Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Goodbye for Now and Cheers!

I safely made it home after flying two flights from Aberdeen, Scotland to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It was a grand total of ten hours of flying and three or so hours of waiting around in airports.  Let's say I was a little on the tired side to blog right away.

There's a lot that I know about Shetland now that I didn't know two weeks ago:

1. Umbrella's don't work there.  The rain is usually horizontal because of the wind.  It would be better to have a raincoat and water proof pants (not sure of the correct name for the pants, but I will have to get some for a return visit should I go back).

2. Many people who live in Shetland are not originally from Shetland.  They've settled there from other places in Great Britain or Europe.  I met people from Scotland, England, and Austria who decided to move to Shetland.  After being there for ten days I could easily detect the native Shetlanders from those who moved there from other places in the UK.

3.  Many people from Shetland now live in New Zealand after issues with owning land and the clearances on the islands.

4.  Many people in the country live on crofts or farms, which they rent from a landlord.  Many of these crofts have sheep.  There are sheep and cows everywhere.  You will also see Shetland ponies.


5. It is okay to go through fenced crofts either by going through a gate, over a style, or any way you can respectfully do so.  As an American, I felt like I was trespassing, but slowly started to get used to it.  Most streets are only a single lane so that if two people are coming from a different direction, one has to pull over in a passing place and let the other person by.  This gets a little tricky for walking on roads in Shetland.  Even the main roads that did have two single lanes did not have a shoulder to walk upon.  You can even walk across the airport runway in Shetland.  That was an experience.

6.  The birds most frequently seen in July are Arctic Terns, Guillemots, Puffins (Sumburgh Head), Gulls, Oystercatchers, and Great Skuas.  You have to watch out for the Great Skuas, or Bonxies, as they will draw blood.

7.  The climate is cooler in Shetland for  summers.  The average high is in the 50s.  I wore jeans everyday with a combination of layers of a short sleeved shirt, long sleeved shirt, polar fleece jacket, rain coat, hat, and mittens.  Yes, I did say mittens and I did use them.

8.  There are words used in Shetland for certain items.  You already heard Bonxie for the Great Skua.  A child is called a bairn, peerie is something that is little, and gansey is a jumper (sweater).  I knew bairn and peerie prior to the trip and it was fun learning others.  I still have more to learn.

9.  The dialect in Shetland sounds similar to Scottish with the respect that the word about is pronounced aboot, down is pronounced doon, mountain is pronounced moontain.  Words similar to Norwegian are da for the, takk for take, makk for make.  I also heard people saying yeah, yeah quite a bit.  The expression goodbye for now was a nice way to say see you later.  I also heard people say Cheers for Thanks.  I think that goodbye for now and Cheers are mostly from England.

10.  The food in Shetland is similar to Scottish cuisine.  They eat a traditional Scottish breakfast of a fried egg, hashbrowns, mushrooms, grilled tomato, bacon, sausage, toast, and black pudding (you remember what this is right? If not, read the blog labeled "Black Pudding.")  They also eat neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), haggis, and fish and chips.  I did see oatcakes a lot on menus and documented what people had with them because I pictured them more as being a pancake, but they are often used like a bread or cracker to use with patte, cheese, or smoked salmon.  I thought I would see more people drinking tea, but most people drank coffee.  People who did drink tea usually put milk in it.

Well that is my top ten list of what I noticed about Shetland that was different from my interpretation from reading books, watching YouTube, looking at pictures on flickr, etc.  I'm sure I have a lot more to learn, but this was a pretty good start for traveling for a short period of time.  Shetlanders:  If I incorrectly portrayed any information, let me know.  I'm still learning.

I now have to start infusing what I've learned about modern day culture into my manuscript.  You will not see a daily blog anymore obviously.  Thanks to those of you who have been reading!  I will now use the blog to communicate any milestones with the manuscript.

