Lorentz Gullachsen
The town of Abergavenny, which is known as the "Gateway to Wales"
The town of Abergavenny, which is known as the "Gateway to Wales"
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Wales Spotlight

This small corner of the United Kingdom encompasses many of the charms of its more well-traversed neighbors, including bucolic market towns, dramatic hill country, and a rejuvenated capital city

By Owen Sheers


August 18th, 2009

Wherever I’ve lived, there’s only one place I’ve ever thought of as home: Wales, where I was raised and where my parents still live. The Massachusetts-size country occupies a western bulge of the island of Great Britain, its ragged coastline harried by the Irish Sea.

The Welsh have sustained an ancient culture, and their language, protected by the region’s hills and mountains, has remained largely unaffected by linguistic invasions of Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and Normans. Following a recent resurgence, Welsh can be heard all around the country today. One word in particular you might hear is hiraeth. Some say it means homesickness, but hiraeth is more than that. Writer and historian Jan Morris, who lives in Wales, defines it as “a longing, but for something indefinable, perhaps unattainable.”

I have spent many years living outside Wales but never really experienced hiraeth until after moving to New York City. Amid the skyscrapers I felt a desire for a nourishment of the soul that could be satisfied only by my home country. But what exactly was I missing? Was this longing no more than an expat’s rose-tinted memory from across the Atlantic? Last year when I was asked to make a BBC television series about poetry and the British landscape, I decided to reexplore my homeland – to try to decipher the character of Wales with a visitor’s gaze.

View our Wales slideshow by photographer Lorentz Gullachsen for a closer look at this small corner of the United Kingdom.

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