I paid my money and entered the animated "experience." It began as the group of us entered a small room where we waited for our ship to arrive. This ship, we were told, would sail us back into time, back to the days of Roman occupation. When our ship arrived, the door opened and we were ushered into the hold of a Roman galley, where we were told to sit on the rower's benches, though of course we were not chained. The Oarsmaster, beating time on a drum for the rowers, told us of the gruelling voyage by which the Romans had reached Deva. The Oarsmaster, a big man and none too clean, claimed to have spent many years at sea.
After our 'long and gruelling voyage', we finally landed at the port of Deva. The ship's door was again opened and we walked out into the recreated fortress. We passed the barracks, and saw an off-duty centurion, one of the few with a private space, snoring in his bunk. We passed shops, most of which displayed decidedly unappetizing wares. We saw two young Romans in the public baths, gossiping and laughing, and finally a lonely sentry keeping a cold watch from the city walls.
After this, we were led out of the animations, for the place is an actual archaeological dig and has a serious purpose. The entire 'experience' is built on the site of an ancient Roman house, which has seen several generations of newer buildings built on top of it. We saw for ourselves the many layers of history that lie beneath modern Chester.
In the excavation of the basement of this town house, we saw mediaeval, Saxon, and, at the lowest level, Roman remains. I was amused to hear the tales of reuse. One of the stones in this house had been used as a stair by the most recent family, but the archaeologists found that the stone itself came from a much older Roman dwelling. It seems the builder had found the Roman building, and taken the stair, but when he put it in his house, he decided that it had seen too much use, so he turned it over so that his building could start with an unworn stair. This all happened hundreds of years ago, and the stone is now worn down on both sides, first by Roman, then by British feet.
After we had examined much of the basement, we were led to a set of pits which are typical of an archaeological dig. These pits show the levels of history, with coloured lights and flags indicating what artifacts had been found at each level. I could see that the search for Roman treasure in Britain is much more than walking the countryside, for the walls of the Roman house were several feet below the outside street level.
There was also a museum, where I handled many pieces of ancient pottery and mosaics, and an interesting shop. I was the last to leave, as I explored everything thoroughly, and I am afraid that people were waiting to close up the shop, but I made it worth their while by buying more maps. Two of them were of Ancient and Roman Britain.
I ate that night at a pub with inferior food, and they also had no choice of soft drinks, but served only Pepsi products. I realized that I had noticed this lack in other places also, and I found this strange as many people prefer Coke with their drinks. When I began asking questions, I discovered that British pubs are divided into "Freehouses", where the landlord can supply whatever he wishes, and Corporate-sponsored houses which have no choice. And I resolved to go to freehouses from then on, where no corporation tells the landlord what he may and may not serve.
The next day I left Chester and drove my wagon north into the countryside. I had heard of a magical place, where, below a waterfall, the image of Merlin's face is carved into the rock.
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