Can anyone believe that my friend and colleague Bharat aka Borat had NOT GONE TO BATH even once, in the last 8 months or so that he had been here in UK ? Disgusting, isn’t it ? How could anybody do that…..( or rather not do that)? 1 or 2 days may have been fine ….even a week could have been pardoned ….. but 8 whole months ??? That’s simply untenable !
Ok, maybe I’m not the right person to say this ….After all, I was the one who had landed in Egypt back in September …..and a couple of days later, learnt that I wasn’t carrying any toothpaste, which technically meant that I hadn’t brushed my teeth in 2 days and didn’t even realize it! ……but atleast in my case, its just been 4 months here in Bristol without going to Bath !
Ok…..before you get wierd ideas about the levels of personal hygiene that I and my colleagues maintain here in UK, lemme just clarify that what we’re talking about here is not about ‘having a bath’, but about ‘going to Bath’ [ … as in, beginning with a capital B – Bath ] …..which as a matter of fact, happens to be an ancient, historic, extremely gorgeous English City that lay about 20 miles away from Bristol !
So finally, in an attempt to catch up with the backlog, we decided to head towards Bath on Sunday – the 18th of Feb. There was me, Bharat, Santosh, Rakesh, Anil Curpad, Anil’s brother who had come down from London, Ganesh – my good friend and partner in crime, who again had come down from London and Raghu [Raghavendra Pai ] – our manager and BU head, who was here from Bangalore to attend some client meetings and had agreed to tag along !
So early on Sunday, the 8 of us caught a train from the Temple Meads station at Bristol and in about 40 minutes, disembarked at Bath.
Now, if you thought London was an old, historic city, then Bath is old enough to be its great-great-great-great-grandfather ! The historic remains found in this ancient, picturesque town pre-dates almost any other in Great Britain.
In the early part of this millenium, (the year 43 AD to be precise), the Romans had invaded Britain, or Brittania as they called it. They had lived and ruled here for a few centuries, until the Anglo-Saxons came and took over.
Our friends the Romans, as history [….and Asterix comics ] has it, were extremely hygienic people ! Whereever, they lived, they built these huge public bathing complexes, where they spent a better part of their days – scrubbing and preening themselves. Over the centuries, the Romans had constructed numerous roads, monuments and other structures in diffent parts of Britain, virtually leaving behind their imprints all over !
One of the best preserved of these imprints lay today at Bath – a huge, king-sized Roman Bathing complex [ No prizes for guessing where the city gets its name from !]
And that was where we headed first. From the railway station, the Roman Baths were barely 10 minutes walking distance away. Unfortunately they charged 10 pounds per head, so all together, we had to shell out a whopping 80 pounds, just to see the place where some old Caesar, may have scrubbed the dirt off his back some 2000 years ago!
But the ruins in fact, were extremely well-preserved [ Yeah, the Oxymoron is intended ! ] ! The complex in itself, may have been as good as any modern Spa, in its prime. There was a huge central bath, that was fed by a natural hot spring, plus there were numerous other smaller pools and complexes, serving varied different purposes. Some of the pools were meant for warm water, others for chilled or luke-warm. How the Romans managed to do it was to have the floor wooden, with hollow spaces underneath, which could be heated by burning logs !
It was a marvellous bit of engineering ! However, Ganesh and I had just one phrase ringing in our heads – “These Romans are crazy” – the phrase popularized by one of our favourite comic characters – Obelisk !
Next, we moved into another room which had a huge circular pool, filled with water abt 2-3 feet deep. But what lay there in the crystal clear waters of the pool literally startled us ……….. our jaws dropped almost to the ground, and our eyes nearly bulged out of its sockets ! We all stood there for a few moments in awe !
No, no……. it wasn’t Pamela Anderson – but the whole pool was glittering – for its entire floor was stacked with coins and currency notes !
Turns out these westereners are crazy too ! And pretty superstitious, contrary to public belief….Where ever they see a pond or a well, its customary for them to throw a coin and make a wish ! Here, I could spot almost every possible currency – pounds, euros, dollars etc….some idiot had even thrown a £20 note !!!
Ganesh and I looked around – unfortunately, there was a continious stream of tourists coming in…….had we got just about a 5 second respite, we’d have dived into the pool, collected some of the treasures and made good our escape!
We spent sometime in the souvenir shop, and I picked up my customary postcards and a few other memoroblia. By this time, we were all hungry, and decided to check-out the nearby Thai restaurant. It was the first time most of us were trying out Thai cuisine, but must admit, I didn’t quite fancy it.
While the veggies risked something conspicously named ‘Phak soup’ along with some rice + veg dish, Raghu, Ganesh and I settled for some chicken !
Next, it was time to head-off to the StoneHenge. We had booked ourselves on a guided tour to go there, and so we headed down to the centre and boarded the small van that was awaiting us. Our guide cum driver – a sweet lady named Sally welcomed us and drove us through the uneven terrain of Bath on the road towards Salisbury, all the while entertaining us with narrations about the sights and sounds of the places we passed by.
