PrologueWhat we are doing, and why we're doing it!
There are numerous places on the east coast of the United States that lay claim to historical significance. Williamsburg Virginia is one of the places where past events support present day claims.
The area is home to one of the earliest English settlements in North America. The French had settled in Quebec decades earlier, and the Spanish had established St. Augustine even before that. The significance of Williamsburg is that the original settlement has not been covered over by a modern city, and there are facilities in the area to help you understand what life was like for the original settlers.
The most popular feature of the Williamsburg area is "Colonial Williamsburg", a restoration of what the second settlement was like. It's a sprawling village hosting period buildings and costumed docents. You can watch candles being made, visit with a blacksmith, or browse a general store. It's a great experience if you haven't seen the traditional ways before. If you've been to similar places, the crowds and commercialism can be distracting.
You've got to hand it to the early colonialists, though. They did know how to keep the kids under control!
There is also an interactive museum in the area that includes a reproduction of an Indian village. While we had heard that the museum is interesting, we bypassed it in favor of what we felt was the most interesting local: the site of the original settlement.
The original location of the settlement is now a large grassy area peppered with remnants of walls and buildings. In a couple of places, active archeological digs are in progress. Impending rain had prompted the archeological teams to start covering the dig sites, but we had a chance to chat with a docent about the goings-on. It seems that they had just located a skeleton of one of the early settlers. They even thought that they knew who's remains that they had found, and were doing DNA testing to confirm the find.
We asked about what is involved in volunteering to help with a dig. It seems that there is actually considerable competition among archeological students to participate in the field work at Williamsburg!
The story of the early days at Williamsburg is actually quite bleak. Most of the settlers died that first winter. The survivors were a miserable lot, ridden with disease and malnutrition. It took several years before they discovered that tobacco could provide a source of income that would support the colony. The success of the colony was sealed when a Dutch ship sought shelter from a storm in the area with a cargo of slaves.
We enjoyed a bit of serendipity when we ran into some folks that we had met near Martha's Vineyard (Massachusetts). They are from Germany (he's German, she's French), and they are touring North America for the better part of the year. We had a wonderful time chatting about life in the US, life in Germany, and life in Africa (where they had lived for years). Who knows, we may cross paths with them yet again!