A Guid Crack

I’ve been out in the world again, this time with my friends Meg and Shirley, at the Scottish International Storytelling festival.

It happens each October in the ancient and storied city of Edinburgh.

The Storytelling Center is in a house built in 1490, the last residence of Protestant reformer John Knox.

The festival opened with Scottish stories, although this year’s focus was on South and Central America.

Two doors down from the center was our flat, with a splendid view.

What a treat to arrive at the height of the autumn color!

Every day we filled up our story banks. In Scotland a guid crack is lively conversation, the sharing of gossip, news, stories. Over lunch, Meg’s brother Jim told ghost stories, personal stories, and history fun facts.  The storytelling gene clearly runs strong in their family.

We picked up stories and histories from the castles, and a few from Holyrood Palace…

…where Mary, Queen of Scots, once lived (in the older wing).

We visited The National Portrait Gallery, The Edinburgh Museum, The Museum of Childhood, and the photography exhibit in the Parliament Building.  The People’s Story was a museum highlighting the changing conditions and the continuing pursuit of social justice for the people of Edinburgh, including women and the LGBTQ community.

I was intrigued by a painting hanging on the wall of The National Gallery.  It depicted the very room it was displayed in as it had appeared when painted over a century before.  Not much had changed.

We popped into Jenner’s, an elegant department store built in 1895, where they weren’t allowed to remodel, because it was a ‘listed’ historic building.  Meg grew up in a nearby village and would ride the train to town with her mother to shop, but they went to the C&A down the street. Meg remembers window shopping at Jenner’s as a college student.

Mostly we just did window shopping.

But you know…

…in Edinburgh even window shopping is quite special.

I’d heard of haggis as a delicacy unique to Scotland, but nobody ever said anything about macaroni pie.

I loved the Tartans.

And there’s nothing like a kilt to make a man look his best.

But even in Scotland accessories can make–or break–the outfit.

Everywhere we went, we were just steps away from natural beauty.

There were ancient churches and cathedrals around every corner.

Steep narrow passages called ‘closes’ spread like ribs from the spine formed by The Royal Mile.

Edinburgh looked like a city on tiptoe…

 

…with so many layers of mystery and history just waiting to be discovered.

Meg had to translate the words on this sign for me.  It says, “Long may your chimney smoke,” but it means, “May you always have fuel for your fire,” which is a cozy way of wishing someone a long and healthy life.

I never did discover the answer to the vital question most visitors wonder about when they come to Scotland, but are too polite to ask.  

Which is probably all for the best.

All words and images ©2016 Naomi Baltuck.

Click to visit Meg’s blog, Story Twigs the Imagination, and her post about our trip.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Transmogrify.

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The Giants’ Causeway to Scotland

Scientists say that 55 to 65 million years ago, the North of Ireland was subject to volcanic activity, and that molten lava cooled rapidly, creating fractures in the rock that looked like giant stone pillars, some reaching a height of nearly 40 feet.

It made a vivid pattern in the rock…

…and was such a unique natural phenomenon that in 1986  UNESCO named it World Heritage Site.

But if you ask me, that’s a bunch of blarney.  Better yet, ask any local.  He’ll tell you what really happened is that a giant named Finn MacCool was building a causeway to Scotland.
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A Scottish giant named Benandonner tracked Finn to the causeway, looking for a fight.  He wanted to prove he was the greatest giant of them all.  He had already tracked down and beaten every other giant in Ireland, and Benandonner wanted to serve up Finn with the same sauce.

He hurried home to his wife Oonagh.  “Don’t worry, darlin’,” she told Finn.  “We’ll serve him up as good as he brings.”  She dressed Finn in a baby bonnet and put him in a giant wooden cradle.  Then she  baked 27 loaves of bread with 27 iron griddles baked into them, and one good loaf of bread.  When Benandonner arrived looking for Finn, Oonagh said, “He’s off to the Giants’ Causeway, to make paste out of some buffoon of a giant named Benandonner.  But come in and I’ll feed you the bread I prepared for Finn.”  Oonagh gave Benandonner a loaf with a griddle baked into it, and he broke three teeth on it. “Take it away or I’ll not have a good tooth left in me head!” he shouted.

“It’s just the way Finn likes it, nice and crunchy,” said Oonagh.  “Perhaps that one’s stale.”   Then she gave ‘Baby Finn’ the one good loaf.  When Benandonner saw him gobble it down, he shouted, “Sure I haven’t a chance against the giant whose baby can eat the bread that nearly broke my jaw!”

Oonagh smiled as she watched Benandonner racing helter skelter down Knockmany Hill. “When brains are called for,” she told Finn, “brawn won’t help.”

If you go to The Giants’ Causeway in Antrim, remember that you are walking in a land where giants once tread.

And never forget that many a man besides Finn MacCool would find himself in a pretty scrape, if not for his wife!

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel theme: Feet.