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Where’s the Wyvern? A Trip to Cardiff

On Tuesday I woke at what I consider to be an unseemly hour in order to accompany two friends to Cardiff.  Having never yet paid a visit to the Welsh nation, I rose that morning in a state of quietly eager anticipation.

As we traversed the miles between Exeter and Cardiff, we somehow got into conversation about the differences between dragons and wyverns.  A red dragon, as you may know, is the symbol of Wales and can be found on the Welsh flag.  A wyvern, on the other hand, is basically a two-legged dragon and is apparently the emblem of Cardiff, though when I looked up the Cardiff coat of arms, it turned out to have a dragon on it, not a wyvern.  The wyvern/dragon divide became a bit of a theme of the day while we tried to figure out whether various bits of ancient and modern decoration were supposed to be wyverns or dragons.  You’d think this would be easy, but check out the Cardiff Bus logo, and tell me whether you think it’s a wyvern or a dragon.  We found them on harps, in baskets, on clothing, lurking on the tops of buildings…of course we did go to a museum, which may hve brought us into contact with more mythical creatures than we would have otherwise encountered.

We were officially on the way to the St. Fagans National History Museum for one of my friends to interview a curator.  She’s writing a paper on the way the past is presented in reconstruction living history museum exhibits.  (At least I think that’s what she’s doing.)  Cool, eh?

Before we headed off to the museum, though, we planned to take in the sights of Cardiff.  Castle, civic buildings, parklands, that sort of thing.  Unfortunately when we got up there it was ABSOLUTELY FREEZING.  We got out of the car, and, huddling against one another in the bracing wind, we headed into town.

On the way to town we had to pass part of the Cardiff Castle Animal Wall.  This is…a wall with a variety of stone animals perched at intervals all over it.  Ours was not to reason why, but we did wonder about the scary glass eyes.  We were too cold to stand and gape, though, and we headed off in search of warmth and some caffeinated refueling.

Cardiff is a city full of arcades.  These are glass-covered walkways full of shops, most built between the 1850s and the 1920s.  There are some lovely sinuous ones.  We stopped in one arcade for coffee in a lovely little vegetarian restaurant before heading off to another arcade to visit a harp shop.  I’m not much of a harpist myself, but one of the ladies on the trip is.  In the end we had to drag her out.  (Well, whinge that we were hungry and wanted lunch, anyway.)

The harp theme, along with the wyvern theme, also came to constitute a big part of the day.  At St Fagans we were expecting a rather large harp exhibit but they turned out to have only one on display.  However, after friend #1 had her interview, the museum curators offered to take us into the storeroom to show friend #2 their multitudinous collection of harps.

Well actually, most of them weren’t so much harps as harp-husks.  They were just frames missing their strings.  The worst ones weren’t only missing their strings but had had bits of twinelike material put in their place; completely unplayable, merely a falsified shadow of harpdom.  My friend was still impressed, though.  There was some further dragging.

After a wander around the outdoor buildings of St Fagans (just as it began tipping it down) we pointed the car towards Devon.  We decided to make another wyvern-spotting road trip on a day with better weather sometime over the summer.  In the meantime I can brush up on my wyvern/dragon classification skills!

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