Little Big Towns Steal Our Hearts
In the lives of all of us there is a special place which, for some reason, remains in our memories forever. No matter how much time you spent there, no matter how many times a day you got soaked there, what counts is the exceptional feeling of unlimited happiness that it offers. The place that will always be in my heart is Hastings, a quaint town in East Sussex on the south coast of England.
Life is full of changes. We are constantly trying to have something we do not have, such as a better-paid job, smarter children, more reliable friends, a trouble-free marriage, and a lot of happiness... We who really want to love our lives should follow our dreams and make them come true. However, changing one’s life in a way one can be really satisfied and happy with is sometimes quite tough. But I believe that if there is a desire, an ambition, a little bit of motivation and an achievable target, the battle is almost won.
When I started to feel that my life was not exactly the way I wanted it to be, I knew I needed to change it radically. Therefore, I decided to get rid of the status of a little girl tied to her mother’s apron strings and start fighting for my future. I found a language school, booked a flight ticket, announced it to my parents and indirectly asked them for a little financial support. Before my trip, I had never been alone for more than 4 days. I had never travelled abroad alone. And while I was standing in a queue at the check-in counter, I was crying like a little child. As soon as I arrived in the great city of London, everything changed. I took a deep breath and bravely started to follow the destiny I had chosen.
I missed the booked train, so I had to take another one. On the train I had to carry my two fully packed suitcases through several coaches because I had taken a wrong seat. And in the end, when I thought that I had luckily reached my destination, I realized that I had got off the train one stop early. Therefore, I had to take a cab and was driven like a princess directly to the front door of my host mother’s house in Hastings.
As every one of us studied history for at least 5 years, you should know what Hastings is famous for. In case somebody missed that information in class, the little big town is situated in the area where the memorable Battle of Hastings changed the course of British history on 14 October 1066. The Bayeux Tapestry, exhibited in a museum in Bayeux, Normandy, offers the greatest source of information on the moment in history. It depicts the real sequence of events in the battle between Harold the Second of England and Duke William of Normandy and the decisive victory of Normans, which led to the Normans’ control of England.
Hastings, with the breath of history, is the most charming English town you can imagine. It is the prototype of a typical English town with traditional brick houses, foggy weather and people who have a very positive outlook on life. If you raise your hand while waiting at the bus stop, thus signalling the driver to stop, you will get a chance to see Hastings Pier (ravaged by fire in 2010), Town Centre and Old Town from a double-decker bus. I myself had (and still have) a little difficulty distinguishing between Old Town and Town Centre. Let me make it clear once and forever. Town Centre gives you a chance to enjoy the town’s cultural life in the White Rock Theatre or take a rest on an empty beach having a barbeque with your friends. Old Town offers you charming alleys full of shops, stands, restaurants, cafés, and fish & chips stalls. It is also a home to a variety of museums. You can choose among Fishermen’s Museum, Flower Makers Museum and Smugglers Adventure, where you can relive the daring exploits of Sussex smugglers. History lovers can start with a visit to the Hastings Castle and its 1066 Story exhibition. Then, they can feast their eyes on the beauty of churches of different denominations or look around the Shipwreck & Coastal Heritage Centre, an extraordinary maritime museum displaying wrecks from the 17th and 18th century.
Hastings is a town that truly lives. It hosts a number of festivals all through the year, which guarantee amusement and pleasantly spent time.
For me, life in Hastings was like a mosaic of wonderfully spent moments. In the mornings, I enjoyed walking to school under my umbrella, trying to make out the road through the thick fog I loved. I ate The Toad in the Hole, Cream Tea, Fruit Cake and Custard with Blueberries, drank black tea with milk and listened to my host mother telling long family stories. I tasted different cultures, and I enjoyed learning about the lives of my new friends. Since then I have not been able to turn a blind eye to the diversity hidden in the world and have been craving for more information about religions, lifestyles and customs.
Nothing is the same after Hastings, but everything has its time and everything ends. Now, before I fall asleep, I don’t dream about adventures anymore, but instead I cast my mind back to the long cold afternoons spent on the beach in Hastings, and that is, in my opinion, a dream come true. I’m counting days to book a flight back to England and find out whether it was just a short dream or a reality I am part of. Although I love being back home and living my comfortable life, it’s obvious that once you leave the nest, you are affected forever.
Photos: Zuzana Rajčáková
My host mother's house
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