What do the English, the Romans and the Vikings have in common?
York is a walled English city with both Roman and Viking past, which is just a hop away from Leeds, where I spent about half a year studying in 2017/2018. The city has so much to offer historically, that I did not have time to visit the National railway museum and did not even feel too bad about it, which, coming from an engineer, is quite a feat. This was due to the fact that York had some of the best museums and historical interactive exhibits I’ve seen so far, matched only by those in Stockholm.
The city was founded by the Romans during their conquest of the British isles and later became the chief city of the kingdom of Northumbria. In 866 AD the Vikings captured York during one of their raids and the city became known as Jorvik, which went on to become an independent and very successful Viking river port. The last ruler of Jorvik was Eric Bloodaxe, who was driven out after a successful English attempt to unify Northumbria under their rule. York faced some troubled times and several rebellions with the arrival of the Normans, when William the Conqueror destroyed everything from York to Durham in what is known as the Harrying of the North, but began to prosper in the 12th century. The city experienced some more turbulent times between the 16th and the 18th century and eventually became the popular tourist site it is today.
As stated, York has plenty of historical attractions – for once in my life I bought one of those passes (it was called the pastport and I loved the pun), which allow savings on multiple attractions and it was well worth it. A well preserved medieval wall surrounds the old part of the city and the view from the top of the fortifications is quite lovely. I started at the train station and followed the wall around the city, stopping at the major attractions along the way. Due to its colorful history, the centre of York is quite picturesque, with buildings built in many different styles. One of my favourite things was the Clifford’s tower, a lone tower in the middle of the city centre. The Shambles, a quaint network of narrow medieval streets, full of lovely colorful shops and small marketplaces, were another favourite as well.
Impressions of York
The two towers along the city wall housed tiny museums, each dedicated to a certain period of the medieval York history: the Henry VII and the Richard III experience. Along with those, I visited the Jorvik Viking centre, which, as the name suggests, is dedicated to the Viking history of the city and features an interactive ride through a reconstructed 10th century York. The short ride tells the story of Jorvik, featuring many different sights, sounds (accents) and even smells. I was lucky enough to visit in 2017, which was the first year of the attraction reopening after the catastrophic floods in 2015.
Towards the end of the day I found a large local Sunday market, where I tried tons of different cheese and bought some treats to bring back to Leeds.
I also intended to visit the York Minster, the humongous cathedral, which was too large to properly capture in a photo no matter how far away I stood. While it looked very impressive from the outside, the entrance and its surroundings were so crowded, I hightailed it out of there and spent a bit of time observing the surprisingly large flock of what I decided looked like geese (not a bird person) at the riverside instead. York also has a chocolate museum, which I skipped on purpose to avoid temptation, as I’d already visited one in Prague.