Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Ingigerth is the most Beautiful of Women"

Yesterday we traveled to the Orkney Islands. Our sojourn began when we left the house at 7:45am and drove just under an hour to the northern point of Scotland, ending up at Gill's Bay. The ferry ride to St. Margaret's Hope on the Orkney mainland also took about an hour. Apparently the biggest industries of the Orkneys are tourism and oil. You can see the oil rigs as you drive along the Scottish coast. We appeared to be the only tourists on the ferry, which is understandable because it's off-season right now. Most of the passengers were men who work with the oil industry: they were a rather rough looking bunch. I was trying to listen to a nearby conversation to see if I could understand what the men were saying(I'm having trouble deciphering the accent here) and once I did I was sorry I had. I guess that's what I get for eavesdropping.

After reaching the mainland we drove another almost-hour to Skara Brae, and ancient village uncovered by a huge storm in 1850. I'm still a bit boggled by all the oldness available for viewing in Scotland, so when I say "ancient", think B.C. It's very cool that we can still see such places today.

This is me standing in the replica of Skara Brae. Standing in the fake fireplace. Searching for warmth.

This is me again celebrating American Independence(No taxation without representation!). As we walked down the the actual site one was supposed to travel back in time, and there were several markers to that effect. Only in our case we more like struggled painfully against the blustery wind through time, and if you're wondering why I have a giant mushroom on my head it's because it was very windy, wet, and chilly.

You're not allowed to actually walk in the houses, just on a path around them. The village was right on the coast.

When viewing such fascinating historical locations under such circumstances, one must ask, why on earth did they live here? Well, originally the coastline wasn't so close to the village; it's been eroded over time. Also, think of the environmental changes since the time of the flood: was it always really so cold here? Obviously the land was populated and good for farming. Perhaps it was attached to Scotland at one time as well, and not so isolated.

Then we stopped briefly at a circle of standing stones, the Ring of Brodgar.

This is me standing on a fallen stone. As with all the monuments we visited yesterday, almost nothing is known about these stones. Were they used for some horrible pagan practice, or were they for astronomical purposes, telling time and the like? Everywhere we went yesterday we saw the old "millions of years" mantra, as well as the "stupid caveman" idea. I know that the people living on Orkney thousands of years ago had just as much brain power as we do today, so I can easily believe them capable of better-than-primitive living and intellectual works. No doubt one reason archaeologists can't figure out what ancient artifacts are for is because they assume the people who made them were ignorant animals just out of the explosive soup puddle.

So were the stone pagan or practical? If pagan, then phooey on them. And if practical, than phooey on the evolutionists. I ran all the way around the circle and then we all squeezed back into the Green Haggis and went on to Maeshowe.

Pictures were not allowed inside Maeshowe, so the above is Miss W and I in the bathroom trying to warm up afterward. Maeshowe is in the middle of a field, so it made for a very windy wet walk there and back. The mound itself was very interesting. I think that was my first time in a burial chamber. The neat thing about Maeshowe are the Viking runes all over it from when some vikings wintered there way back when. One of my favorites is the title of this post, "Ingigerth is the most beautiful of women." You can read more of them on the website.

THEN, after hearing from our tour guide several fascinating ways that Vikings killed each other, we drove to Kirkwall to very quickly see:

St. Magnus Cathedral, one of only two remaining pre-Reformation cathedrals in Scotland. It was truly a beautiful old building.

This is me touching history. Seeing it is all very well, but touching it is more fun. Rich people used to be buried under their churches, and that's why all the old old "tombstones" are inside. Eventually they ran out of floor space and the smell just got to be too much, and thus the switch to outdoor burials.

By that point it was time to head back to the ferry for part one of our trip home, so I just got a glimpse of the churchyard. Short but sweet.

Now, I am not what one would call an accomplished seaman. Where I live it's a good ten hour's drive to any body of water resembling an ocean. I was on a ferry once, but that was for thirty minutes in a sheltered bay. The second largest flotation device I've been in was a canoe, and there weren't any waves in that case. So once we got into open water I began feeling a bit peaked, and wouldn't it be embarrassing to get sick from a ferry ride? The Miss W's loved it(Now we're going up! Now we're going down! Wheeee!) and thankfully I managed to keep my insides inside. It was probably thanks in part to not having much of a lunch, due to our rushing around.

I was very glad once we were on land again. Give me a wild ride in the Green Haggis any day over any kind of water travel. Finally, we got home at 9pm, had dinner and went to bed. It was a full and really very educational day.


Anonymous said...

1. Your point about archeology, that of course it will be unsuccessful as long as its practitioners believe the subjects of their study were something they weren't, is a good one - I don't think I have ever actually heard anyone make it before, although it is quite obvious when you think about.
2. I find it amusing to discover the extent of the habit of Viking graffiti. There are also some very fine specimens of their work in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople from when it was the center of Christendom. Apparently they got around - and apparently were not very much respecters of places.

Nathania said...

I'm glad you got to see so many historical places. It all looked very fascinating! The Cathedral is beautiful. What was the oldest tombstone you saw? I am very glad you did not get sick on the way back! :-)