Machrie Moor Stones at Isle of Arran

On the 5th of March, I wanted to get out of the fine city of Glasgow, and since I enjoy the coastline thats the direction I wanted to head towards. As I grew up on the coastline back home in the states, I really miss not being able to see the beach from my house. On a random Friday, I took an hour long train ride down to Androssan Harbor, coupled with an hour long ferry ride, which reminded me of the ferries that frequent Long Island.

9573_10154542208753797_7140773807402476575_nThe Isle is enormous – and boasts itself as a ‘miniature Scotland’ – I can confirm. The snow was a recent touch, as some of the locals excitedly told me.

The northern part of the isle, includes some of the highlands. There are caves, various golf courses, waterfalls, bike paths, seals, hiking trails, and Neolithic monuments. The island even has seals, except we didn’t find any during our brief time on the isle. Since I really wanted to see the Machrie Moor Standing Stones, which is located on the far West side of the Isle, I took another bus ride. However this one last just short of an hour. Since the weather was so decent,  I was tricked and wore Converse. Never wear Converse when doing a hike with questionable Scottish weather – truly a rookie mistake.

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The bus deposited us off at a carpark, in front of a farmer’s field with a pathway caked with mud and sheep bits…. During our trek of approximately 30 minutes, we experienced a hailstorm, rainy downpour, and angry gusts. We had our packs with us, and I did use my (unreliable Primark) umbrella for brief stints of protection when it would cooperate against the wind. My converse were no longer black, but encrusted brown and sopping wet by the time we reached the stones in the gapping countryside. My toes were numb, and I could merely feel my heels.

It was worth it – but I’ve never been so fatigued from a 2 mile walk. I’m contributing it to the weather. There are various series of short and tall standing stones peppered throughout the fields. fs

By the time we returned to the bus stop we waited patiently for a half hour and noticed it past due. We were lucky to flag down an upcoming bus. Although the bus driver finished his shift, he explained there were no more available busses for the day, but was kind enough to offer us a free lift back to the port. Otherwise we would have been stranded, since we were pressed for time to catch our ferry back to Androssan. Unlike our earlier bus route, this driver cut through the center of the isle, which has very narrow paths. During the majority of the ride, we spoke with the friendly driver and found out him and his wife are Glaswegian! When his wife retired, they moved to the isle since that’s their favorite holiday location. I could definitely understand why!

We made it back in time to catch the ferry. That night, we stayed in a small town called Largs through an inexpensive cottage listed on Airbnb.

I’m planning to explore more of Scotland’s Isles :).

Stirling Castle

I spent over 3 hours at Stirling Castle with a few of my friends in my MSc program. We were impressed by the sheer size of the castle. It offers a variety of interactive modules such as – dress up in medieval regalia, games, instruments, movies, and impersonators. The castle has been owned by a myriad of hands and this influence is demonstrated architecturally.

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The tapestries are impressive, and the unicorn decorations are a pleasant surprise.
If the weather is fair – go along the wall walk, a footpath that surrounds the parameter of the castle. The castle boasts many views of Stirling and the Wallace Monument. Cue my Game of Thrones reference, I felt very ‘watcher of the wall’ esque.
In no way was I compensated to do this review. I paid full price of 14.50£, as there is no student discount. However! If you find yourself touring throughout Scotland’s heritage sites, I will say that joining their membership program would be the ideal way to visit.

Norway and Krakow

On the last weekend of January, my friend Lindsay, and I arrived to Oslo City Centre by 18:00 on Saturday evening, and stayed at Anker Hostel. Although it was a little ways away from the city, it was only about 15-20 minutes walking distance. We traveled to the Sculpture Garden, but on the way we walked along Johan Street and through the city centre. We saw the cathedral, city hall and …we searched extensively for the Eternal Flame, however found out much later, that it was taken down.

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On Sunday morning we wandered about the Akershus Fortress before official opening time. We watched the raising of the flag and enjoyed the panoramic views of the harbor. The clouds were colored with the sunrise and mirrored on the waters surface. Also, the architecture of the opera house was quite pretty, especially since that part of the harbor was frozen. We departed Oslo, and headed for Krakow, Poland. Certainly it was not enough time spent in Oslo- as it were more of a layover, however next time I return to Norway it would be nice to visit the Viking Museum, Edvard Munch Museum and take an excursion around Oslos harbor/fjords.

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Although we arrived late to Krakow in the evening – we found ourselves in the market place of the Historic District – after enjoying a bottle of champagne… As we stayed at a Flat in Kazmirez, the walk over was brief and we could spot all of the monuments. We sat in Rynek Glowny – the main plaza – and drank Polish Wodka recommended by our waitress. We were cozy under our blankets, heat lamps and the holiday lights strung around the canopy.

