All Rocked Out

I haven’t been air guitar-ing away at some cheesy rock concert with men who have unwashed hair and an unhealthy fondness for tight jeans, nor have I therefore overdosed on the mosh pit and crowd surfing (I am not that cool). I have however over rocked out with some oldies, Neolithic and prehistoric oldies to be truthful but they did indeed rock or more precisely they were rocks.

You are probably wondering what I am talking about, well if you don’t already know I take it you are either A. Not from this country or B. Haven’t seen my photography blog! (Like what I did there, cunning I thought! Check it out at olivingthedreamphotography.wordpress.com)
I recently paid a visit to the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Don’t worry; I am not about to start giving you an in-depth recount of the History of why and who only because I am no historian. But If you are interested in the finite facts and figures then I am sure Google will help, or better yet the actual stones themselves tell quite a mystical story so pay them a visit, you wont be disappointed!

Speaking of disappointment, I’m also slightly afraid to admit that while the Stonehenge is impressive and quite cool I can’t help but feeling that much like Australia and their beloved Opera House, us English folk have done the same to these rocks, and have given them a slight over-rating (please note I said slight.) Ease up on the hate mail and cyber abuse and give me a chance to explain. Also again please note that I did say slightly.
From start to finish if I had to rate the experience on a scale of 1 to 5 (think if it as the starring system the tourism industry uses) I would have to rate it as a 3. Not bad, some places pay good money for 3 stars! Told you it wasn’t going to be that bad!! Firstly, and I am nit-picking here, but the traffic which you have to endure on the drive to the rocks is enough to make anyone lose their sense of humour and you haven’t even arrived yet. Trivial I know but apparently this jam is caused by the gawking drivers trying to get a glimpse of the monuments from the roadside and this just grates on my last nerve for a couple of points:

  • That is just laziness and extremely inconsiderate. If you are indeed one of those drivers, stop. If you want to see the rocks, follow the signs and buy a ticket like the rest of us. Some people just want to get from A-B at a decent pace and you are preventing them from doing that!
  • What you see from the road is nothing in comparison to what you see up close. They are much much bigger and definitely way more impressive.
  • This happens to be one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe (direct quote from their website, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/.) You need to see it at face value, just because it’s the done thing. There is an unwritten rule when it comes to stuff like this.
  • If you have seen it before then why do you need to see it again from the road, this is just silly.

Do us all a favor and get out of your car, pay the entrance fee (£13.90, a little extortionate in my book but the money goes to preserving your history and heritage) and get cultured for a few brief moments. You are looking at the rocks anyway so you can’t use that as an excuse! Besides I hear that fresh air is good for you and it’s a pretty decent walk too. If you don’t fancy the walk there is also a fancy custom-made Land Rover train to get you from the ticket shop to the rocks!

Yes, the entrance fee is slightly too expensive and the shop/ticket office/exhibition building is extremely ugly and sticks out like a sore thumb (apologies to the world-renowned artist who designed the concept), but as days out go it’s not a bad place to be.
Now I know I said that they are over rated and they are, but like all art, you to take what you get from it. I just find it so fascinating that these rocks came from so far and someone thought strategically arranged rocks would be a great idea. While I feel it is random and at the end of the day they are just large stones, it did leave an impression on me, albeit only little. Exactly what that impression was I am still rather unsure of but I must have loved something, I took way too many photos which all look the same.

If rocks and history are your thing, this is a definite must do. They have really great information boards and an audio that you can listen to in various languages (so nerdy and also so antisocial: could be both a good and bad point), then if that still isn’t enough you can potter around the museum come exhibition hall to read until your heart’s content.
I have to admit that the geek in me did find the museum quite interesting. Firstly as you walk in you are given the privilege of seeing the rocks from the inside out and in all-weather. I’m an artist and photographer at heart so as you can imagine I was soaking this up, the night sky and winter shots being a personal favourite (I even vowed to return when it snowed!). Considering I barely rate things and hardly ever promise to revisit anything, this treasured sight is doing pretty well (bet you are glad you didn’t send that hate mail now!)
After this art-gasm you are then taken on a historical journey, The Stonehenge through the ages. I don’t want to completely spoil the surprise but there is a skeleton or two and some old gold and a whole bunch more photos! Exciting right!?
The well-placed shop (at the exit) is full to the brim with so much junk you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself. I could have come away with a whole new house and kitchen sink with the standard Stonehenge branding of course. It took me a good 20 minutes to pick a postcard!! Any keen shopper will not be disappointed, plus who doesn’t want a shirt saying, “I have been to the Stonehenge and loved it” or a mug with something else equally as cheesy printed on it.

Once the shop, stones and exhibition have bored you beyond imagination then potter around the teeny tiny village of Neolithic houses and get a sense of what it would have been like to live back in those days. All pretty basic structures built using traditional methods that are slowly dying out. Admittedly, I was impressed with the thatching. Then finally if you are feeling strong and self-assured, you can have a go at trying to pull one of the stones, a sort of put yourself in their shoes kind of moment. Ok, so it isn’t a real stone and it definitely does not move but a couple of lights flash and people cheer, it can get pretty crazy.
They do have a café on sight and the place is very family friendly and generally really people friendly and very accessible too (got to love the UK, it’s good at this). In fact absolutely everyone can visit which is the beauty of it so there really is no excuse!

I probably won’t be going back anytime soon because I am too busy this winter, but it would be awesome to be there on the longest day of the year where hippies in tie-dye shirts dance around and chant earthy tunes (no idea if they actually do this), but I have heard that the summer solstice is pretty impressive. It does look really beautiful at night, so in all honesty, I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate the summer and watch the sun set on the longest day of the year. A crowd pleaser and a perfect excuse for a summer party… Sold, I’m in and I shall hopefully see you all there next year on the 21st June 2015. Mark it in your calendar because I have a feeling it’s going to be a rager!

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