Before visiting, my only impression of Cardiff had come from Doctor Who, a beloved, ultra-nerdy British television show filled with aliens, time travel, and countless quips of British humor. Cardiff was one of the main filming locations for the show thought there were only a few instances where it actually was actually portrayed as itself. When Cardiff was shown, it seemed like a typical small city, bustling with people all trying their best to get by. I imagined tall buildings, crowded streets, and that certain grittiness that the UK seems to have an abundance of.
Upon arrival, I did find most of these things. However, the emptiness of the place was startling. Both downtown Cardiff and the bay were essentially empty, even at night and we rarely encountered other young adults. While it was certainly not as eerie as my visit to Macedonia, the sense of place was similar: walking through the streets felt like walking through a movie set. Admittedly, Cardiff felt more mundane, but the feeling that something was looming around the corner was the same.
Despite this, I was pleased to find that instead of the industry based city I pictured it to be, it had all of the charms of other small cities, with history, good food and local vendors around ever corner.
The majesty of Cardiff Castle is not to be missed. While underwhelming at first glance, the rooms are filled with the royal eccentricism common amongst European structures.
I would also recommend watching a sunset in Cardiff Bay- whether or not you watch the sun fall, pay attention to the way the light changes over the sea, interrupted by nothing but a small, colorful ferris wheel.
Another thing I greatly enjoyed was the pub culture. Much like that in London, pubs open their doors to any and all as a place of refuge or a temporary home for whatever handful of hours you need them for. The Goat Major, in particular, is a great place for a pint and a Welsh history lesson.
What may be even more strange/lovely/quirky than Cardiff is the Welsh language. Known for its excessive use of vowels, it is notoriously confusing to non-native speakers.For example, the phrase 'Cardiff is the capital of Wales' translates to 'caerdydd yw prifddinas Cymru.' I have always found this fascinating, so to see it in person and hear locals speaking the language was absolutely incredible.
While I may not plan on returning anytime soon, I am grateful to have visited Wales and seen a distinct area of the UK in action. Next in line: Scotland (!!)