Tag Archives: Europe

Scottish Borders, Galashiels, Walter Scott and William Wallace

Neidpath Castle Peebles Scotland

Every year thirty or so members of my golf club go for a week away golfing in Scotland and after three years on the reserve list I finally got an invite.

Unfortunately the week prior to departure I entertained my three grandchildren and one of them left me a parting gift of a very heavy cold so when I set off one Sunday morning I was sniffing and sneezing and relying on cold relief capsules to help me through the journey north.

Actually I think it was probably ‘man flu’ and  I digress here for a moment to explain that this is a condition that this is a strain of flu so powerful and so deadly that it can only be matched by the Bubonic Plague.  It is an incurable virus, which has adapted to only effect the “XY” gene found in men. The virus attacks the immune system ten thousand times more seriously than an average flu and causes excruciating pain and discomfort for the victim.

For all of the week I felt awful but I played golf for four days but on Friday I woke to grey skies and persistent rain so on account of the fact that I was due to go on holiday to Wales a couple of days later and I didn’t want to get worse and spoil that I decided against putting on the leaking waterproofs and dragging myself around the fifth course of the week and thought that I might do a little bit of sightseeing instead.

I was staying in the town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders  which is so far south in Scotland that it is even nearer the equator than the town of Berwick-on-Tweed, the furthest town north in England but what a wonderfully scenic and historic part of the country.

This is Walter Scott country where the great man of Scottish literature chose to live and receive his literary inspiration and the land of William Wallace and the marcher lands that separated England from Scotland and was the scene of much medieval warfare and fighting.

Galashiels Raid Stane Englishman's Syke

And so it was in Galashiels where I came across memorial called “The Raid Stane” the site of an incident in 1337 when a raiding party of English soldiers were picking wild plums close to the town and and were caught by angry Scots who came across them by chance and slaughtered them all.  It seems that they were picking and eating sour fruit and they were so unwell that they were unable to fight back.

Today the town’s coat of arms shows two foxes reaching up to eat plums from a tree, and the motto is Sour Plums pronounced in Scots as soor plooms.  Every year in June there is an event in the town called the Galashiels Braw Lads Gathering which celebrates the event and by all accounts if you are English you really don’t want to be in town that particular night.

Angry Scots

I spent a half an hour or so in the granite town of Galashiels and with the rain getting heavier returned to the car and with the stubborn grey skies refusing to clear away planned a route south towards the town of Jedburgh and followed a route through sweeping hills, purple with heather and decorated with the ragged stumps of the ruins of castles and derelict lookout towers, testimony to its turbulent history.

I passed through the town of Melrose with its ruined Abbey which is said to be the secret  burial site of the heart of Robert the Bruce but I didn’t stop there because I calculated that I only had time for one ruined abbey and that was going to be Jedburgh.

I did however make detour into a valley of the River Tweed and stopped for a while at Scott’s view which is a place where allegedly he liked to stop by and reflect on life.  I am not disputing this but it this rather remote place is about ten miles or so from where he lived so in days before automobiles this would not be something that the average person, or even the great Sir Walter Scott, would be able to do on impulse.  It was a nice view all the same and apparently his funeral cortege stopped off here for a short while on his way to his burial spot in the grounds of nearby Dryburgh Abbey.

One of my favourite Scott stories is how he saved the Scottish bank note.  In 1826 there was a proposal to abandon Scottish notes and adopt the English notes instead.  Under the pseudonym Malachi Malagrowther Scott campaigned hard against the proposal and was eventually successful.  In recognition of this a picture of Scott even today appears on every Bank of Scotland note.

Walter Scott bank note

Instead of visiting the Abbey I sought out a massive stone statue of William Wallace standing solitary and magnificent in half armour and kilt, a massive claymore hanging menacingly from his belt and leaning on a giant sword fully fifteen feet tall.

Thanks to the hopelessly historically inaccurate Mel Gibson film ‘Braveheart’, quite possibly the most aggressively Anglophobe and historically inaccurate film ever made, William Wallace remains a burning symbol of Scottish nationalism but the truth is that his fame is based on one lucky victory against the English and a conveniently overlooked string of subsequent defeats.

