Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

F'ailte gu Alba!

Ciamar a tha thu! (keh-mer a ha-oo) It means how are you in Gaelic. And the title translates as “Welcome to Scotland” but I don’t know how to pronounce it.

Thistle, the national flower.

We’re not six anymore, we’re just four, because the girls are in USA. Dubai-London, London-Edinburgh, a bus, a train and a car ride later we’re in Valerie’s bed-n-breakfast where we drink tea and chat. Apparently 18 C is a tropical weather for Scotland, too hot.

Though we had a good night sleep, we can’t make up our minds, which way to go, which thing to visit first. Edinburgh (pronounced lovingly by the Scots as Edin-bur-ah) is full of people because of the annual festival. There are events in every monument or building, including in the street. There are streams of human beings, pouring on the cobbled streets. The flow is impeded by rain, that seems to be capricious, choosing to drop on unprepared people. We have plastic rain coats: when we wear them, it doesn’t rain, when we take them off, we get drenched.

We take some pictures with a Scot dressed in full regalia and playing the pipes. We want to visit the castle but there is at least one hour line to buy the tickets. It would be easier to buy them on the internet and pick them up tomorrow morning. So we go to the Scotland Museum. 

I think this served as inspiration for J.K. is a trunk with 14 locks

You know, there are days and then there are some other days. We couldn’t figure out where to start, because the museum began half a level above from where we entered (though we had exhibits down there). “ We used to do things this way” starts almost any explanation. The presentation was beautiful, inviting, cohesive, but... TOO MUCH INFORMATION! We could have visited for days in a row to absorb all there was too know, and we have only three days here and four more in the Highlands, and there are so many things to learn. I realize I’m tired, maybe I hit the famous wall, the one that every long term traveler hits at some point. I could sit down and complain, wallow in self pity. Or I could acknowledge it, realize I have five more months to go and then I will be home, where I could have my familiar things and the same schedule, over and over again. Well, let’s enjoy those five more months!

At least some of us had fun!

The next day is sunny for 4 hours in a row! We are first in line for the castle and first to see Honors, the crown jewels. The Scottish ones. 

View of the castle and its view (partial)

Just one of the towers.

This is what I learned about Scotland: they were a headache for the Romans, Hadrian built a wall to keep them away. There were a few tribes, some speaking Gaelic, at some point they united and in the heat of the fight they would cry “Albannaich!”, meaning themselves, Scots. When Britain started to have an upper hand, the Scots decided to unite with it, on condition that they keep their crown jewels and the right to have their kingdom. And that’s why we can see them here (and not in London): a crown, a scepter and a sword (we can’t photograph the real jewels, just the metal ones, made for the visually impaired).

The castle in itself is small and not interesting. There is an exhibition about the Royal Scot, a regiment formed from others, where we learned that after the union, the Scots could wear the kilt and speak Gaelic only if in the army. So they joined in great numbers to keep their identity.

Mihai kept looking for a museum lauded by the guidebook. One about war, where everything is made interesting. At the entrance we watch a movie (again about Scots and how bravely they fought). Looking at the objects I caught with the corner of my eye the word Mysore. I was there, I saw the new palace! I read the small print, how the Scot officer killed the raja and took the exhibited objects as a war trophy. I can see in a painting from that time how the Raja is dying, his sword hanging now in a glass box. 

"For we fight not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, but for Freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life"
 I wonder how many Scotts lived in Mysore, India, deprived of their freedom in 1799.

I revolt against war, political and economical expansion. I look into Mihai’s eyes and I read my thoughts in them. We get out immediately. Maybe we’re not able to do anything against today’s wars, but we can stop visiting this kind of museums. And a little voice in my head asks me how many exhibits from the so many museums that I visited or want to visit are plundered from their rightful place?

We walk the streets, with their performers, and the crowds attracted by them.

“Museum of childhood” started as a hobby that grew too big for one building, so it occupies two, with a total of five floors. As society evolved, and the parents had a life that didn’t include raising their children, so appeared objects for their care: the bottle with a rubber nipple, the pram (for long walks, because air was good for their little lungs), the first formulas. Then walkers, toys grouped for ages or boys or girls, the majority from Western countries but some from other continents too (dolls from Japan or Africa, different game-boards).

We end our last day in the city at the National Gallery where we admire the Scottish paintings and tapestries.
View from close to the National Gallery, which has a no photos policy.

Then we rented a car and moved around Highlands. We started with Oban, a quaint town with the Doneli castle and some Colosseum like building on top of the hill. 

A gentleman in the War and Peace museum told us that if we can see a cloud over the islands (right across the bay), it means it is going to rain. 

If we can’t see the islands, it means it’s raining already. Weather used to be a subject of conversation and I didn’t understand why. Scotland’s weather could occupy people for ages. Let’s say it is cloudy, but not in a strata, the clouds are fluffy, just forming, rolling over the hill, in the valley, obscuring houses, releasing their droplets on this street, but not on that one, 10 yards further. A gust of wind moves the clouds apart, the sun shines, sparkling everything, raising a rainbow. A few seconds later, the dulness returns. No one comes in Scotland for the weather.

From here we drove toward the island of Skye and on the way we stopped at Loch Ness, that looked like a big flat lake. Nessie didn’t get out to say hello.

On the island of Skye we drove around, taking in the scenery, wild and unrestricted speckled with manicured gardens and colorful houses.

Kilt Rock


We couldn’t leave Scotland without visiting another castle.

Eilean Donan Castle, we just took pictures.

 Every clan had a one, that is home for all who claim ancestry here. Dunvegan Castle, inhabited continuosly for 800 years by the McLeod (sounds McCloud) clan was our choice. Ioan had to look for rusted keys to give answers to the questions, like: “With what color was the Fairy Flag repaired?” “Mom, in the book says it was yellow, but here it looks red. Which one it is?” He got all his keys right and received an insignia. Tapaidh leat! (tap-a-lot) Thank you!

We're trying to capture the Dunvegan Castle, but the rusted gate does its duty!

One night on the bus separates us from London and our girls. We wait in line at the gate G instead of F as it is announced on the board. The F gate bus goes somewhere else. In front of us is a group of Indians, talking and helping each other. Above the hubbub raises a plaintive voice “But I waited in line since 9 o’clock. The board says gate F” In short there was a girl who wouldn’t make it in our bus, because she wasn’t in the correct line, because they changed the gates. The man who verified the tickets raised his voice, trying to impress that his job doesn’t include solving her problem. They go back and forth for a few minutes, then one Indian guy leaves the group to tell him to back up, don’t abuse her with words. Instantly two more uniformed men appear, they all concentrate on the man, voices raised, hands on his arms, ready to put him down “What is your concern?” “She comes from where I come! Someone has to help her!” Ooooh, the chivalry! I look at the girl, lost and tired, unable to ask for the curtesy to be moved in front of our line. She is Asian 100%! I wander how  the Japanese metro officers would have handled this situation...

We're watching you!
If you don't know what are these, the answer is at the end of the blog.

Seven days, eight nights, an ancient city and modern in the same time, narrow streets, history on every square centimeter, quaint hamlets, hearty breakfasts, everywhere flags, blue with the white cross of St. Andrew, sign of the Scottish identity.

Haggis, the brown round thing, a tasty and heavy treat for breakfast.

Beana cleibh Alba! (bee-anna clyb) Good bye Scotland!

And the answer is: cat's eyes on the road, that keep the cars in line.

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