November 17, 2018


by Steve Winogradsky

After a short train ride from Edinburgh, we arrived in Glasgow, Scotland's largest city. Rosemary had a bad cold, so it took us a couple of days to begin exploring the city, which we did by starting with a hop on-hop off bus. We often use these to get a feel for a city, learning what is where, and sometimes using them instead of public transportation to get somewhere on the bus route.

St. Kentigern, better known as St. Mungo, is Glasgow's patron saint and founded the city in the 6th century. According to legend, Queen Languoreth of Strathclyde was suspected of infidelity by her husband. King Riderch demanded to see her ring, which he claimed she had given to her lover. In reality, the King had thrown it into the River Clyde. Faced with execution, she appealed for help to Mungo, who ordered a messenger to catch a fish in the river. On opening the fish, the ring was miraculously found inside, which allowed the Queen to clear her name.

Based on this, many of the depictions of Mungo include a fish and a ring. These are found in churches, stained glass windows, lampposts and other symbols.

The top of a lamppost.

Inside the Glasgow Cathedral, Mungo holding a ring, a boy holding a fish.

The official seal of the city.

Outside the Museum of Modern Art. You can tell he's saint by the halo around his head.
As with many cities in Europe and the UK, the spiritual center of the city is the Glasgow Cathedral, the oldest building in the city. Built in the medieval style, the Cathedral has high ceilings, stained glass windows, and other features reflecting its 12th century origins.

Note the barrel vaulted ceiling.

A view of the back of the Cathedral from the Necropolis.
On a hillside behind the church is the Necropolis, the burial site of Victorian Glasgow's rich and famous. Many cemeteries have large monuments to a few of the people buried there, but the Necropolis has more than I've ever seen. While most of the names are meaningless unless you know the history of Glasgow, there are a few familiar names, including John Knox, a leader of the Scottish Reformation.

Looking uphill to the John Knox memorial.

John Knox

Glasgow also has some excellent museums. One is the Riverside Museum, which features a history of transportation, from (allegedly) the first bicycle to streetcars, automobiles, subway cars, motorcycles and other vehicles.

The 2nd oldest Rolls Royce

The first bicycle?
Behind the Riverside Museum is the Glenlee, one of the tall ships built in Glasgow, a city known for its shipbuilding.

Bet the Titanic wished it had a few more of these.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, built in 1901, has one of Europe's great art collections. Housing traditional European works as well as contemporary pieces, you can spend hours there (as we did) exploring their many galleries.

"Return To Sender", a tribute to St. Elvis

You can tell he's a saint by the halo around his head.
The Kelvingrove also has a painting by Salvador Dali entitled "Christ of St. John of the Cross", with a view of the crucifixion from above.

Hello, Dali!
On the campus of the University of Glasgow is the Huntarian Museum which has, among other things, sections of the ancient wall that the Romans built in Scotland.

The University campus itself is beautiful, with an impressive tower, main gate with names of famous alumni, and a large quad.

Glasgow has its share of statuary and monuments, including David Livingstone, Queen Victoria, and William Gladstone.

Dr. Livingstone, I presume.

"Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl..."


In front of the Museum of Modern Art is a statue of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who always seems to have a traffic cone on his head.

There are also many murals created by local artists that, generally, are not marred by graffiti as in many other places.

Another thing Glasgow has in common with other cites we have visited are shopping districts where chain stores are on the ground level of older buildings, offering a unique view of 21st century retail.

Even though we got off to a slow start, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Glasgow and recommend a visit if you are in Scotland.

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November 10, 2018

Edinburgh (Pronounced Edinburra)

by Rosemary West

Looking across Holyrood Park toward Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano.

We took the train from York to Edinburgh, enjoying views of the moist, green countryside along the way. Our hotel, once the British Royal Hotel, now an Indigo, was right across the street from the station. We checked in and then headed for the top of Calton Hill and its expansive views of the city and the Firth of Forth.

It was cold and breezy up there.

