Scottish Summer

July 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm (Travel)

Two weeks into my trip I find myself with a decent internet connection and some spare time on my hands.  I figure it is a good time to update my blog as I have already managed to see a lot and it makes me feel like I am doing something useful with my time, when I probably should be out there exploring.

My summer holidays began in high form visiting Suzie and John in Oxford.  It was lovely to see the city in the summer time, although swamped with tourists and school groups.  They picked me up from the bus station (free wi fi on the bus from the airport – modern technology amazes me) and had the whole day planned.  Firstly we visited Suzie’s college and played a game of croquet.  My knowledge of the game was pretty much non-existent… Alice and Wonderland eat your heart out… but the game was actually a lot of fun.  It’s really quite tactical.  I’m even considering buying a set when I get home to Darmstadt.

Afterwards we went punting.  According to Suzie this must be done with a bottle of bubbly (I like her thinking) so we enjoyed a leisurely glass of champagne while John punted the boat for us.  We had lunch at a lovely pub by the riverside (Sunday roast for me of course) and then on the way back Suzie and I did manage to lend a hand with the punting.  Well… I tried at least.  We did make some progress until I got us stuck in the trees.  I am proud to say that I didn’t make the boat go round in circles and according to John was one of the better first-timers they had taken punting!  Thank you Suzie and John for a fantastic first day!!!

Punting with Lis and champas!

After Oxford I ventured onto the other famous English university town Cambridge for a much anticipated reunion with Lis.  It was so good to finally see her again and we spent the next couple of days gossiping, shopping and doing a little bit of sightseeing.  Apart from simply seeing Lis, the two highlights for me were seeing the Men’s choir at Kings Chapel (a little disappointed we missed the boys) and going on a historical punt down the river with a bottle of PINK.  Yes that’s right.  We found PINK.  (Well I had to stick to Suzie’s idea of bubbly while punting)

Sadly, after too little time, Lis was on her way back to work and I was suddenly all on my lonesome.  This has proven to be one of hell of a challenging situation.  I don’t think I have ever spent so much time on my own without too much to distract me before.  It’s definitely been a learning experience and I am getting much better at introducing myself to people and dealing with long bus trips.  It also gives you a sense of achievement when you manage to get somewhere and see something all by yourself.  It’s great having the freedom to do and to see what you want when you want, but on the other hand you have no one around to share the experience with or just there for moral support when you are unsure.  Of course, Charliebear is around every step of the way, so that does make life a little easier.  😉

Arriving in Scotland I quickly came to the conclusion that I understand more in Germany than here.  The accents are so strong and they speak at a million miles per hour.  Aberdeen is very aptly referred to as the granite city.  It was quite overcast while I was there and the buildings just seemed to melt into the skyline.  The excellent maritime museum reminded me of childhood family trips with my mother and of my Grandpa Joe who spent time in the North Sea working.  I also went on a day trip to the spectacularly located Dunnottar Castle, where part of Mel Gibson’s Macbeth was filmed.  The cliffside walk from Stonehaven was magnificent, would have been even better on a clear day, although the mist does add to the mystery of such remote locations.  Of course my camera decided to run out of battery without telling me.  (No panic though, I have managed to secure a spare battery to ensure this doesn’t happen again!)

Stopped on my way to the Orkney Islands at Inverness, which I didn’t find too spectacular and travelled up to Kirkwall on the next day, where I currently am.  Before heading to Kirkwall I went and visited Urquhart Castle.  This was one of those moments where I really had to step back, reflect and be proud of myself.  I’ve always wanted to see Loch Ness, ever since my year four teacher Miss Howell showed us a photo of it… AND here I was, such an amazing feeling.

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

So currently at the Orkney Islands which feature in my year 7 English Text book back in Germany.  Yesterday I went on a massive sightseeing trip (which justifies my lack of movement so far today).  Firstly I visited Skara Brae and Skaiil House.  Skara Brae is Europe’s most complete Neolithic village and was occupied from roughly 3180 BC – 2500 BC.  That makes it older than Stonehenge and the pyramids.

Ring of Brodgar

This was followed by the Ring of Brodgar, a 140m complete circle of 27/ 60 stones still left standing.  Absolutely mind blowing!  What on earth possessed people to erect these stones 4500 years ago?  What did they believe in so strongly to turn it into a reality?  The Stones of Stenness were also quite spectacular, one is over 5 m high.  What I really liked about these two sites was that unlike at Stonehenge the stones aren’t fenced off at all.  You can go right up to them, touch them, look at them at all possible angles… they’re just there, exactly like they would have been all those years ago.