Silke and Andrew: If you're reading this, you'll get the 1,500 word essay of how my new knowledge of Viking Shetland impacts my manuscript.  I may blog about that as well.  :)

Goodbye for Now and Cheers!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tears shed for Shetland

It was sad leaving the islands. I got up early this morning and had breakfast with my friend Ann. Then I gathered my things and decided to walk to the airport.

The airport is in view from the hotel. Since it was such a nice day, I decided to make the journey instead of having the hotel drop me off. Thirty minutes later I arrived at the airport with my wheelie suitcase and bags. What looked to be a simple task was actually fairly complex. The roads wound around back and forth. I had to jump off the road if a car was coming. I also got quite a few perplexed looks from the coach bus drivers and taxis. The bus that I could have taken from the hotel passed me several minutes prior to my arrival. When I finally made it to the airport, I had shed a couple layers. I stashed my hoodie and polar fleece jacket in my bag.

The flight to Aberdeen was running late. That was a nice opportunity to sit and reflect on the last couple days. The flight went quick and I am now resting at the bar next to the Speedbird hotel in Aberdeen, Scotland.  The hotel is within walking distance from the airport, but there doesn't appear to be anything worth seeing in the vicinity. I'm currently going through a withdrawal process and am  taking the time to process and reflect on the experience I've had while gathering my thoughts for the plane ride home tomorrow.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Island Girl

I've always known that I was an island girl. No tropical isle will catch my fancy, but the peerie craggy isles always lure me in.

The views of the rocks, the water, and the wildlife in Shetland are spectacular!!! I feel so at home here.

I spent my last day in Shetland soaking up everything I could. After taking the bus from Lerwick to Sumburgh, I dropped off my things at the hotel and set off for Old Scatness.

Old Scatness is an iron age settlement with roundhouses, wheelhouses, and a broch. It is just down the road from Jarlshof. It was discovered in the 1970s and excavated in the 1990's until 2006. While taking the tour, I saw the same archaeologist that showed my class the longhouses in Unst. It is amazing that these settlements are so close and it makes you wonder how many of the hills in Shetland could actually be old settlements.

After that I walked the mile back to the hotel and had a chicken sandwich, salad, and crisps. Then I set of again to explore. I started walking along the coastline towards Sumburgh Head. I made it as far as a field of cattle and was trying to figure out whether or not to continue. An English couple came up behind me and decided to go so I joined them. We walked all the way to Sumburgh Head walking past a sitting bull and past the point where a bird tried to spook me last week.



At Sumburgh Head there were still puffins, but not guillemots. The guillemots were so prevalent a week ago. It is only a matter of time before the puffins will be gone as well. The puffins come for a couple months to breed and then they migrate.

Mark, Linda, and I walked down Sumburgh Head via the main road. It was nice to have someone walk with. It was probably at least a mile each way. In a couple hours I'll have my last Shetland dinner and I hope to catch the sunset. Tomorrow I take the plane to Aberdeen.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Winding down

Today I made my way back to Lerwick to stay for the day and overnight.

Since I've been here in the afternoon/evening for other events the last couple days and the fact that I'm starting to feel the results of a busy week, I tried to go with the flow.  I spent the day wandering around with my new friend, Patricia. We had a lunch at one of many Asian restaurants in Lerwick, went into some of the shops, had coffee by the pier, and had dinner at the Shetland Hotel before she got on the ferry to head to Aberdeen. In between we did a lot of walking around the city.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my class and the information I have gained about Viking Shetland as well as present day Shetland. There is an enormous amount of information that I would not have been able to learn without coming here. In the course of the week, I decided to take this class for credit so I can put this experience on my resume. When I get home I will be writing a 1,500 word essay about a topic that has impacted me. There are so many, so I will have to figure out how to narrow it down. It will most likely be specific to which aspects have helped me with the research for "Under Loch and Key."

Tomorrow I take the bus south back to Sumburgh and then Monday to Aberdeen. On Tuesday I fly to Amsterdam and then Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Last day of class

I usually look forward to Fridays, but this Friday was particularly sad. It was out last day of class.

