For me, I think the coolest realization is that the structure of the towns and cities here is almost completely the reverse of Canadian cities.  I don't mean in layout specifics--I don't really know much about how one organizes WHERE things are in a town.  What I am talking about refers more to the history of when things were made and how that affected how they "grew."  In Canada and the States, many cities are built on grid patterns.  Buildings are chunked into rectangular or square blocks.  The roads are also fairly wide and roomy, especially roads that are expected to handle a lot of traffic.

Not so in the UK.  Because the cities are so old, they predate many of this current road-planning mindset.  Roads are an afterthought, and in the less populated areas of the country (that I've seen) it's clearly evident in their narrowness and in the manner in which they wind through the terrain and around settlements.  This leads to roundabouts at every other junction.  And while I've seen a more block-like structure in the bigger cities, they still aren't always the squares and rectangles that I am accustomed to in Canada and some are more triangular or oblong.

I find these differences fascinating and it speaks to the history of the cities.  These ancient places have seen more people and events than I can fathom. Part of the wonder and amazement that I feel as I walk through these cities stems from the almost tangible weight of time that lines the streets and buildings like dust.  As a lover of history, it is just so cool and awe-inspiring!

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