Some ancient monuments have limited access to protect the sites for future generations. Stonehenge is greatly limited. The circle sits very close to two busy roads. They have build a large fence around the sight. You can get inside the fence during certain hours in the day, but you can only stay on the pavements. The closest spot is around 25 feet from the actual stones. We almost didn't go to Stonehenge because it seemed rather pointless to go stand so far away. But then I found the information to get special access into the circle. A few phone calls and a few pounds sterling later, we had tickets into the circle. It was sunset on Tuesday, and we were the only people in the sight. We could walk anywhere we wanted, touch the stones, smell the stones, photograph the stones. It was awesome.
I can't say it was a spiritual experience for me, I didn't 'feel' anything. But I was moved by the stones and what it may have symbolized to the people who built it 5000 years ago. I know many of you will respond with the information you have read about Stonehenge. There are many wonderful stories, but the bottom line is that we will never fully know the truth of this great mystery. My deepest impression is that the people who built this great circle were searching beyond themselves. Remember, this circle was built before Abraham 'met' the one true and living God. We may not agree with the way they worshipped (although the theories of ritual sacrifice are probably just romantic myths created during the Victorian age). But you have to be impressed by the fact that they carried some of those stones 250 miles (sea and land). The largest stones came from a quarry 25 miles away. Now, I am a short person and a slightly wide person, but one stone was 3 times my height and twice my width, and must have been very difficult to drag 20 miles without modern machinery.
Each stone seemed to have a personality of its own. If you looked carefully at the stones, you can see faces of people and animals in the cracks and color. A guard pointed out the exact center of the circle and showed us where the sun would have shined during certain times of the year. There is no doubt that the circle was a giant calendar, as even the outer sarsens number exactly 29 1/2 (the 30th sarsen is half the width of the rest). Outside the Stonehenge site are many buriel mounds, some of which are lined up perfectly with certain aspects of the stones. Noone can say for sure why these are so perfectly aligned, but we can come up with fantastic legends, can't we?
As with the Romans, the people who built Stonehenge were brilliant in their mathematics. The hill on which the circle stands is not perfectly level. And yet, they were able to make each stone the right height with the right angles so that the top of the circle is perfectly level.
We were there at sunset, and even though it wasn't the most spectacular color, it was still a rather moving sight. The day had been cloudy and dreary, but the clouds dispersed just enough while we were there to add some dramatic effects to my photos (I hope). I ran out of film a little early, so we started to leave the sight. A security guard, who obviously loved his job at Stonehenge, gave us a personal tour of the circle and pointed out some of its secrets. He showed us where Keats had carved his name on a stone, as well as a few other people. He showed us some ancient pictures of a sword and ax. He made us smell the stone, since the stones have unique smells to some people (ok, it smelled like licorice to me). He explained his favorite theory as to how the lintel stones got up to the top.
Stonehenge is a very personal experience. Each person who goes there has a different perspective. To some, it is comforting. To some, it is frightening. To some it is mysterious. Personally, I was moved by the beauty. I felt an overwhelming sense of awe, as I stood dwarfed among those great stones. I found humor in the faces that time and erosion has created on the stones. And I felt the presence of 5000 years of people who were moved in their own ways as they viewed this marvel.
I doubt I could ever go to Stonehenge and just stand behind the rope. Stonehenge is meant to be experienced, not just seen.