For some persons, the motivation to travel comes from Saint Augustine’s famous charge: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”. For some others, me included, travelling goes beyond trying to read more pages of the world. Some persons would say I’m related to Nigeria’s famous tripper, “Ajala”. Well, that may be possible, but before a thesis begins on such a link, here’s a gentle recap of my last travel adventure.
Last month, joined by Abimbola, a buddy from my undergraduate days, I went on a tour of the two most famous cities in Scotland. Unlike my Christmas trip to the Netherlands where my host commissioned me to write about each visited city, there was no such mandate this time, plus I was in the middle of a gruelling group project. Before the Scotland trip, Abimbola and I first used a trip to the historic city of Cambridge as an appetiser. All I would say about that trip is that Cambridge sure lives up to its billing.
What’s the wallet-friendly way to go to Scotland from the south of England? The cost of a train trip was abominable to our bank accounts, and we had no love for the hassle of going through airports, so we went for coach travel, an option loved by our yet-to-be-employed accountants. If you’ve ever sat in a bus on Nigeria’s unfriendly roads for more than 1000km, a mere 600km on UK roads would surely be a piece of cake.
The big day came; we got to the Milton Keynes Coachway, jumped on the coach to begin our long journey up north. The road trip included a coach change at Birmingham and a stopover somewhere along the way, at a restaurant designed to empty traveller’s wallets. The long journey allowed us to appreciate the UK’s natural landscape as we went through agrarian areas. Sometime during the trip, the driver announced there had been an accident downstream and our route was altered a bit, adding an extra two hours to the journey. Finally, sometime before 10pm, we found ourselves at the Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow.
The next day, waking from buttocks-restoration sleep, we left Glasgow for Edinburgh. Our first calling point was Camera Obscura, a five-storey building filled with optical illusions. From one floor to the next, illusions lined the walls and even some floor spaces, and some illusions were designed for human interaction. Imagine touching a tube containing electrostatic charges, a friend doing the same on another tube, and as you point your fingers to each other, bringing them just close enough to not touch, you see a spark of electric charges flow across your extended fingers. Have no fears; it was very safe.
By the time we left Camera Obscura, our stomachs had begun singing discordant tunes, so we found a restaurant for appeasement. Having heard that it was illegal to visit Scotland without having the Scottish national meal, we ordered “Haggis” to ensure taste compliance. Then came the biggest surprise of the day. The restaurant’s menu listed different types of “malt” as accompanying drinks. The “malt” we know in Nigeria is non-alcoholic and we ignorantly assumed that malt is malt everywhere. How wrong we were! When a waitress educated us on the true meaning of “malt”, we realised that to the Scots, malt is simply whisky. Not only is whisky called malt, but the Scots as true fans of whisky, have myriads of whisky combinations. Trusting the recommendation of the waitress for “a whisky that would go well with the haggis”, we placed our orders, and I must say that the meal went very well.
Our next stop was the Edinburgh Castle, a sprawling complex visited by many tourists in the city. From one building to another, we could see Scottish heritage being upheld by proud Scots. After watching two Scots demonstrate how to load and fire a musket, we went in search of the Scottish crown jewels, a set of royal ornaments now relegated by the English crown jewels. As our guide explained that a rectangular rock piece previously used for coronating Scottish royals was now placed under the English throne during English coronation ceremonies, we could sense that Scots still feel some form of regret over their “domination” by the English.
One of the buildings in the castle houses the Scottish war museum, a tribute to Scottish forces who have paid the ultimate price from the time of the first world war to date. In that building are books containing the names of all Scots who have lost their lives in active service whether as fighting forces or support personnel. Recalling that I had seen war monuments in different cities and towns in the UK, I could understand why people over here have a strong sense of patriotism. People who died in 1914 are still remembered, while my country, Nigeria, does not even remember those who have died in recent military campaigns, including the ongoing Boko Haram bloodbath.
Leaving the castle, we headed to the Scottish National Gallery to view some of the displayed art pieces. A short stay in the adjoining park wrapped up the Edinburgh tour. Glasgow was still to come.
The next day saw us touring Glasgow on foot, beginning at George Square. After all, what shall it profit a tourist to use a bus and miss amazing sights? We strolled through Kelvingrove Park en route the University of Glasgow. At the University, we joined a guided tour around the campus and were shown the residence of the famous physicist, Lord Kelvin, creator of the Kelvin temperature scale. The faux-Gothic styled campus also had the famous economist, Adam Smith, and James Watt who improved the steam engine on its staff roll. After the tour, we went into the Hunterian Museum situated on campus. Thereafter, we left the campus in search of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens.
On our final day in Scotland, before leaving for the coach station, we first went to see the Glasgow Necropolis, a vast assembly of monuments and grave sites for many residents of Glasgow. When a friend recommended we visit the Necropolis, we initially balked, wondering why anyone would say a “cemetery” is interesting. When we got there, we realised we need to blot out the Nigerian concept of cemeteries that still roams our minds. After taking a host of pictures in the Necropolis, we left to join our bus back to England.