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Entries about romans

Scotland Day 4: South of the Border

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Today we got up somewhat early for a coach tour to Hadrian's Wall. The tour left at eight, and the short days here at this time of year meant that there was hardly any light at that time of day. We walked down to the place where the tour starts, and then met our driver, whose name was Jeff. There was only one other couple on our tour, so the four of us had a sixteen-seat van to ourselves. They were from Texas and come to the UK frequently, and had even done this same tour before.
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Some pictures taken from the bus as we headed to Jedburgh, which is near the border with England and home to a famous ruined Augustinian abbey.
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The ruined abbey. It was raining and very cold, and when we went to the museum/ entrance area we were told that there isn't much access to the abbey right now, and that the artefacts in the museum are out for cleaning. We decided against going in and just looked at it from afar.
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More sights in and around Jedburgh. We went into the cafe (which was warm and cozy) and got coffee and scones.
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At the border! This was Catherine's first time in England (Daniel had been to London before, but never to rural England).
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The landscapes of northern England look very much like southern Scotland This is a fascinating place historically as home to the Border Reivers and the general border culture that was so influential in English, Scottish, Irish, and American history.
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Some views of Hadrian's Wall! The wall was built in 122 AD as a defense against Caledonian tribes. As Jeff pointed out, there are multiple possible purposes for the wall: it gave soldiers something to do while stationed up north, and prevented any soldiers from rebelling. It created a psychological impact on the local tribesmen with its straightness and orderly nature. It proved to the local people how powerful Rome was, while also satisfying people back in Rome and other provinces that the borders of the Empire were secure.
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The ruins of Vindolanda, which was a Roman fortress south of the wall which actually predates the building of the wall. It seems likely that at least some of the Roman soldiers who built the wall were stationed here. There are the obvious ruins of the rectangular fortress, as well as the ruins of a village that grew up around it. Jeff made the argument that the Romans must not have been all bad if the natives were willing to live near the fortress. We wondered about what advantages the Romans might have brought. Vindolanda had running water, sanitation, and under-floor heating two thousand years ago, while Edinburgh did not have those things one thousand years ago. It's possible that for some, the Romans brought great benefits. On the other hand, the existence of forts and a later wall strongly imply that not everyone was happy with the Romans.
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A reconstructed temple to the Nymphs and a few other views around the museum. The museum is in a former house of a classicist whose family lived here and who excavated much of the fortress. The "war memorial" monument to the Roman soldiers was touching. It is very much in the style of British war memorials, but with Roman styling (a Roman eagle instead of a lion or unicorn, and of course the "S.P.Q.R.") It is important to remember that these were real people who lived actual whole lives. It's easy to recognize soldiers who fought in or died in the World Wars or more recent wars as people, but when we think about ancient times it is easy to forget how normal the people actually were.
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A lunch at the cafe: a sausage roll, a cheese-and-onion pasty, and a "stottie" with bacon, brie, and cranberry. The museum was also interesting, but we didn't have a lot of time to wander around in it. The fortress was inhabited for centuries, and appears to have remained an inhabited place for a while after the Roman legions departed.
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The wall included a number of fortresses, including milecastles every mile, main fortresses, and small look-out towers in between the milecastles. These could accommodate six men if necessary, but usually only had two stationed there. There was a road behind the wall for access between the fortresses, although you could walk all the way along the wall if you needed to do so.
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Standing on what's left of the wall.

The drive back to Scotland was very sleepy. It was already dark and it was hard to stay awake after touring all day. The other couple wanted to listen to The Corries, so the driver put on a lot of their songs. We had never listened to them but knew a decent number of their songs already from other groups.
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We had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant, and then went to a pub near where we're staying. It was a very nice evening after an extremely fun and eventful day. Italian food seemed especially appropriate for the day we went to the Roman wall.
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Edinburgh at night.

Posted by danielcatherine 10:28 Archived in England Tagged borders empire romans hadrian hadrian's_wall borderlands Comments (4)

Portugal Day 6: Batlioteca and the Footsteps of the Romans

overcast 69 °F

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Walking up to the University of Coimbra was a bit of a climb, but we were able to get there pretty quickly using a direct route up stairs.
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Many of the buildings at the university date from the mid twentieth century, and were built under the rule of António de Oliveira Salazar, the dictator of Portugal who had been a professor at the University. These buildings, our AirBnB host told us, are controversial because houses were demolished to build them. They have a very uniform feel, and seem to form an imposing entry towards the old square of the University.
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Views of the old square, which is located in a former royal palace.
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Us in the square.
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The first part of our tour: knocking on the door of the chapel.
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Inside São Miguel chapel. It was a royal chapel but is now used by the university. They have masses regularly, which prevents tours from going through, but we were able to go in.
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A striking picture of the courtyard.
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The Joanine Library, which also includes the Academic Prison. The prison was used when students and faculty were convicted of crimes in order to prevent university scholars from having to associate with “common criminals.” The lower level of the library is used for storage of older books. The upper level is the room where students would have studied, and where there are beautifully decorated shelves and paintings. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures in that room. It is also famous because there are bats that eat the insects that could damage the books. The bats live behind the shelves and eat moths and other insects at night. Pieces of paper are set down on the tables to protect them from bat guano.
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The inside of the royal palace. One large room is used today for students who are defending dissertations: there was a student doing so when we toured.
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Some last views of Coimbra before we left. Also, a couple pictures of our car and our AirBnB.
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Next we visited the Roman ruins of Conimbriga. Coimbra is named after Conimbriga (in Roman times Coimbra was called Aeminium, and was renamed when Conimbriga was razed by the Suebi and the residents fled to Aeminium.
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The ruins are fascinating: baths, houses, mosaics, and other buildings.
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The Roman influence continues, in the form of gelato.
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We then drove to Porto. We are staying at the House of Sandeman, located immediately above their tasting room and port cellars. Our room is very nice and comfortable, despite the somewhat creepy painting.
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Porto is beautiful. At night, it feels like a city for making plots and schemes.
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We went out for dinner and a couple drinks. Catherine tried bacalhau com natas (cod with cream) for the first time, and really liked it. It was a beautiful night of talking and walking near the river. We can’t wait to see more of Porto tomorrow.

Posted by danielcatherine 12:40 Archived in Portugal Tagged palace bridge university port royal porto library bats chapel romans coimbra gelato conimbriga sandeman Comments (0)

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