We started out driving through the ‘ghats’, and all around we could see beautiful country houses that stood at vantage points along the slopes. Over the centuries, Bath had been attracting the aristocracy and gentry from all over the country. Today it is home to many of the Rich and Famous, who choose to live quietly amidst the enchanting valleys and the green slopes of the town. Sally excitedly told us that Johnny Depp too has a house here.
Quite a while later, we were passing through a place called Wiltshire, having beautiful wide open meadows, stretching as far as the eyes could see. Sally explained that these were military-owned territories and that quite a bit of their training exercises happen here. As we passed by, she pointed out a very unusual board by the side of the road. Now, till date, I had assumed that the “Warning – Camels crossing” board I had seen somewhere in the United Arab Emirates, or the “Slow down – Wild Fowl Crossing” board that stands near my office here in Bristol; were the wierdest possible, but this one was clearly one huge step ahead……. It read “Warning – Tanks crossing” !!! (and had the caritaure of a battle-tank on it)
[……sadly I couldn’t grab a picture of that signboard as were on the highway and travelling quite fast ! ]
Another very interesting fact about Wiltshire is that, though it seems amazingly serene and calm, having hardly any population; this place is quite active and happenning as far as the ‘Paranormal’ is concerned !!!
For one thing, huge number of UFO sightings are reported in this area of England ! Secondly, the place is famous for another very mysterious phenomena – Crop Circles ! [If you had seen Manoj.N.Shyamalan’s ‘Signs’, you’d know what I am talking about ]
Basically, Crop Cirlces are these huge geometric patterns of considerable intricacy and dramatic effect, that suddenly appear in fields due to (unexlpained) flattening of plants in symettric manners. The mystery is that these patterns appear suddenly, within a span of a few hours perhaps, and no body knows how the plants can be so symmetrically flattenned to produce this effect.
The patterns generally are huge – spanning acres of land and yet so geometrically precise, that it does seem unlikely that they are manually created by some jobless prankster !
The thing about Wiltshire is that this is considered the Crop-circle capital of the world ! About 90% of the crop-cirlces reported in England are from within a 40-mile radius around the Stone Henge !
Unfortunately, we were not able to spot any Crop Cirlces enroute, but our guide showed us pictures of some that had formed around this area in the past years….. The most intriguing of them all was one that had appeared in 1996. It consisted of a series of Huge circles, right across the plains bordering the StoneHenge. Apparently, the patterns were formed within a span of just about half-an-hour and at that time, there were lots of tourists at the Stone Henge, but none of them had noticed anything peculiar being done or how the cirlces were formed !
Perhaps the military activities in the nearby areas have something to do with it all ? Hmmm, quite a case it could be for Agents Mulder and Scully !
Just as promised, exactly an hour later we pulled into the Stone Henge car park. Sally led us through the crowds and got us into the StoneHenge.
Everything about the StoneHenge was mysterious in itself. No one knew how it was built or for what purpose it was built. The huge stones that constitute the StoneHenge had actually been quarried in the mountains of Wales and transported hundreds of miles to this location where it had been standing for nearly 5000 years !
Our guide mentioned that the StoneHenge lies at the confluence of hypothetical energy zones or ‘ley lines’, and was supposed to be a source of positive energy !
Nevertheless, it was 365 degrees of sheer beauty…….lush green meadows stretched as far as the eyes could see !
Almost exactly 5 months ago, I was at another ancient, 5000 year old structure – the Pyramids ! ……and now the StoneHenge – equally old and about half as much mysterious, the only difference being that this is located in the middle of endless lush green fields, where as the former was in the middle of the endless yellow sands of the desert.
Then I had been nearly fried by the scorching sun , but now I was freezing !
[Striking a pose……. L to R – Ganesh, me, Anil, Borat, Rakesh, ‘blonde girl’ and Santosh ]
We circled the StoneHenge, taking pictures of the Stones from every angle and finally boarded Sally’s van. The return journey was rather uneventful, but Ganesh and I, made it otherwise, by striking up a conversation with the American school-teacher, who shared the back seat with us !
We got back to Bath by around 4 pm, and walked around exploring the exotic town.More photography sessions later, Raghu, Ganesh and I split from the group and dropped into a local pub. Sally had earlier explained to us that the secret behind the relaxed, laidback attitude of the ‘Bathers’ [ …if the people of London are called the Londoners, why not the people of Bath as ‘Bathers’ ? ] was Cider – an alcoholic drink that tastes just like apple juice – simply because of the fact that it is made from apple juice ! Bath was home to the cider and she had adviced all of us to try it as it was the best way to blend in with the local lifestyle, and true to her words, we obeyed.
Though it was supposed to be a lil’ heavy on alcohol, 1 pint hadn’t got us anywhere …..but since we had a train to catch, we left and caught up with the rest of the gang at the train station and headed home to Bristol !
[The Bath gang – Standing (L to R) – Anil’s bro, Anil, Santosh, Raghu, Ganesh. Kneeling (L to R) – Rakesh, me and Bharat! ]