We arrived in the port of Southampton in the morning and we had reserved a bus tour, through the ship's services, to visit Stonehenge.
I recall the first time we visited England. It was a couple of years ago. We landed in the port town of Dover when we were visiting the Baltic countries. From Dover, we took an all-day bus tour to visit London. It was a rush in, rush back to the ship tour.
Now we landed in Southampton. We decided not to spend the day revisit London. From the Southampton port it's a 2-hour trip each way and the traffic, into London can be congested.
Southampton is known for three major historical events during the 20th Century.
The first one is that the Titanic was built here.
The second item is that the region had, during WWII, the majority of tall radar towers. They provided advance warning of air attacks by the Luftwaffe (Nazi Germany Air Force) on their cities and military installations. Southampton is in the southern section of England and thus the closest point to Germany. Because of the radars, the area was constantly being bombarded to destroy them.
The third and perhaps the most famous item of all is that this is where the Allies prepared and launched the forces that sailed 35 miles in order to land on the Normandy coastline.
I didn't see any sites that highlighted that period of history. There was a great deal of historical sites on the Normandy coastline yet not here that I could easily see. I did imagine how throughout 1944 it must have been to accommodate and move so many men and military supplies through the few narrow roads going to the port. I guess that they had to put huge numbers of tents for the soldiers throughout the open countryside. It must have been a constant logistic nightmare.
We boarded our Stonehenge tour bus that was parked right along the ship. The day was cold, windy and it rained on and off. They stated that it was the normal British weather.
The bus tour guide welcomed us and highlighted that we were part of a historical moment in the great history of the city. He mentioned that the last time a passenger ship this size, with this many passengers, had not been in their port since the preparation for the Invasion of France in 1944.
We traveled in our bus going north through a series of winding narrow two-way streets. We quickly passed through the middle of the town of Salisbury. It's history dates back to the 14th century. At a distance as we were passing we saw it's Early English Gothic Cathedral where the famous Magna Carta, signed in June 1215 is kept and on display.
We traveled quickly through Salisbury and about 15-minutes later we arrived to Stonehenge. 10-million persons visit this historical site annually.
There are many small rolling hills throughout the area. The tour bus stops at the visitor center, which is approximately a quarter mile from the archeological site.
At the center, one gets on a small trolley that they provide that runs on a single road to Stonehenge. There are no trees around to reduce the wind and rain. It's all wide-open space. Here the rain comes down differently. The rain sometimes comes at you sideways.
One begins a self-guided tour by walking around the perimeter of the Pillars. One is provided with an audio headset. It provides information as one stops in multiple observation spots along a pathway. As you continue walking around the site the route gets closer to them. After walking almost a quarter mile around them, you come to the closest point to view them. One can no longer walk among the stones. It's not safe for persons to walk amongst the huge and heavy erect stones. Additionally, with so many persons visiting this site each year, the extensive walking in the area would have certainly made the base of the stones unstable and have them fall. The erected stones weigh up to 20-tons. It's clear that they pose a danger to the visitors.
As we were taking pictures up close, the man next to me asked someone in his group, "what's the big deal about seeing all this? It's just a bunch of stones in the ground." That same question also crossed my mind. As I thought about the question an answer began to surface.
I realized that I was looking at something that is there that shouldn't be there. Let me share what I mean.
Stonehenge was estimated to have been constructed 5,000 years ago. It makes this site older than the pyramids of Egypt. We still don't understand how the ancient Egyptians built their pyramids. What we do know was that they had a large population in the area.
Here in England during that time they had the exact opposite. Small number of nomads populated this region. Technological development was non-existent. Their main tools were antlers and animal bones. Yet, somehow they moved many stones weighting 20-30 tons from 320 miles away over to this site.
They also had the knowledge to be able to lift and position very heavy rectangular stones at the top of the vertical ones. The knowledge that the people had at that time does not align with the knowledge that was needed to construct the structure around the precise winter solstice. Thus the extensive knowledge and infrastructure that was needed to plan and build this complex structure did not exist at that time. Nevertheless, there it is in front of us. I am reminded of a phrase that is in the book Alice In Wonderland: "curiouser and curiouser".
The existence of Stonehenge apparently has the archeologist around the world baffled. Satellite imagery systems have been used to search underground for clues to solve the mystery. Apparently the additional information obtained has only helped to increase the mystery of how it came to be built. One leaves the site with more questions than answers of the people who built it. Either we underestimate their brilliance or there is something we don't quite yet understand about our human development.
I have heard the theory that this structure exists as "physical proof" that we were visited by extraterrestrial beings and that they help us build them. Who knows?
I look forward to learning more about the history of Stonehenge and perhaps the mystery will be resolved.
We spent about an hour facing the chilled weather as we walked around the entire site. We soon started to feel cold and tired. It would rain off-and-on and we felt cold from the continual gusting wind.
Thus we returned to our bus that took us directly back to the ship.
We enjoyed the comfort of a hot shower and then walked around enjoying the many public areas of the ship. We quickly left port at 7:00 pm.
The next stop was going to be the port town of Vigo, Spain. We would be cruising for two consecutive days and arriving in Vigo in the morning on the 3rd day.