Bath – it’s a most unusual name for a city. In places far from England, people might give you a terrified stare if you declare in the open “I haven’t been to Bath in a year !”. But what is this city called Bath, and why does it have a bit of a funny name? I’m South East Asian, and I’m used to places in England ending in “Chester/cester”, “bury” or “shire”, but Bath? Not quite so. Or maybe I’m the fool who was the last one to know.
Anyhow, I just learned about Bath quite recently and thankfully I did, for it’s a visit not to be missed. Bath, despite its funny name, is an elegant beauty. It’s the sort of city you’ll wish to shrink and put in a snow globe. Situated in a picturesque valley in the southern tip of the of the Cotswolds, the city’s undulating terrain, narrow cobbled streets, beautiful gardens, rows upon rows of pretty Georgian buildings, and the lush green hills that surround it, make Bath look like a painting painted by God himself.
The center of Bath, historically and geographically, is the Roman Baths. Bath was founded by the Romans as “Acquae Sulis”, who built the city around Britain’s one and only hot spring. They built an extensive complex of recreational baths, as well as a temple to the goddess Sulis Minerva, and it became one of the most important cities in Roman Britain. As the Romans pulled out of Britian when their empire declined, Acquae Sulis was left to ruin, but parts of it survived, including the baths. Despite the age and ravages of time, the baths lived on to remind us of the golden era of Roman engineering. And what is even more amazing is knowing that the Romans got something like this built in faraway Britannia, one of most isolated corners of their empire.
Right beside the Roman Baths is the beautiful Bath Abbey. Built with a very decorative Gothic design, it’s hard to miss the abbey when going around central Bath, as it stands apart from the rest of the city’s Georgian simplicity. The external detail and beautiful buttresses make it one of the most attractive churches I’ve seen.
Bath is not a big city by any means. It has local population of only over eighty-thousand, but it does get very crowded with tourists as I’ve seen first hand. And why wouldn’t it be? It is indeed a beautiful city worth traveling thousands of miles for. It’s the kind of place where even just walking aimlessly around, is an attraction in itself.