Next was the Italian cathedral built by Italian prisoners of war.  They were on the island to build the Churchill barriers after a German submarine shot down a large English vessel during WWII.  The structure was quite amazing when you consider they were originally army bunkers.

After that I visited St Magnus Cathedral and the Earl and Bishop’s palaces in Kirkwall before heading to Maes Howe.  Maes Howe is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave.  While it was quite interesting, especially considering the amount of Norse engraved graffiti carvings on the inside, I didn’t find it quite as impressive when compared to Newgrange, which Kate and I saw on our Ireland trip.  Maes Howe and Newgrange are very similar and it has been suggested that this may be an indication that the two cultures were somehow linked.

Today I made the obligatory tour of a whiskey distillery and was reminded once again why I don’t like whiskey.  It was quite interesting though… it takes them 70 years to make a barrel!  The Highland Park Distillery is the most northern in the world and their 18 year old whiskey was named the best spirit in the world last year.  (If that is the best spirit I sure of hell don’t want to taste any others!)  Tonight I am off to listen to some Scottish music with Aileen who is also staying in my hostel.

So I have been busy… and all that in about a week and a half!  No doubt I will have much more to say by the next time I write.


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Summer holidays lead up!

July 1, 2010 at 9:23 pm (Germany)

Amazing… but tomorrow is my last day of school for the year.  Tomorrow the summer holidays officially begin and I have six weeks free to explore Europe in the summertime.  I am ultra excited about my plans in England, Scotland, Sicily and Germany, but firstly a whole lot has happened since I last wrote.

I must admit that winding up the school year in the middle of the year instead of the end has completely thrown me.  I have absolutely no concept of the fact that the school year is about to end, that I will have, in the middle of the year, six weeks free.  Winding up over here, is however, is in principal exactly the same as at home.  Reports need to be written and kids entertained.  Teachers are tired and ready for the break.  I enjoyed the graduation ceremony for my year tens even if it was as long and as boring as those in Australia.  I went on excursion with my year 7’s to a climbing park and also worked with them on a class project, where they made a class newspaper.

At the moment the Germans are going crazy about the world cup.  It’s a fantastic atmosphere, when you are not the opposing losing team.  I was silly enough to go and watch the Australia Germany game at the public viewing area in the middle of Darmstadt.  There I am, in my Australia dress with people literally staring at me… or asking me what my problem was.  Luckily my friend Lindy, who is from Holland, came along to support me and I did manage to find two Aussie girls to cheer with… we BELTED the National Anthem out.  The next day at school was horrible.  Every kid and teacher had a comment to share.  Even the headmistress made a point of having a

chat.  I had yard duty and the kids literally just laughed as I walked past.  At least we managed to win one game and save some face.

Damaris and I with the lead singer of Temper Trap Dougy Mandagi

One of the highlights of the past couple of weeks was going to see Temper Trap with Damaris and Julia in Heidelberg.  They were simply AMAZING.  The venue was small and we were in the second row and got fantastic photos.  After the show we even got to chat with the lead singer, get his autograph and have our photo taken with him!  You wouldn’t get that kind of experience with this band back home anymore.  It was so intimate.  I was buzzing for days.

Another highlight was getting promoted in hockey!  That makes four promotions in a row for me.  We drew both the home and away legs 0 – 0 and ended up winning on penalty strokes.  Next season we will be playing in the third highest division in the whole of Germany.  We have to travel as far as Munich for some of our games.  We are all very excited.


I also had the opportunity to go and see the final of the women’s hockey Bundesliga with my team mate Danny.  It was a fantastic quality of hockey with at least three German national players playing.  Berlin took out the title, much to our delight.  🙂

To top everything off, I got a visit from Owen this week.  He is in Europe with his Ultimate Frisbee team representing Australia at the Clubs World Cup in Prague.  He started his adventure with a day in Darmstadt on what is slowly becoming the ‘famous’ grand tour.  It was fantastic to see him and catch up, even if it was only was for one day.

So… that’s it folks.  On Sunday my summer holiday adventure begins.  Mega excited!


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