5 Things I Love About Wales


Lifestyle / Friday, November 24th, 2017
  1. The Flag is Awesome!

It’s all about the dragon.  Let’s face it, most countries’ flags are pretty boring.  Just horizontal or vertical stripes.  The Banr Gymru would be as dull as Poland or Ukraine’s, but what other country has a dragon as a national emblem?

It was based on the arms of Henry Tudor, and an Arthurian legend.  Merlin had a vision in which the white dragon (the Anglo-Saxons; that is, the English) attacked the red dragon (the native Britons; that is, the Welsh) and seized control of its territory.  But after the red dragon had rested, it returned to the fray, reclaiming not only its own territory but the white dragon’s also.

This was a potent legend throughout medieval times, used again and again throughout numerous Welsh rebellions.  The last to use it was Henry Tudor in the late fifteenth century when, launching his rebellion in Milford Haven, he painted a red dragon onto his green-and-white shield.  Eventually, he was crowned King Henry VII.  Queen Elizabeth II today is his direct descendant.  So it could be argued that the red dragon still controls the white dragon’s territory.

The Banr Gymru was only officially adopted in the 1950’s.  The other major contender was the St David’s Cross, which would have fitted neatly with the theme of the other British nations’ flags.  Personally, I’m glad the dragon won through.  Dragons are cool.  Crosses – not so much!

Banr Gymru
  1. The Language is Really Cool!

It starts to make sense when you understand that w is a vowel pronounced like an English u, that u sounds like an English I, dd sounds like the English th as in “the”, ll sounds like nothing in English at all, and letters can change into other letters under certain circumstances but not in others.  Got that?

 

Once you’ve figured out the basics, it’s actually a remarkably simple language.  For example, “Are you ready?” – Wy ti’n barod? – is exactly the same as “You are ready,” the difference being whether you raise or lower the pitch of your voice at the end of the sentence.

 

And then there’s all those very cool words.  How can you not love a language in which your kids can dress up at Halloween as a “bwci bo” (ghost), or you could play a few rounds of “sboncen” (squash), or admire a “pili pala” (butterfly), or even smoke some “mwg drwg” (cannabis), in which case, you’ll probably feel an irresistible urge to use the “popty ping” (microwave – literally, “oven that goes ‘ping’”)?

 

  1. Cardiff is a Remarkably Well-Equipped City

Seriously now, what other city of 300, 000 can boast three stadiums and an ice rink with four professional teams?  Three live theatres with resident opera and dance companies?  Three museums?  An international airport?  Railways and motorways connected to the rest of Britain and Europe? Who says rivalry is a bad thing?  Everything the capital of England has, the capital of Wales must have its own little version of: London has a riverfront, Cardiff has a waterfront; London has an airport, Cardiff has an airport; London has high-rise buildings, Cardiff has high-rise buildings.  The difference is that London is vast, and however you attempt to travel from district to another, it will take you a very, very long time.  When I lived in the Roath district of Cardiff, ninety percent of the city’s facilities were within walking distance, and even for those who live further out, nothing is more than a bus ride away.

The Pierhead Building stands in front of the opera house, Cardiff Bay
  1. The Mountains

The one day that stands out for me as one of unadulterated joy in 2017 was when I was driving from Pwllheli to a tiny village near Lake Vyrnwy.  The GPS took me on some bizarre route, very much up hill and down dale, along winding tracks snaking across Snowdonia.  Hopelessly lost, I was, and far from convinced the GPS had much idea either – and I didn’t care!  Those Welsh highlands will make my heart sing every time.  Where I live currently, outside Caerphilly, Mynydd Meio soars behind my back garden, the envy of all visitors, for which I give thanks every morning.  No other country in the world has designated so much of its territory national park (one third), which means nobody in Wales is ever more than an hour’s drive from an area of protected stupendousness.

Snowdonia

 

  1. The History is Fascinating

From the exploits of Llewelyn Fawr, to his son Gruffudd falling to his death while escaping from the Tower of London; from Edward II and his boyfriend being pursued with dogs through a rain storm across the Rhondda valley, to Gwilim ap Tudor capturing the mighty Conwy Castle while the garrison were out at prayer; from Ifor Bach to Dic Penderyn; from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Alexander Cordell, and Taliesin to Dylan Thomas; Wales has a sensational past, one that is rarely heard, having been thoroughly overshadowed by England for most of the last thousand years.  From the castles to the coal mines, Offa’s Dyke to the Sennedd, the story of Wales is rich and thrilling, one that I plan to recount throughout this website.

St David’s Day parade, Cardiff, Wales