Bath was one of the many places on my 'want to visit before I die' list. And when we got a chance to visit Bath on our England trip, I was more than thrilled to bits. For those not in the know, Bath is a small city in the South Western part of England. I first heard of the place from the Georgette Heyer novels that I must have read and re-read a hundred times over. Georgette Heyer had this inimitable style of combining wit and romance in her stories set in regency England. A few of her novels were based in Bath and I read with great delight about the High Society dos and their fondness for theatre and dance and how they drank the Bath waters for health despite its disgusting taste.Even with such visions of Bath in my head, I must say that I wasn't disappointed at all. Most of the buildings are Georgian style — regular and symmetrical. Many of the buildings in Bath were destroyed during the world war, but were later reconstructed in the original style.
Today's Bath is a quaint mixture of the old and new. Old buildings housing swanky new shops and old pubs playing the latest Brit pop. We (K, C, S and I) walked around town and C acted the guide. He had this book cube of all the sights and we visited them in turn. The most famous attractions are the Roman Baths. Apparently, they were built around the time when the Romans invaded Britain around 43 AD. The water from the hot springs were known for their medicinal powers and are still in use today. The Pump Rooms are attached to the Roman Baths where you can go in have some tea, drink some of the water, and drink more tea to get rid of the foul taste.
The highlight of the trip was a street performer, performing on the main street. He was extremely entertaining and kept the crowd in splits throughout the show. He juggled fire torches while riding a 10-foot tall unicycle. His banter was more entertaining than his juggling act; he kept the crowd involved till the last minute with his intelligent chatter and amusing comments. When he was talking about the collections, he said, " Schizophrenics can please donate twice". He invited a little boy to ride on his shoulders while he rode a 3-foot high unicycle (I don't think he juggled anything then). The boy was all grins till the man got on the unicycle. The look of terror on his face after that was amusing in a slightly morbid way.
We found out all kinds of fascinating facts about the city. Jane Austen was one of the better known residents of Bath. There is a Jane Austen Society, with a museum and shop. The society conducts Jane Austen walks for interested bibliophiles. Apparently, Jane Austen never liked the place. She is said to have written to her sister Cassandra, "It will be two years tomorrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape". And they celebrate her over there.
We heard about Bladud, supposedly the founder of Bath. Bladud was a mythical king because there is no historical evidence of his existence. He lived an exciting life nevertheless. He supposedly created the hot springs at Bath by the use of magic and dedicated the city to goddess Athena by lighting undying fires in her honour. He contracted leprosy in Athens and was imprisoned because of that. He managed to escape and lived as a swineherd. He noticed that the pigs rolled about in black mud and didn't have any skin diseases. He tried it out and cured himself of leprosy. (Now why didn't we think of that in India?) So, he went back, reclaimed his kingdom, learnt necromancy, built himself wings and learnt to fly. Unfortunately, he was killed either when he hit a wall, or when he fell and was dashed to pieces or when he broke his neck. I have always thought that one must die in a spectacular way. And King Bladud's life and death exemplifies how life should be led and ended. I think I have found a new hero in him! J