Saint Peter went in to speak to God. Looking down on Wales he said: "Lord, why have you been so
generous to the Welsh ? They have beautiful mountains, fine lakes, magnificent beaches. What have these people done to earn all these treasures?"
"All these treasures ?" replied the Lord, "have you seen who I've given them as neighbors?"
The English invasions of ~ 500AD onwards left only present-day Wales, Cornwall and Strathclyde occupied by Britons. The word "Wales" originates from an English (and German) word meaning something like "foreigner" (cf. Walloons in Belgium, the last syllable of Cornwall). The word "Cymru" stems from the Welsh-language phrase for "fellow-countrymen" (cf. Cumberland).
Wales was formally united administratively with England under the Acts of Union of 1536 and 1543, the country being divided into 13 counties. From 1995, Wales has been divided into 21 districts. To complicate things, from 1974 to 1995 Wales consisited of only eight counties. Be prepared to meet some of these old geographical names, although they have no official standing any more. Some of the pre-1974 names have re-appeared in 1995, while some names have always been in existence. Confused yet ? Wales does now have its own assembly, based in Cardiff, but true to the form of a highly-centalized and constitutionally-backward country like Britain, this assembly has been given practically no powers.
The Size of Wales
It has been 'proposed' that the 'size of Wales' should be made an official unit of area - with sub-divisions like a centi-Wales, milli-Wales etc. Larger areas could be measured in kilo-Wales.
See this video for further details
Failed in Wales
The Welsh Development Board made a series of so-so TV adverts entitled Made in Wales. 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' responded by making an 'advert' called Failed in Wales listing companies that had gone bankrupt in Wales (along with a couple of similar 'adverts'). The resulting controversy ensured that campaign became classified by the Welsh Development Agency as a great success (a colleague from the Welsh Development Agency has 'confirmed' that this story is true).
To start off, here are a few links to "official" web sites :
Go to Learn Yourself Welsh
Go to Gwybodiadur. Directory of information to do with the Welsh language.
Go to Placenames to avoid making the irritating habit of pronouncing Welsh place names incorrectly.
Y Lolfa , the well-known publishing house.
If any Americans (or Germans or anyone else who commonly, and irritatingly, refer to Britain as "England") have reached this far and have still not sussed that Wales is a different place from England, then go the pages of Plaid Cymru , the Welsh Nationalist party.
Countryside accounts for a large proportion of Wales, see the Countryside Commission for Wales pages. It is also very mountainous, although by international standards they are not very high - there are only 3 peaks above 1000 meters (just). At the other extreme, the World's tallest mountain is named after the Welshman, George Everest.
A Welsh National Cycle Trail, from Cardiff to Holyhead (400 kms.) has been established for several years now. You can read a personal report of my experiences along this route. Since then the number of cycle tracks has grown - click here for details.
Narrow-Gauge Railways, of the order of 60 cm. or so, are common in Wales.
Most of them were built to carry slate down from the mountains to a harbor, and
many continue as tourist railways run by volunteers - see
Railways (Preserved Railways and Railway Archaeology)
The Ffestiniog Railway (of Porthmadog) deserves a special mention for what it has done, performing a miracle by getting large numbers of people to part with good money in order to visit Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Incidentally, Portmadog is named in honor of the first European to visit America - namely Prince Madoc, who set sail from this region and landed on the coast of present-day Alabama USA, several hundred years before Columbus. If you visit Alabama, you can see the monument marking the spot. And that is also the reason why later explorers discovered several native tribes who could speak Welsh.
Castles are also fairly common, although many of them were originally symbols of English domination. In Britain generally, castles would only have seen action in two wars at most - the War of the Roses and the Revolution (the so-called Civil War). During the latter conflict there was a tendency to destroy many castles to ensure that they offered no advantage to the enemy in the future. In Wales, many castles were involved in an additional conflict, the uprising of Owain Glyndwr. Many castles suffered damage during this conflict also.
Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, and can use that title genuinely now that Wales has its own assembly.
I suppose I'll have to mention Llanfaipwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. A few years ago, this place used to be a real rip-off with a few sham "attractions". Nowadays, there is at least a decent size shop/cafe run by Pringles. (This web site is a bit sparse. The original site seems to have closed down - or more to the point, I think they were trying to be too clever and set up an a Web address with the village's name, which is then too long to work properly. You can give it a try if you want.)
I can give a special mention to Llangollen which contains many pieces of information including some on the annual Eisteddfod.
One of the (and possibly the only well-known ) delicacies of Wales is Laverbread. Perversely, this is not bread, but seaweed. This pages allows to order some by mail, and sample for yourself how it tastes. As I have heard said - it tastes terrible, but fairplay, it's very patriotic! (Richard Burton is widely attributed as describing it 'the Welshman's caviar')
Another page from Wales Direct which allows you order many Welsh food items, souvenirs, etc.
General information from The Welsh Foodie
For a (formerly) successful sports team go to Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey Club ex-members of the Ice Hockey Super League.
Long Distance Running in Wales (a bit dated now-I haven't updated it for a while)
Les Croupiers Running Club, a fairly humorous site, possibly worth visiting in its own right.
and a special mention for Owain Glyndwr, a name which is well known in Wales but whose history etc. is not. It is almost as though knowledge about Owain Glyndwr still presents some threat - 600 years later
Gathering the Jewels Archive with much information of historical interest - images etc.
Sheep. With approximately 11 million sheep, Wales accounts for about 15% of all sheep in the European Community. Sheep have been the predominant main stock of the Welsh farmer since the eighteenth century - prior to this it had been cattle, notably the black Pembrokeshire breed.
Daffodils and Leeks are both Welsh emblems. It is a bit of a mystery as to why Wales should have two members of the planet kingdom as emblems. Of the different theories to account for this, the most convincing one is the fact that they both taste very similar.
General news items
The National Anthem. You will notice how short it is, and therefore how easy it would have been for John Redwood to learn it.
Scotland might have the Osprey but Wales has the Red Kite. Once common in Britain , even in the streets of London, they nowadays only inhabit small pockets, of which Mid-Wales is one. In fact, the Welsh birds are apparently the result of a conservation effort with native birds, whereas certain other areas areas of Britain have been re-stocked with birds from Continental Europe. Consult Gigrin Farm, or The Kite Country Project. But be careful, Buzzards are also common in Wales. Buzzards are often extremely noisy, if they are flying in pairs or groups, whereas Kites are noted for being very silent. Also the Kite has a forked tail, whereas the Buzzard's is more rounded.
Essential information for visitors to Wales - Low-flying aircraft
For specific information about the Air Force base at Valley, see here.
On a similar theme, there is the Caernarfon Air Museum
TV and Films
Every mountain and stream, every farm and little lane announces to the World that landscape is something different in Wales - RS Thomas
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