A Stone's Throw

practice your aim. you never know when you'll spy 2 birds at once.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ancient Healing Wells

December 8, Thursday - The Highlands

Several years ago I took a trip to Europe with the idea in mind to see various countries, thier sights, customs, sample the food and ale. The things you're supposed to do. What I discovered was a certain affection for and strange belonging to a place I had never been before. That place was Scotland. This was especially true of the Highlands, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in pictures or in person.

Times hadn't changed that far from before. I took a bus from Edinburgh north to the Highlands, where I made base camp in the small, but active town of Inverness. Inverness, known for it's proximity to Loch Ness and the famous beastie Nessie, doesn't so much make a living off the fame, so much as a town that intersects a large portion of the Highlands.

Day trips from Inverness are easy, though be aware that the buses cost more because of the infrequency of the routes and the bloody pound.

On this particular day I decided to check out a place hinted at my a local. On the outskirts of a town called Munlochy there exists an ancient healing well, or a clootie well, as they came to be known. Teaming up with friend Chris, we hopped a bus for said town with rough directions of where the well might be. This was with all good intentions until a nice ancient lady on the bus asked where we were headed and I told her the truth. She promptly informed the bus driver to not stop in the town and to drop us off further down the road where we wouldn't have to walk as far. Lovely gal. Great intentions.

As the bus sped off leaving us on the side of a road where we narrowly avoided death by every car that careened around the corner, we went in search of the well. A few miles and a field or two later, we were welless. Sucking up a second wind, we highfooted it back to Munlochy and decided to attack the direction from a new angle. We hailed down a local with a combination of charisma and a few well-placed 'excuse me's'. Several minutes later we were golden and hiking a new path.

Determined to discover the healing powers of the ancient Celts, especially after so many injuries from the road, we strove on. And on. And on. Until finally we saw something quite strange in the forest ahead. As we neared there were things hanging from the trees. Cloth. Ribbons. Torn sleeves. Socks. Hats. They hung there, thousands of varieties and hues, gently drifting silently in the breeze. It was absolutely unnerving.

We searched and as the cloth became more prevalent, we found a set of stone steps in the side of a hill that led directly to what might have once been a mystical well, but now resembled more the den of a bear, or the hideout of rather unsavory individuals. A few moments of contemplation and study was followed by a quick addition of my own to a low-hanging branch and then a wise exit, as the sun was setting and we had a healthy hike back.

Turns out people used to take bits of cloth from their person to represent what needed healing and hang it over the well in the belief it would bring a cure. Sometimes they even left children out over night for healing. Try explaining that to your HMO or insurance provider.

After the sacred grove, we decided to jump another bus and find the reputed oldest pub in Scotland. The town of Rosemarkie can be missed easily, though its a cozy little place on the coast. There were signs for a Fairy Glen somewhere in the forest, but after the healing well and the falling light, the last thing I wanted was to spend a night in some freaky fairy glen. So, the pub it was.

What I love about Scots was reflected in The Weaver Pub. While the locals had no idea if it was the oldest pub in Scotland, they were quite sure about thier golf game that afternoon, the disparity of rising cost of living without an equal increase in wage, and the fine healing powers of a single malt scotch. What a grand people, Scots.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Kings and Legends

December 5, Monday - Edinburgh, Scotland

It is a mighty place, this city. Set among the crags and vales of an imposing mountain range there erupt cathedrals, castles, monuments, towers, ancient work to make the place hospitable. And a grand and true thing was created.

Two days ago I slung into Glasgow, and although the North Lodge Hostel was so very inviting, I had to press on to Edinburgh where I enjoyed such times before and thus far has replicated its previous incarnation. I bed in Brodies Hostel, located on the Royal Mile, a hip active joint where you're immediately taken in and baptized into the word they've created here. A fantastic opportunity to use a real live kitchen was taken wholly advantage of before rediscovering the city once more.

I'm not sure how much time I will spend here, but know only that it will surely not be enough time. There are places we all chance upon and each time we return open up new reasons to stay.

Tomorrow I shall adventure, but foremost I shall climb to Arthur's Seat, an immense mountain that looms over the city that has been shaped by wind and time to take the shape of an ancient throne that prevails over the entire city below it. The winds can get up to 50 to 60 mph daily up there and because of that there are posts and ropes to haul yourself to the top.

There are sprawling ancient cities, vast metropolises set over winding rivers, ports of call that get built up age after age, but there is something primordial, humanly massive about the creation of a city among the mountains that stands the test of time which instills a certain awe, and perhaps humility.

That is Edinburgh.

- C

Friday, December 02, 2005

Rodin's Hell

Friday, December 2 - Paris

You nearly are required to be in museums in Paris, because it costs too much to be anywhere else, including the toilets, which will run you about 50 cents. Cafes are warm, but they too cost coin and if you finish your drink and dont leave, they glare at you. So, its museums.

Today I hit the Rodin Musee - you know, the guy who sculpted The Thinker. This guy's stuff is really impressive. The most startling was a piece called Gates of Hell; which is an enormous gate some 20+ feet tall, made of metal designed in influence by Dante's Inferno. It was absolutely stunning. So much size and detail, including a tiny version of the thinker, originally supposed to represent the artist and writer with the visions of the world on his mind as he lives his work.

The weather was a hair better than yesterday, but still cold enough to send people scurrying for cover as night fell.

Note: There is complete truth to the rumor that people smell more in France than other places. Don't know if it's a cultural statement by them or something, but it can get mighty foul.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

the mountain of the art world

Thursday December 1 - Paris

Bagettes, chain-smoking, winos, fantqstic art - a recipe for Paris.

(My apologies in advance for any typos - this is a french keyboard and everything on it is all jumbled up. Nothing like having to shift to use the period)

Paris is both huge as well as cold. Not the people so much as the wind. I havent yet made up my mind on my overall opinion of the place, but they really do have some nice museums. The Musee d'Orsay was brilliant with its work from the 1880's to the 1910's, of special note for me were being able to view Picasso's self portait, rooms full of Degas, and my long favs - Seurat and Monet.

Then came the mighty Louvre. What a collosal place. I spent over 8 hours there and still didnt see everything. There was the largest collection in the world of DeVincis, which only numbered 4, including naturally Mona Lisa. Like I thought, she was smirking at all the people. My favorites though were Ingres, Prud'hon, Vien, but the one ^painter of note I found myself studying the most was Rembrandt. I found a room of perhaps 20 of his paintings, where not too many people passed through, and spent a good 40 mins there. He creates a quality of life on the canvas that is just breathtaking, yet sad.

The Eiffle Tower is just bloody big. Impressive, but unless there was money involved there was no way I was paying someone to climb those steps in the cold wind. Nope.

Today I visted Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, an absolutely massive place where laying to rest are the likes of Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Seurat, Proust, Jim Morrison, Moliere, Corot, Pisarro, etc. It is a beautiful place with huge structures that were both monuments and statements at once.

Will spend a few more days here, but this is a place to visit in better weather for certain. But I tell you - if you are here in the cold, be sure to enjoy the way Paris lights up for christmas - they do like a good light show...

For now, I must wander back to the lodging to warm up...

Oh - will post qbout my adventures in Venice and Bergamo Italy when the entire country went on strike. You've never imagined the mess....

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