We started early on Monday morning, as we had a full day tour of 2 UNESCO heritage sites, Auschwitz, followed by Wieliczka Salt Mines. I don’t typically do tours unless if I’m limited on time, but we booked with Krakow Shuttle. I would recommend the company as zero stress was involved, and they picked us up outside of our Airbnb flat.

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Unlike everyone else, I only took 1 photo during my visit to Auschwitz, which was of the entrance to Auschwitz I. I wanted to be wholly present. The tour started with touring the grounds of Auschwitz I, and was followed by the museum. I’ve heard about the piles of shoes and hair, but personally witnessing and smelling shook me. It’s a very tangible experience. To be honest, when we were brought to Auschwitz II (Birkenau) I wasn’t sure whether I had the strength to see more. But I walked along the road of death and entered the gas chamber with the fingernail markings engraved into walls.

sdfI think if possible, everyone should try to visit – it’s an incredibly powerful and haunting experience.

The Wieliczka Salt Mines were impressive and our tour guide was incredibly witty and comical.

After dinner in our flat, we visited the perimeter of Wavel Castel, and Krakow’s Old Town once more.

Cobh, Cork’s Cove

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As I finished up the last of my midterm papers, I decided to come to Cork. Today I traveled further south to visit Cobh, a port used by many of the emigrants in the 1800s. One such Cobh emigrant was my great grandfather, Daniel Patrick O’Sullivan. Cobh, Little Island and Fota make up three islands that are situated on the coast of Cork.

Although my time spent wandering around Cobh was very brief, and stayed primarily I. The harbor area, I’m glad that I got to see the historical city. It has the quintessential Irish homes; the colors delicately juxtaposing one another.

I saw the Cobh Cathedral – mass was starting but I was able to sneak a quick peak of its detailed interior. Unfortunately the Cobh Museum was closed when I arrived and surprisingly – I didn’t go into the Queenstown Story Heritage Center. The Cobh train station does have a very small gallery on models and news clippings dedicated to different types of ships like the Titanic, the Britannica, a German U Boat, and well, Vikings.

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A Field Trip to Archaeological Conflict Sites

As I’m planning to focus my dissertation on (cue the drum roll, please) HERITAGE my academic advisers in the International Relations program are allowing me to focus 3 of my 6 courses on art and material culture/heritage/archaeology.

I’m currently taking a Battlefield Archaeological course on Art and War, and was invited me to come on their field trip, with the stipulation of doing a brief presentation on Tantallon Castle (also, I frequently audit Methods and Concepts of Heritage on Wednesday mornings, because I’m me – a nerd).

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Last Thursday at 9:00, we drove to the Borders area of Scotland and England. It was around 2.5 hours to Braxton to visit Flodden Field, where an infamous Jacobite rebellion happened in 1513. Unfortunately, the area is largely populated by farmland and nearby homes. The trafficking of archaeological artifacts happens here, and at other battlefields by disrespectful individuals; check eBay. Since the early 90s, the community of Battlefield Archaeologists are striving to rectify legislative policies with organizations to secure these areas from trafficking, commercial farming, and urban development. After all, heritage is significant to preserve a site’s historical context because its symbolic of national and cultural integrity.

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Our second stop was Berwick-upon-Tweed to see the Elizabethan Fortification. It’s incredible because the fort actually manipulates the land, where it rises gently and drops dramatically. There was supposed to have been a protective moat around it for defensive-offensive purposes too.

Our finally stop was in North Berwick to admire the grandeur of Tantallon Castle. It dates back to the 14th century, sits promontory, and was first constructed of red sandstone, but post-second-siege by King James V, it was remodeled with green sandstone. I’ve heard Tantallon is off the beaten path for tourists, but it’s an impressive castle! If the weather is a agreeable and you can make the quick stop – you should! You’re can climb up winding stairways, and walk on external passageways to see the panoramic view of Oxroad Bay. Mind the wind. It was remarkable and I felt as though I were transported back to my childhood as if I were wildly playing on a playground. I was the last person out at closing time.12141563_10154191704788797_6652216059890848755_n

When I lived back in the states, I made a fuss about ‘how we have no history,’ or ‘our history is destroyed,’ or ‘everything here is too new’… however in my archaeology class, I’m learning how a lot of these heritage sites aren’t protected, except maybe from road and/or city planning. Many battlefield archaeologists in the UK are inspired by the United State’s initiative at preserving their own conflict sites, and are struggling to acquire similar regulations.

Oh, if you were wondering, my presentation went well. Thanks for asking!