The trip to Wales
My trip got off to an awful start. I had bought £20 bus tickets to get to Cardiff, but the website I used told me to go to the wrong bus stop. So I got to the stop thirty minutes early (hadn’t been there before and wanted to make sure I got there on time), and waited until all of a sudden my bus flew past me. The real bus stop had been just up the road. I was really frustrated and considering calling off the trip, but I’d already booked my hostel, so I rushed to the train station and had to pay £35 more for a rail ticket.
I usually try to be optimistic, but I was so frustrated. After about an hour on the train, however, the beautiful scenery outside my window made me feel much better. Over the flat green fields, I could see hills, which in some places became mountains and disappeared into the low clouds. For part of the trip, we rode next to a river whose waters were a deep purple from the storm clouds it reflected. (I just looked it up, and it’s the River Severn, which leads into the Bristol Channel, which leads into the Celtic Sea, which leads to the Atlantic Ocean.)
As we got into Wales, I noticed that the signs at our stops were written in Welsh first, and then English underneath. It’s the first time my English-speaking-ness has ever made me a minority (clearly I need to travel more!). I think it’s really interesting that things are done this way. Throughout Cardiff, it’s the same. Signs are written in Welsh and English. When I stopped at the bank, they announced “Please come to Counter 2” in Welsh first before announcing it in English; as I was at the front of the line, I was a little nervous during the Welsh bit, but then relieved when it was repeated in English.
There are some establishments (typically smaller, local pubs) that cater only to Welsh-speakers, and I’ve heard there are some towns that use only Welsh in order to discourage the English from coming. Every person who speaks Welsh also speaks English, so the reason for all of the Welsh signs everywhere is pretty much just political; they’re asserting their Welsh-ness. Many children are still being taught Welsh as their first language and English as their second. Stephen Fry made a documentary series about language, and in one episode, he went to a school of Welsh children, who told him that they speak Welsh when they’re being familiar with each other, and English is more of a formal way of speaking.
Anyway, when I got to Cardiff, it was snowing a little bit—the first snow I’ve seen this winter! It was absolutely beautiful, and all of my frustration from earlier had dissolved. I was so happy to finally be visiting Wales, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect! After finding about five map signs in Welsh, I finally found one in English. I got my orientation and found the street my hostel was on. It was still pretty warm, so the snow and ice on the ground melted into slush by the time I got to my hostel. I checked in, dropped off my backpack at my bed, and went out to explore!