Wales and it capital Cardiff are not easy to write about. Wales is a part of the United Kingdom, but will it remain so? I read recently that one of the unintended consequences of Brexit might be the dividing of this European nation into 3 separate countries–England, Scotland, and Wales. This might happen because the alliance is uneasy. Since the Tony Blair days in the 1990s, Wales has had a semiautonomous legislature, and Scotland has voted on whether to remain in or leave Great Britain. The Welsh assembly now makes laws that affect only this part of the United Kingdom. Wales mostly sends its own teams to international competitions. Leaving won’t be easy or fast. Wales was incorporated into the United Kingdom only after a series of wars, and the Welsh people retain a strong sense of their separate identity.
Most of the citizens of Wales that is only on average 60 miles wide and 170 miles long live along the Bristol Channel in the southern part of this kind-of country. All signs here are in both English and Welsh even though the King’s English predominates. The committed Welsh speakers live in the north, which is hard to get to from the south. To go to the north part by train by the fastest way requires leaving Wales and traveling through England. Ruth and I were told that to avoid offense while there we should think of and refer to Wales as a separate country.
Cardiff seems like 2 cities. There’s the old part with the main train station, the castle, and most of the regular shops. Then there’s the Wales Millennium Centre that requires a trip on public transportation or a rental car to reach. It’s south of Butetown on Cardiff Bay and contains several important attractions, some of which are relatively new. There’s the old, historic Norwegian Church where native son and international celebrity/writer Roald Dahl was baptized that is now an arts center. South of it are the World of Boats maritime museum and the Doctor Who Experience. This long-running and still popular TV series has been made in Wales since 2005. There are lots of restaurants and public sculptures here, but the 2 entities that dominate the area are a modern shopping center with a movie theater and an arts complex that everyone calls The Armadillo. This is appropriate because this building providing lots of live entertainment looks a bit like an armadillo. The materials used in its construction represent Welshness. The front of it looks like a lot of carved words that make no sense but they do. They read, “In These Stones Horizons Sing” in English and Welsh. When we were there a huge car show was in progress on the large expanse of concrete in front of it. This is a must-see part of Cardiff.
I would like to go back to see the scenic part of Wales between the south and north and experience the flavor of Welshness that I was told exists only in the upper part of this somewhat restless country within a country.
ps The painting up top represents the historic opening of the Queen Alexandra dock in Cardiff in 1907 that Alexandra and her husband, King Edward VII, attended.