Friday, November 26, 2010

Adventures beyond Stirlingshire Part 2: Off to Dunfermline

This part of my adventures tale takes us to Dunfermline, the former capital of Scotland.

According to Google Maps, it should take about 40 minutes by car from Stirling to Dunfermline. Unfortunately, lacking access to a car, we took the train, which had to stop in Linlithgow, then Edinburgh, and then Dunfermline, bringing us to a total of about two hours.

The view from Linlithgow Station
On the way, our train stopped for about 40 minutes, causing us to miss our connection in Linlithgow, causing us to miss our connection in Edinburgh. Thus, it took us more than three hours to get there.

We did get to take the train across the Forth Bridge, a famous rail bridge over the Firth of Forth, bringing us from Edinburgh to Fife. It's a very famous, recognizable bridge in Scotland.

A mosaic of the Forth Bridge on the Forth Bridge.
We arrived in Dunfermline around 3:00. Since most things closed by 4:00 or 5:00, we spent the better part of our time there taking photographs of the area.

Being in Scotland, it was raining quite a bit.

On the bright side, there was a gorgeous full rainbow, though I couldn't capture it completely in my photos.

Dunfermline has lots of beautiful gothic buildings, and it was wonderful walking around the streets. I think it was almost as beautiful as some areas of Edinburgh, although much smaller and not as exciting.

One of the most important buildings in Dunfermline is Dunfermline Abbey, founded in 1128.

It's a beautiful building, and I don't think I could ever get bored of walking along these historical structures. Every once in a while I stop and think about how long these buildings have been here, and how many important Scottish events have taken place here.

One significant part of this abbey is that it is the resting place of Robert the Bruce, an extremely important Scottish king who led Scotland through some of the years during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Sadly, the parish was closed by the time we got there, so I wasn't able to see his tomb which is located inside.

Although Bruce is buried here, his heart is buried in Melrose Abbey, in the Scottish borders.

I got some gorgeous shots of the cemetery. Despite the rain, I don't think I could have asked for a better day for photos.

Next, we went to Pittencrieff Park, an area put in place by Andrew Carnegie, an internationally famous philanthropist who was born in Dunfermline.

We visited his birth home, but no photos were allowed. It was a small but pretty 19th century home, with an expansion to include a museum that showed his many contributions. Most of these described the many libraries he funded in the UK, the US, and Canada.

There were so many little squirrels running around the park. I could only imagine how much fun it would be to walk there with my puppy in Canada, who goes crazy chasing them when they invade our backyard.

Tomorrow is the start of St. Andrews Weekend, in which a ton of heritage sites open their doors to the public for free. I will visit Edinburgh Castle and do a tour of the Edinburgh underground vaults. I'll also run walk up the 246 steps of the Wallace Monument and visit Stirling Castle before the free days end on St. Andrews Day, which takes place on Tuesday.

Then, I have just four more days before I head down to London for a month-long internship at the CBC London Bureau. I definitely have an exciting month ahead of me!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Part one of a two-part series: Adventures beyond Stirlingshire

Over the past month, I've been trying to see a bit more of Scotland. On Oct. 23, I visited the town of Perth, which is about 30 minutes away from Stirling. It's a small little town, but there have been many historical events there throughout Scottish history. The Scottish kings were crowned in Scone Abbey, which is in Perthshire, though I hadn't a chance to visit it.

First stop was the Fergusson Gallery, which hosts artwork by Glaswegian painter J.D. Fergusson.

It was a bit of an interactive museum, with puzzles such as this one. It was a lot harder than it looks!

They also had lots of costumes for visitors to wear, which represented the period of his artwork.

Perth sits along the River Tay, a body of water that begins in the highlands and stretches down into the Firth of Tay.

Not quite sure what this sculpture is supposed to be, but there were quite a few of them sitting along the wall by the river.

Donald and I visited a local bakery/cafe for our lunch. Unintentionally, he got Canadian bacon and pancakes with maple syrup, while I got a traditional Scottish dish, stovies and oatcakes.

Oatcakes are basically just oats. They aren't sweet at all and are rather plain on their own, but are delicious with stovies on top. Stovies are essentially a mash of what would traditionally be leftovers, such as potatoes and meat. There doesn't appear to be one set standard of what's inside. I really enjoyed it. I definitely need to learn how to make it on my own.

Saori had visited London this weekend, and we challenged her to find a single photo that shows a red telephone box, double decker bus, a mailbox, a police box, and a taxi. She wasn't able to get it in one shot, but found everything individually.

But we didn't need London to find a red telephone box!

We also visited an Andy Warhol exhibit at the Perth Museum and Gallery. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but there were lots of his work, such as Donald's favourite painting of Chairman Mao.

He bought souvenir Andy Warhol playing cards and magnets of Campbell's soup cans which we have placed throughout our kitchen.

Stay tuned for Adventures beyond Stirlingshire, part 2: Off we go to Dunfermline!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Help! They're trying to steal our inventions!

One of the most interesting parts about studying in Scotland is hearing how people view Canada.

I've always found that Canadians figure that we're a nice, friendly country, and while we may not be the most revered country in the world, there's no reason for people to dislike us.

For the most part, I've found that to be true, at least in Scotland. When I mention being Canadian, people talk about the beautiful landscapes. Often they'll tell me about their trip to Vancouver or Toronto, or they'll talk about their uncle and aunt who lives in Halifax or Victoria.

Often, they'll hear my accent and guess I'm American. When I tell them I'm Canadian, they apologize profusely, even after I insist that I'm not actually offended.

They don't often insult Canada. But every once in a while, we get someone like my flatmate Gavin, who just insists that Canada's a "minor country" that hasn't done anything worthwhile.

Today, our daily banter led to a discussion on Canadian inventions.

"What has Canada actually invented?" he asked.

"The telephone!" was my first response.

Anton and Donald then turn around with looks of horror on their face.

"Excuse me? That was invented by Alexander Graham Bell," Donald said.

"Exactly," I said, satisfied that this argument wouldn't last long.

"He was Scottish!" they all exclaimed.

Immediately, I turned to the Internet for my answer. Yes, he was born in Scotland, but he moved to Canada. The first telephone call was made in Brantford, Ont. Ergo, the telephone was a Canadian invention.

"Just because he moved to Canada doesn't make him Canadian," Gavin told me, explaining that Bell was born in Scotland, so he's Scottish.

I've begun to think this must be a cultural difference. I've always been brought up that it doesn't matter where someone was born. If they live in Canada, and especially if they're a Canadian citizen, then they're just as Canadian as I am.

But that's not the case here. I tried to explain, if I were to move to Scotland, gain citizenship, and continue to live here, I would be Scottish. They disagreed.

Interestingly, it appears we also take credit for the invention of basketball. James Naismith was born in Canada, a Canadian citizenship, but he invented it while living in the US. Following this logic, the telephone would have been a Scottish invention, unless it comes down to how long the person has been living in the country upon invention. Regardless, I remember being taught that Bell was a great Canadian hero.

It makes me wonder: how do we define a Canadian? What makes something Canadian? And what makes someone a Scot?

Why does the definition of a Canadian seem looser than the definition of, say, a Scot? Is it because we're such a new country? Is it because we see more and more people coming into the country every day?

I'm not sure. I'd like to find out though. Any thoughts?

For now though, I'll have to make do with a steaming hot cup of Tim Hortons' hot chocolate while I hold my RCMP teddy, and continue into an [unconquerable] battle to prove to them that yes, we are an important group of people!