Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Saul Schwartz of Germantown.
Where, when, why: In April, I spent two days in Edinburgh, Scotland; six days in Glasgow; and two days in the lovely countryside. My only first cousin, Sally Greenberg, lives part of the year in a flat in Glasgow. I stayed with her, and she provided a local’s perspective during my visit.
Highlights and high points: Jewish Scotland — who knew? Because it was Passover, I wanted to visit the Jewish communities in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Edinburgh, a family friend showed me the small Jewish cemetery (dating from 1813) and the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation. In Glasgow, a volunteer took me on a tour of the lovely Garnethill Synagogue, reportedly Scotland’s oldest synagogue (opened in 1879), and the Scottish Jewish archives contained within it. According to the archives, about 6,000 Jews live in Scotland today.
Folk clubs hold sessions, or informal concerts, in every corner of Scotland. Sally and I attended shows on two nights in Glasgow — a great way to interact with Scots. Another night, we went to a concert at the National Piping Center in Glasgow. The Highland bagpipe is the national instrument. I found the pipe music soulful.
Glasgow has great museums, and most are free, with suggested donations. The Kelvingrove houses an impressive art collection, along with items of natural history, coats of arms and armor. Daily pipe organ concerts enhanced the experience. The Burrell Collection of medieval art and artifacts is in Pollok Country Park. I managed a close-up look at the Highland cattle, a fluffy breed of cows with long horns and wavy coats, that live there.
Cultural connection or disconnect: Scotland and the United States are two countries divided by a common language. I am embarrassed to say that it took me some time to realize that Loch Lomond is Scottish for Lake Lomond, the largest lake in central Scotland. Although it was fun to see signs in English and Gaelic, some fast-speaking Scots were a wee bit hard to understand. I loved train station stops with names like Crossmyloof.
Biggest laugh or cry: During a noontime tour of an Edinburgh site, an eccentric caretaker emerged in his bathrobe to burn trash in the yard. An Edinburgh friend told me that he refers to himself as Lord Byron and struts around town in a top hat and tails.
How unexpected: I didn’t realize how many sheep dot the landscape outside Edinburgh and Glasgow. Vast farms use colorful markings to identify their livestock. Also, I was able to visit four castles, of which I found Edinburgh and Stirling castles to be the most dramatic. This was my first time at a castle, and I expected to see medieval settings out of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Great battles had taken place at these amazing structures, and royalty had lived here during medieval times. But the castles serve new purposes in the modern age (the Scottish National War Memorial sits inside Edinburgh Castle, for example) and feature contemporary buildings on their grounds. The mix of ancient ruins and new uses surprised me.
Fondest memento or memory: A referendum on Sept. 18 will determine whether Scotland should be an independent country. Activists in Edinburgh and Glasgow handed out leaflets promoting a “yes” vote, primarily contending that an independent Scotland will be better for the economy. This spirit is reminiscent of the American Revolution.
As a souvenir, I purchased a copper-plated sign with the Gaelic saying “Céad mile fáilte,” which means “a hundred thousand welcomes.” After viewing some of my 500 pictures, one of my friends exclaimed, “I wish I had a Cousin Sally in Scotland.”
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