We learned about Vikings in popular culture. I learned about numerous movies, television shows, and music with Vikings. Viking metal was a new form of music for me. I'll have to tell Will about these bands that have quite a following.

In the afternoon we went to the Shetland Museum to see more Viking artifacts. We had a farewell tea (I had a scone with cream and jam as well as a mocha). Then it was time to say goodbye to some of the people we had met in class.

A few of us stayed in Lerwick to shop and have fish and chips. We also toured the Up Helly Aa galley shed. Here they had shields, scrapbooks, and costumes dating back to 1928.

The Up Helly Aa festival takes place in late January. One man per year is nominated to be the Guizer Jarl. He is joined by his crew and they parade around the city making appearances for food, festivities, and dramatic sketches. At the end of the evening, the crowd gathers around a longship which is set in flames by a thousand torches. The festival marks the end of winter and looking forward to spring. There are some similarities between Up Helly Aa and the Winter Carnival in St. Paul. The 2017 Guizer Jarl was our tour guide. Maybe I'll come back and see the festival some day. You never know.

Norse folklore and boats

It's been a couple days since I've had wi-fi!

On Thursday we had class at the Viking Heritage Center in Unst. There we learned about Viking voyages and mythological creatures in folktales. It's amazing the stories that were passed down through the generations about trows (trolls) and njuggles (water horses). There was also a growler or greela (sp?) who would take unruly children and eat them. The things we tell our children so they will behave.

In the afternoon we went to the Unst boat haven to learn about fishing boats and then saw a replica of a Viking longhouse and longship. After that we took two ferries back to mainland Shetland back to Port Arthur House at the North Atlantic Fisheries College.

In the evening I ate comfort food of macaroni and cheese with salad and chips (french fries) and then it was off to a boat ride on the Dim Riv in Lerwick. We sailed on a replica Viking boat. It was a beautiful view of the city. We saw some seals poking their heads out of the water near the fishing boats. It was a wonderful way to spend the evening.

Many peoples tell folktales of the selkies that are seals in the water and human in land. Looking at the curiosity of the seals and the mystery in their eyes, I can see why such stories have been created.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rock, Music, and Muckle Flugga

Today we learned about Norse mythology. I was so excited that most of the information I heard today confirmed what I have been researching the last several months. That means that everything mythological in my manuscript is on the right track.

Our afternoon field trip was to see three longhouses that have been discovered on Unst. We also saw a broch which may have been used as a fortress.

We walked up and down hills. There is scat of all shapes and sizes on the ground so much that after a while you stop watching your step because it's inevitable you will step in it.

I learned the hard way that it is smart to follow a path the sheep have created because sheep don't like getting their feet wet. I unfortunately stepped in a damp area and got mud up to my laces on my shoes. I was able to wash them off in the ocean at the beach, but my feet have been squishing in my shoes for the last several hours now.

Our final destinations were a 12th century ( I hope that's accurate) kirk, or church in honor or Saint Olaf and Muckle Flugga, the northernmost point in Great Britain. There is a lighthouse on Muckle Flugga, but no one lives there.

After dinner of mushroom stroganoff and another plate of sticky toffee pudding (Yes, I have a mild obsession with sticky toffee pudding) several of us went to see a music performance with fiddle, piano, flute, double bass, and percussion. They had lovely music and had a ballad about the Shetland Bus during World War II.

I'm now off to bed and now that I know I can pull a shade on my sky light, I sleep much better. It doesn't stay dark long here. It's possibly 4-5 hours per night of darkness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kubb and Hnefatafl

Today we learned about Viking games. We had fun playing Kubb in the courtyard around lunch time. It was a gorgeous day outside today to do so.

After dinner I learned how to play Hnefatafl which is similar to chess. We also had opportunities today to learn about runes, do some runic inspired art, go on a brewery tour of the Valhalla Brewery, walk to the beach, and have a traditional Viking feast. I plan on teaching Kubs and Hnefatafl to my students so if any of you would like to play a rousing game, we should get together once I purchase the kits.

