November 5, 2000
It's raining a good day for a far away day trip (2+ hours from London by bus) and if it's still raining there, a museum and some history. Here's what sprung up:
Bathing in the Roman Empire was a different custom that it was for the English as it is for our culture today. The Roman baths were much like the Turkish style baths (my closest experience to actually having one was in a Moroccan hammam), but that have been long buried in this part of the world. The Roman Baths in Aquae Sulis, know known as Bath today short for "going for a bathe in Aque Sulis," fell into disrepair and when a drain clogged, the river floods brought in more and more mud and everything became muddy ruins. The English continued to play in the hot muddy water, surrounded by what was left peaking out of the ground, then forgot about the whole thing for centuries.
Time passed and the town grew with the wool industry, then started to dwindle down again. In the center, there were complaints of the flooding basements with hot water. When the government went to dig below and find the cause of this, there was an amazing surprise… 15 feet below today's ground were ancient Roman ruins: their baths desperately in need of a bath. That was 200 years ago and it sparked world wide historic interest in the town. The houses were taken down and a massive excavation followed bringing today's Roman Baths Museum, an amazing underground insight into the 2000-year-old healing center, spa and hangout.
Bathing in the waters was said to cure anything. Of the ill visitors, 1/3 reported being cured and another 1/3 not cured, but feeling better. The feeling better part isn't hard to believe… warm waters, topical oils and massages were what this ancient spa was all about. Men, women, slaves, everyone used the Baths; however, the poor were required to have enough money for transportation home or a funeral (if things didn't work out) while there.
Today the Roman overflow drains have been cleaned out and the lead pipes and bath floors are still watertight and functioning, as they would have been two millennia ago. There's no bathing in the museum, but in the attached posh restaurant, the pump, you can order a glass of clean warm water. It has a distinct taste, and is the best warm water I ever drunk. In fact, I felt great after drinking it. (Ironically, I felt fine just before drinking it too).
The pictures will show the layered history of Bath, but I have not finished what the town has to offer. It's England's only UNESCO World Heritage Site and I have yet to uncover the Victorian/Georgian architecture on the surface and people. I'm saving that for a sunny day.