The Welsh capital doesn’t have the glamor of London, the charm of Edinburgh or the ambiance of Belfast. In fact, despite the fact that it’s the UK’s 9th largest city, Wales is often skipped over when travelling through the UK. Yet, one should not ignore the Welsh capital. Wales has its own uniqueness; one has to look no further than its language to understand that. Welsh Gaelic is a very old and complicated language, and throughout much of the 20th century, it was in decline, though it never died out. However, the Welsh government, in an effort to promote Wales and a Welsh identity, has recently tried to bring back the language, posting bilingual signs and including it on school syllabi. In 2010, the Welsh Assembly voted to approve several measures developing and promoting the use of the Welsh in Wales. Visiting Wales, you’ll probably start your journey in ‘Caerdydd’ (Cardiff) where many signs will be in ‘Cymraeg’ (Welsh). You’ll be greeted with ‘croeso’ or ‘helô’ (welcome and hello). You might hear ‘bore da’ or ‘p’nawn da’ (good morning/good afternoon). You should probably learn how to say ‘diolch’ (thank you)…followed by ‘mae’n ddrwg…dw i ddim yn deall!’ (sorry, I don’t understand!) I know very little about Welsh (so excuse any errors)…but just from studying a Welsh text or two at uni, it seems to be a very interesting albeit very complicated language! Today, only about 562,000 Welsh residents reported the ability to speak Welsh.
Welcome to the beautiful, rustic ruins of Cardiff Castle (or in Welsh Gaelic, Caerdydd Castell). This 11th Norman century fortification most likely commissioned by William the Conqueror, the castle was built on top of a 3rd century Roman fort, as the site provides a good vantage point to defend the city. Composed of a central Norman keep and squat lookout tower, circled by a thick defensive wall and a deep moat, perched on an artificial hilltop and topped with crinolines, the castle is the picture of fortified defence. It was repeatedly involved in conflicts between the Normans and the Welsh before finally becoming little more than a decoration after a rich Marquess built a Victorian mansion and demolished all other medieval buildings minus the Norman keep, thinking that it looked Romantic. In fact, during the Victorian era, owning a castle or ruin – a real one or an artificial ruin (called a folly) – was all the rage among the wealthy landowners at the time. Those who didn’t have a ruin on their property often either bought one, or constructed one (learn more about follies such as Sham Castle, Kreuzenstein Castle or the Chateau de Montmelas, or even the more modern Albigny-sur-Soane). Still, it makes a pretty awesome ruin! One of the most significant sites in Cardiff, be sure there to get there early (or visit off season!) to get the site to yourself.