Calton Hill is known for its many monuments. The National Monument, an unfinished memorial to Scottish soldiers and sailors who were sacrificed in the Napoleonic Wars, was modeled on the Parthenon in Athens. Construction started in 1826, and ended in 1829, when funding ran out.

Atop the tower honoring Horatio Nelson is a time ball. In the past it was wired to a clock at the City Observatory, and was raised and lowered as a signal for ships to set their chronometers. The ball cannot be seen in fog, so in 1861, the One O'Clock Gun, a huge cannon, was installed at Edinburgh Castle to provide an audible signal. Today, the gun is still fired at 1:00pm, and the time ball is manually raised and lowered.

The time ball is raised and lowered on the cross piece at the top of the tower.

The One O'Clock Gun can be heard all over town.

We visited the castle the next day, but we didn't hear the gun because at 1:00 pm we were deep inside, behind (or under) layers of thick stone walls.

The royal castle has been here since the early 1100s, and it has been expanded, remodeled, and restored extensively over the centuries. In the 16th century, this was the main gate.

The present entrance is fancier, flanked by statues and topped by the Latin phrase Nemo me impune lacessit (No one attacks me with impunity), the motto of the Royal Stuart dynasty. We saw this in many locations in town.

Edinburgh is such a walkable city, we never used public transportation there. There were views, monuments, parks, buildings, and surprises around almost every corner.

Remember to look up.

Just about everywhere we went, there was shop after shop specializing in cashmere, wool, kilts, sweaters, and tartan items of every type. We liked the bunnies.

Like nearly every city we have visited, Edinburgh is under construction.

New and updated buildings are important to the life of the city; at the same time, there is still great respect for historical structures, and the city is mindful of the visual appeal of traditional architecture. This Radisson hotel was built in 1992, but designed to fit in with the much older buildings on the street.

Not a converted castle.

Gladstone's Land is a 500-year-old building. Built in 1550, it was renovated in 1620 to become the location of luxurious apartments. The gilded hawk over the entrance is a modern addition.

It is always refreshing to see monuments to artists, writers, scientists, and humanitarians in addition to the usual military and political figures. Edinburgh is proud of the many Scots who have made cultural contributions, and they are memorialized throughout the city.

Alexander Graham Bell, telephone innovator and founder of AT&T, was born here.

The Walter Scott memorial is 200 feet high. It is possible to get into one of the columns and climb 288 very narrow, winding steps to a viewing platform, but we didn't do that.

This statue of physicist James Clerk Maxwell was enhanced by a sidewalk plaque inscribed with his equations.

I confess to not knowing what these mean.

The Robert Burns monument was constructed in 1831. At some point, the marble statue of Burns was moved into a museum. The monument was extensively repaired and restored in 2009.

John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, is buried under the parking lot of St. Giles Cathedral, spot 23. The inscription reads, "The above stone marks the approximate site of the burial in St. Giles graveyard of John Knox, the great Scottish divine who died 24 Nov 1572".

Deacon William Brodie (1741-1788) led a double life. He was a respectable cabinet maker and City Councillor with a wife and family. But he was secretly a drinker and gambler who owed money to criminals and fathered five children with two mistresses. To meet all his obligations, and for fun, he became the head of a successful burglary gang. He was eventually captured and executed, buried in an unmarked grave in a church cemetery that is now, like the St. Giles graveyard, under a parking lot. Brodie was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Not every famous Scot is human. Dolly the sheep, the first mammal successfully cloned from an adult cell, died in 2003. Her body is preserved in the National Museum of Scotland.

Perhaps the most popular animal in Edinburgh is Greyfriars Bobby. This little terrier became famous for loyally guarding his master's grave in the Greyfriars churchyard for 14 years, until his own death in 1872. Bobby's story has been told many times in books and films. Many researchers believe the story is mostly myth, that Bobby, like many other churchyard dogs, was just a stray who stayed because he was fed by locals. Whatever the truth, people still find Bobby inspirational, and his statue and grave bring a lot of tourists to the area.

Having enjoyed a great week in Edinburgh, we hopped the train for Glasgow.

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