dimarts, d’agost 16, 2005

Rainbow Tour 2005 Travel Log - Day 17 - Saturday 7.23.05

I was up relatively early and had breakfast with Mary. Inspite of the weatherforecast, the day seemed to be trying to clear up, and eventually it did. After breakfast, I had my obligatory half gallon of tea, te coch dail, I take my tea plain, no cream, no sugar, red - te coch and Mary still makes tea the old fashioned way, with real loose leaves. When you're done with your paned you can read the tea leaves if you're so inclined and have the requisite knowledge. Then I was on the road, bouncing along the one lane road from Tai'n Lôn to Pant Glas, birth place of Bryn Terfel, turning south toward Porthmadog and eventually to Machynlleth.

As the morning wore on, the weather improved and the vistas while driving were marvelous. Eventhough it's a main road, the A487 from Caernarfon to Machynlleth curves and winds its ways through the edge of the Welsh mountain country of high peaks, Snowdonia in English, Eryri, or Eagles' Heights in Welsh. You pass through places like Dolgellau near Cadair Idris and Trawsfynydd, past the Tal y Llyn Valley and eventually down almost to sea level at Machynlleth.

Besides having a name which few people outside of Wales can ever pronounce correctly, Machynlleth is home to the first parlement of Wales, led by Owain Glyndŵr during the Welsh revolution of 1401. This distinction the Machynllethiaid proudly proclaim as when you enter the small town the sign declares: Croeso i Machynlleth, prifddinas hynaf Cymru, Welcome to Machynlleth, Wales' oldest capital. You can actually visit the small slate building where the early parlement meant, but it wasn't the medieval history of Wales that brought me here today. I wanted to visit Celtica, a multimedia exhibition on the edge of town that deals with the history of the Celts from the ancient to the modern era; of course being in Wales' oldest capital, the focus is on Welsh Celticity.

When I arrived at the carpark for Celtica, I was surprised by the number of cars, and soon learned that on the grounds of Celtica that a Hispanic festival was also going on, called El sueño existente. I enquired at the ticket booth about the start time for the next tour through the multimedia area, and they told me I had about 40 minutes to wait. I used the time to stroll through the grounds and observe the various organizations that had set up booths and tents.

There is a romanticism that runs rampant throughout most of Welsh culture, Anglo and Welsh speaking, but it's not the cloying kind of guthy romanticism that most Americans think of. Rather it's a deep seeded respect for colorful characters, who ooze culture, creativity, artistic talents. Such people are often held in overly high esteem by many in Welsh cultural circles, and the plight of Latin America with its developing countries and economic bouleversements, its swarthy cantantes and tangos appeals to the Welsh psyche. Even though Machynlleth is far from everywhere (no doubt Glyndŵr chose it for his capital as it would be hard for the English to get to), hundreds of people were milling around the tents and booths eventhough the main entertainment wouldn't take place for hours.

Eventually it was time to go in and experience Celtica. Secretly I was hoping that they had updated since my last visit, more than ten years before. Unfortunately they didn't, but it was still entertaining, and eventhough some of the technology was showing the passage of time, it was still worth a second visit. Besides me on the tour were an older English couple, and English man and a family that were apparently his French relatives. Each person who goes on the multimedia tour is given a headset and can listen to the narratives along the way in English, French, German or Welsh. I was the only choosing Welsh this day, but the number of people choosing English were also in a minority!

At the very end of the tour is a room which addresses modern Celticity, and uses Dafydd Iwan's now famous anthem, "Yma o hyd" still here. Ten years ago when we got to this room I could barely hold back the tears, and today was no exception. The reality that Welsh culture has survived all these centuries, that it is still here, is overwhelming; it's joyful miracle. That Welsh culture is today stronger than it has been in centuries is also amazing, well worth a tear.

After the tour I wandered over to the caffi and had chile and jacket potato, believe it or not, the Welsh make very good chile. After my late lunch it was back north. The sun had come the rest of the way out and the trip home was even more beautiful than the way down had been.

It was almost evening by the time I reached Tai'n Lôn, but there was enough time to do a laundry and hang it out to capture the ocean breeze before it got too dark and too damp.