I thought he looked rather sad and forlorn stuck out here abandoned on a ridge overlooking the river wondering what might have been and with nothing to detain me here for more than a few minutes I swiftly moved on towards my intended destination.

William Wallace

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The Huldufólk of Iceland

“This is a land where everyone is aware that the land is alive, and one can say that the stories of hidden people and the need to work carefully with them reflects an understanding that the land demands respect” –  Terry Gunnell, a folklore professor at the University of Iceland

We have moved on from Wroclaw in Poland and its street dwarfs so I thought you might like some pictures of the Huldufólk. the “hidden folk” of Icelandic folklore who live in a mystical landscape of mountain passes with peaks lost in the clouds, of arctic chill, windswept valleys, gnarled volcanic rock, wild moss and winter scorched meadows.

“It’s sort of a relationship with nature, like with the rocks. (The elves) all live in the rocks, so you have to. It’s all about respect, you know.” – Icelandic Singer Bjork.

In a land like this. of fire and ice, a place that is wild and magical, where the fog-shrouded lava fields provide a spooky landscape in which it is possible that anything out of the ordinary might lurk, stories flourish about the “hidden folk”.

According to Icelanders these are the thousands of elves who make their homes in the wilderness,  supernatural forces that dwell within the hallowed volcanic rubble and coexist alongside the 320,000 or so Icelandic people.

People in Iceland do not throw stones into the wilderness just in case they carelessly injure an Elf!

“It has caused a lot of arguments, as it’s something that’s very difficult to prove. Iceland is full of álagablettir, or enchanted spots, places you don’t touch – just like the fairy forts and peat bogs in Ireland. They’re protected by stories about the bad things that will happen if you do” – Terry Gunnell

If you are wondering where the Huldufólk are in my pictures? Well, according to Icelandic lore they are hidden beings that inhabit a parallel world that is invisible to human eyes, and can only be spotted by psychics and little children, unless they willingly decide to reveal themselves to people.

Sometimes however you can see their houses…

Have you been to Iceland – Have you seen the the Huldufólk?

Statistics

home-statistics

Lies, damn lies and statistics”  –  Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain (but widely disputed).

Almost exactly a year ago (23rd November 2013) I was able to post about achieving the milestone of half a million hits  Half a Million.  Today I can bore you all to tears and tell you that I have added another 100,000 to that total.

The statistics intrigue me, are they right or are they wrong?  100,000 page views in a year equates to roughly two hundred and seventy-five a day but only a small percentage leave any sort of footprint.  I realise that some people will arrive here by mistake, wonder how they got here and then quickly move on but I am curious about how so many people (allegedly) can ghost in and out without leaving a clue.  If I stumble upon a new website or blog post I tend to leave a message.

Although the page hits keep clocking up I don’t get the same level of interaction as some other bloggers.  Sometimes I see posts with over fifty comments and I am reluctant to add to the burden of replying to them all by adding another.  For me there might be two hundred and seventy-five hits a day but each new post only generates as a rough average about thirty-five likes and about twelve comments (which means six, because half of the total are my replies).  These are the only clues that I have that anybody has really been here.

My other blog ‘Age of Innocence’ has also had over 100,000 hits in the last year but almost zero comments.  The interesting thing is that I hardly ever post there anymore.

Different bloggers have different styles.  I have always tried to follow the basic Bill Bryson template – a personal story, an odd fact, an anecdote and a bit of history. It seems to work for getting hits but not for generating interaction but right now I see no need to revisit that style.

Since I started posting my top three posts of all time are:

Minnesota Vikings

Norway, Haugesund and When Vikings ruled the World (March 2011) – 24,000 hits but only 150 in the last year and only 34 likes and 15 comments.  So many hits, an average of 18 a day since publication, so little interaction.

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine – (April 2010) 16,500, 27% of these in the last year.  70 likes, 50 comments.

Queen Elizabeth

Royal Garden Party (June 2009) – 11,500  since first posted. So old that it has got hairs on it but 2,800 hits in the last year. 54 likes, 64 comments.

