Walking in the footsteps of the Romans in Bath, England – England & Wales trip part VI.I

Bath is beautiful.

When I first arrived in Bath and saw that the city council/tourist information center calls Bath “Beautiful Bath” I thought to myself, hm yeah okay. Promote your city in whatever way you think will appeal to tourists.

No really, they’re quite right.

I was unable to really see the city when I arrived in Bath late on the 6th, since it was already dark. I was confused and a little frustrated trying to find my hostel because I couldn’t find any freaking street signs (SERIOUSLY EUROPE), but made it there eventually in one piece. I checked in at reception, where the woman told me information about the hostel, including something along the lines of, “We should have hot water 24 hours a day, hopefully, so don’t all shower at the same time.”

I didn’t find that suspicious at the time, but it would make sense about an hour later when I went to take a shower.

First, I couldn’t find any temperature controls for the shower which was a little odd. I turned the shower on and it was freezing cold, so I spent several minutes trying to determine if/where the temperature controls were. I finally gave up, realizing that they didn’t exist, and also realizing that it looked like I would be taking a shower in freezing cold water.

It was the coldest shower of the life. I think bathing in the River Avon outside might have been warmer, though probably not cleaner. Seriously, the water was the temperature of ice water. It was awful.

Things were considerably better the next morning, the 7th of April. I stepped outside my hostel to find that I had arrived in a city from a fairytale. Everywhere I looked were beautiful buildings and gorgeous architecture, and the surrounding hillsides were dotted with picturesque English houses. I spent the first part of the day just wandering the city without direction, in awe of every building I laid eyes on. I walked to the River Avon and looked up the river at Pulteney Bridge, walked past the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey, headed up to the Circus, and then strolled through a park. Finally the rumbling in my stomach got the better of me, so I found a grocery store and stocked up on some food, which I ate outside so that I wouldn’t have to be separated from the buildings that I found so beautiful.

After lunch I went inside the Roman Baths. The Roman Baths were built by Romans (shocking, right?) back beginning in 60 AD, but construction continued for hundreds of years. They chose to build in Bath, then called Aquae Sulis, because it was the location of natural hot springs. The Baths weren’t just for bathing purposes; they also served religious functions. The natural hot springs were believed to be sacred and so a temple was built on the site, the Temple of Sulis Minerva. Fun fact: the original Roman Baths are below street level; the buildings you see above ground have been built more recently.

In the times of the Romans, there were multiple Baths in the complex—at least the Great Bath, the East Baths, and the West Baths. Now only the Great Bath is filled by the hot springs, and none of the Baths are used for bathing purposes today.

The Roman Baths were absolutely beautiful. On the railing above the Great Bath, you can see statues of Romans (see picture to the left). The appearance of the Great Bath gives it an almost mysterious feel, due to the green color of the water and the mist that constantly rises from the water.

By the way, the water wasn’t green in the times of the Romans. Nowadays the water is green because the sunlight promotes algal growth, and the waters are left untreated. However, in Roman times, the bath was covered so no sunlight was present to help microorganisms grow.

They said that the water in the Great Bath was warm, like bath water, since it’s fed by hot springs. I, of course, wasn’t satisfied with just hearing that the waters were warm; I had to try them out for myself.

No, I didn’t cannonball into the water. I almost wanted to though after sticking my fingers into the water. It was so nice and warm! It would be akin to sitting in a hot tub or a nice warm bath, and since the day was a little chilly and I had to endure a freezing shower the night before, soaking in warm waters sounded especially appealing.

Less appealing was the fact that the water was a lovely green, so I resisted jumping in.

I found out later that we weren’t recommended to touch the water because it isn’t treated and therefore full of some lovely microorganisms. Oops. I wasn’t too concerned though since I wasn’t planning on sticking those fingers into my mouth any time soon.

And I’m still alive, four days later, so clearly I didn’t cause my death or anything.

Since I got too excited and so blabbered a lot about the Roman Baths, I’m splitting this day into two parts. In the next part, I continue to blabber about the Roman Baths, drink some interesting water, and wander around more and take far too many pictures.

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