Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales

Said: “Blaow-now fest-in-ee-og”

My host John picks me up from Red Curry, the local Indian/Pakistani restaurant in the tiny town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. It is 7 pm, an overcast and rainy Friday evening. I had just eaten a Saag Bhaji. When I tell the owner I am from Ohio, he spends the rest of my time trying to remember the name of the guy from Antique Roadshow, who is apparently also from Ohio. I am the only one in the restaurant, though a steady trickle of people come in to get their takeout orders. A young man of maybe 21 comes in dressed in white and black, has a short interview with the owner, and begins wiping down menus. Somehow the subject of the weather is raised, and the owner tells me its always the same. Grey and rainy. “Ask him,” he says referring to his new employee, “he is from here.” The young man nods his agreement: “everyday the same.”

When I bought my ticket here from Liverpool, I had to show the ticket man the seemingly unpronouncable words.  Some Welsh towns have adopted easier-to-pronounce English names. Not here. This town is often a base for people exploring the National Park of Snowdonia, but don’t usually spend time here. A place people come to only to leave again and again.

John, co-owner of Bryn Elltyd Eco Guest House, drives me back to my new home for the next four days. I ask him about the ragged and broken piles that populate the landscape. He says, “Those are mountains, turned inside-out.” Their energy also turns me inside-out. They appear collapsed, turned in on themselves, ravaged. This area, he tells me, is relatively young, settled in the early 1900s as a Slate mining area. The history of mining is what brought me to this area, having Welsh miners in my bloodline.

 

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