This is the post that gives me some confidence in the statistics because the hits always spike at about the time of the year that the invitations are sent out.

The most viewed image is:

Cathedral Wieliczka Salt Mine

The most commented on post (64) is the Royal Garden Party.

The post with the most likes (103) is a photo challenge called Selfie and I  am at a complete loss to understand why…

Carmona Andalusia Spain

Anyway, thanks to anyone who reads them, double thanks to anyone who likes them and triple thanks to anyone who comments and I look forward to following you all for another year!

I would be interested in your views and comments (or explanations) about WordPress statistics…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist

Wroclaw Dwarf

The dwarfs of Wroclaw can be found posing outside buildings and along the footpaths all over the city and this afternoon we bought a dwarf map and went looking for them.

The map must be rather old and out of date because it lists only seventy-nine of these little people but the dwarfs own web site (http://krasnale.pl/) says that there at least two hundred and five and some sources claim that there are as many as two hundred and fifty so the chances of seeing them all in one afternoon seemed hopelessly ambitious.

See more minimalist people in Wroclaw…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist

Shell on a Beach:

Just south of Santa Clara was the beach of Azuraia where we parked the car and walked over the golden sand that had been washed clean by the high tide and went down to the waters edge.  There was a good clear view back to Vila do Conde and the fort that we hadn’t had time to visit. The beach was deserted and instead of people we were outnumbered by the seagulls that stood at the edge of the water but paid little attention to us as we walked along the sand.

Read the full story…

Half A Million!

Travel Journal 2

“The three most exciting sounds in the world: anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.” George Bailey – It’s a Wonderful Life

Almost exactly one month ago I was able to write a post that celebrated a statistical achievement when my companion blog ‘Age of Innocence’ hit the milestone of 400,000 hits and today I can post that my main blog site ‘Have Bag, will Travel’ has finally made it to the half a million mark!  I would have got there a lot earlier if Google hadn’t changed their search engine algorithm in February 2013 which halved the number of page hits at a stroke because prior to this I was moving close to 15,000 hits a month but now wheeze along at about 5,000.

Thank you to anyone who has ever visited a page here.

As I said before I am not conceited enough to think that all of these are genuine visits and I am certain that a lot of web surfers will have found themselves on one of my one thousand, one hundred and twenty posts by mistake and wondered what on earth they were doing there.

To emphasise that I notice that the website http://www.webstatsdomain.org includes this rather flattering but wildly inaccurate assessment:

“Apetcher.wordpress.com is ranked 15 in the world (among the 30 million domains), a low rank means that this website gets lots of visitors. This site is estimated worth $38,018,523,303.”

 Wow and if only!

I started the blog on 1st May 2009 when I finally abandoned blogger.com and moved to WordPress as, in my opinion, a far superior blogging platform.

Grand Tour of Europe

My intention was to share my travel experiences.  I had noticed that as I travelled more and more I was forgetting more and more so I began to keep a notebook with me and to write down all of the trivial things about my journeys and holidays; I had hoped that one day my children my discover the notes and find them interesting in the same way that ten years ago I took ownership of my dad’s notebooks and discovered his ordinary but interesting life.

A big thank you to anyone who has ever visited a page here.

To date the ten most visited posts are:

Norway, Haugesund and When Vikings Ruled The World

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius – Living on the Edge of Disaster

Royal Garden Party

Norway, Europe’s Most Expensive Country

Onyx UK and an Inappropriate Visit To The Moulin Rouge

Pula, Croatia

Travel Tips For Beating Budget Airlines At Their Own Game

Spartacus, Freedom Fighter or Bandit?

Greece 2010, The Colossus of Rhodes

home-statistics

P&O Mini-Cruise – Hull to Rotterdam

Hull to Rotterdam

Normally I take a low cost airline flight to a chosen destination but with a bargain price of £23 each for a return ferry crossing from Hull to Rotterdam this was too good an opportunity to miss. My son, Jonathan, was due to come and stay for a few days and with the weather too bad for golf then I needed alternative plans that would get him out of bed by mid-afternoon.