Going Places Educational Travel Blog - The English City of York
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January 13, 2022

The English City of York

It has often been asked of experienced travelers that if they could only see two cities in all of Great Britain, which two would they see?  More often than not, the two cities selected are London (of course) and the historic walled city of York in northern England.  Why York?

Much like London, York embodies all of the cultural heritage and historical depth of England but conveniently compressed into a few square miles of traditional English hospitality and easily accessible “neighborhoods.”  It’s all of the history, cultural richness and centuries-old traditions of “Merry Ole England” distilled into an easily digestible, tourist-friendly and utterly beautiful medieval town, replete with the requisite narrow cobbled lanes which serve as homes to scores of perfectly preserved 15th-century Tudor buildings.

There are several “must-see” and world-class attractions in York, along with one that will primarily appeal to the aviation enthusiasts among us. 

York Minster

York Minster

All countries with rich touristic and spiritual traditions claim to have the world’s most beautiful or impressive cathedral. Once again, as the proverbial “experienced travelers” we are always talking about knowledge, there is only once such cathedral that stands out above the rest. And that is the ineffable Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. All you need to do is proceed through the front entrance, walk ahead about 50 meters, and look straight up. Case closed.

So, the competition in this category (World’s Most Impressive Place of Worship) is for second place. And York Minster Cathedral is, in our view, clearly the front runner.  Aside from being one of the world’s most beautiful Gothic structures, it is the largest cathedral of medieval heritage in northern Europe.  The seat of the Archbishop of York, in the Anglican Church York Minster, is second in importance only to Canterbury, the seat of the primate of all England. We think you will agree once you proceed through its front entrance that it’s earned all of the accolades it has received.
The Shambles
Shambles Street is one of the funkiest neighborhoods in all of Europe and is lined by perfectly-preserved Gothic timber houses, most of them former butcheries and slaughterhouses dating to the 15th century. Replaced now by coffee houses, fine chocolatiers and eclectic shops, it would be easy to spend an entire afternoon just walking the streets and narrow cobbled lanes that have made The Shambles one of the most photographed attractions in all of Great Britain.

The National Railway Museum

Unlike in the United States, railways and other sources of public transportation like buses, and subways (the Underground or “Tube” as it is called there)  have for well over a century been the primary way for people in Great Britain to get from one point, near or far, to another. In the US, we have depended upon automobiles and our extensive interstate highway network to bring people together over medium-to-long distances.  That’s why trains have been an integral part of the British national psyche and why a huge museum commemorating this identity would be wildly popular in York, England and have practically no general appeal anywhere in the US. So, if you really like trains, York’s National Railway Museum is just the ticket, so to speak. The museum has thousands of railway-related objects on display including over 100 locomotives, ranging from 19th century antique steam engines to a Japanese bullet train.  Being in this facility takes indoors the very popular British hobby of trainspotting, and takes it to an altogether different level. The Brits love their trains to which this museum bears ample testimony.

The Yorkshire Air Museum

People often wonder if time travel will ever be possible and if so, what it will be like.  Wonder no more. All you need to do is catch a lift out to The Yorkshire Air Museum, and as you are about to enter through the main gate, close your eyes, and let somebody guide you for the 100 steps or so it will take to locate yourself in the center of the main entrance area. Open your eyes and you will feel, really feel that you have been transported back in time, about 75 years back to World War Two England, and to the grounds of the original RAF (Royal Air Force) Elvington Aerodrome. (Air Force Base we would call it.) The British Royal Air Force were the men and women who won the legendary  Battle of Britain in the skies over England against the relentlessly attacking and numerically superior German Luftwaffe. Scores of authentic WW2 vintage planes– bombers, fighters and even an American C-47 or DC-3 as they were later called by the airlines that used them in the 40s, 50s and even into the 80s in a few cases. Over 10,000 of these classic transports were built and one of them sits proudly here in Yorkshire. In addition to all of the planes, and vintage hangers and other physical features of the old RAF base, scores of people are part of the scene, dressed in the very RAF uniforms worn in those days on the base, from pilots to ground crew to medical personnel. They are all represented.  It’s so authentic it ironically seems unreal.

Much is said and written these days about the so-called “greatest generation,” this in tribute to the men and women from all over the western world who joined forces to defeat Nazi Germany’s attempt to take over Europe. Absolutely essential to the success of this endeavor was the very special partnership that developed between the Americans and their British counterparts which continues to this day. This museum reminds one of this time in history and of the heroics and sacrifices, so many of this generation made to literally save the world from those who would seek to conquer it. Being at the Yorkshire Air Museum is almost guaranteed to take you back to those days.

 

Category: Travel Inspiration




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