My ninth grade history teacher was full of interesting information. Besides telling hysterical stories about drinking “water” on a boat in Istanbul for his 21st birthday, he was full of trivia. One such tid-bits was that the majority of cities that achieved great power throughout history had a major river at their center. London has the Thames, Paris the Grand Canal and Milan the Ticino. Okay, I wasn’t serious about the last one. Besides the occasional exception, this rule holds remarkably true. Just think about port cities in the USA.
Bristol has not just one, but two rivers running through it. The River Avon and the River Frome meet at Bristol Bridge and helped to make the city a prosperous center. Unfortunately, any discussion of Bristol will lead you to the sad truth that the city’s fortune was greatly built on the slave trade. Luckily, the city can also claim explorer John Cabot, so perhaps not all is lost.
Rivers also make a city more pleasant for modern citizens. After all, who doesn’t want to take some time out of their day to gaze at the water? No matter how polluted and grey, watching a river flow is a therapeutic experience.
Walking along the water in Bristol is a surprising experience. You don’t expect to find the river running through the so-called downtown or business district. Nothing announces its arrival. The rivers are there, more as function even if they aren’t the hubs of activity they once were.
It’s not particularly pretty nor busy. On Saturday nights you’ll see people going into the infamous boat club Thekla (yeah, from Skins). On sunny summer evenings, you’ll see people sitting outside drinking a beer or cider. Other than that, you’ll get some alone time when walking along the river.
Do you enjoy finding the water in cities? Do you have a body of water where you live?