For Peat's Sake

Most of the land in Shetland is barren and you can see the ocean from nearly every part of the island. The land itself looks like it's caving in. I asked my instructor why. She said that it was peat.

The Shetlanders use peat for fires and warmth because trees are rare here. She jokes that the peat keeps you warm five times: 1) cutting the peat from the earth, 2) putting it in a wheelbarrow, 3) taking it out of a wheelbarrow to store for drying, 4) when turning the peat to dry the other side, and 5) when the peat is burning in the fire.

Most Shetlanders have other means for heat and just use peat for tradition. Each property has peat rights when the owners/renters can harvest their own peat. You can see a lot of piles of peat drying when traveling around Shetland. A peat fire smells amazing. I'm glad I don't have to do all of the work to get it though.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beware of the Vikings

I made my way to Scalloway on Sunday via two busses in the wind and rain.  The locals were right! The rain was horrible.  Man, it gets really windy here!

 On the bus a kind local woman with red hair, a go tee (not kidding), and who swore like a sailor helped me to my two bus stops. The driver drove so fast and the windows were fogged from the rain that I wasn't sure I would be able to identify the stops. There is only one lane for most of the roads in Shetland. When two cars meet on the road, one has to let the other pass.

I finally made it to my bus stop in Scalloway and walked for fifteen minutes in the rain with my luggage. I looked like a drowned rat when I arrived on the doorstep of the North Atlantic Fisheries College dorm.

I waited out the rain and let my clothes dry. When the rain died down, I made a break for the closest place to get food. I had gone three days without eating lunch now. I didn't want to stay long at the restaurant because I didn't want to get another set of pants soaked. It wouldn't be good to have two out of my three pairs of pants drenched.

It was eerily quiet at the dorm and there was no tv, Internet access, or anything to do. I was bored out of my mind. Luckily the morning came soon enough.

I started my Centre for Nordic Studies: Viking Culture course today! We started the morning with an overview of the Vikings in general and then about the Vikings in Shetland. In the afternoon we took two ferries to the island of Unst which is the northernmost inhabited island in Great Britain.

After getting settled, we had dinner at the resort. I had neeps and tatties, haggis, and there was a surprise: more black pudding. In addition I had some smoked salmon. For dessert I had sticky toffee pudding. Sticky toffee pudding has been at every restaurant I've eaten at so far. Luckily my father-in-law makes sticky toffee outing so I'll be able to get my fix once I get home.


So far I'm loving my class! The instructors and the students are incredible. I think it's going to be an unforgettable week.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The road not taken

After breakfast this morning (fried egg, bacon, corn flakes, yogurt, and a grilled tomato) I sat in the lobby trying to figure out what to do today. As I was sitting there a visually impaired woman sat down next to me. A few minutes later I cleared up where I was going and asked the woman at the reception desk about transportation. The visually impaired woman, Ann, said she was going to get the bus as well.

We set off for the bus stop at the end of the road and spoke for quite a while. I was really inspired by her. She is originally from England, but now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. She came to the Shetland Islands on July 12th and has been traveling on her own. She speaks with such precision that you would swear she was from here or she could actually see everything. Just watching her though, I have no idea how she finds her way around. She says she has an adventurous spirit and she refuses to let not being able to see stop her.

We parted ways when I got off the bus to see the Croft House Museum. Here I saw a renovated croft(farm)with a house, a byre (barn), and a water mill. I spoke with the custodian (that's what they call the person who works there) for a while and got to learn a little more about Shetland. After that I took a bus to the Quendale Mill. At both places the bus let me off a half mile or so down the road and I had to walk there. Neither time could I see the location.

At the Quendale Mill, I spoke with Alistair for a while about the mill. Most of the time I was there I was worrying about how I would get back to the hotel. The bus driver said he wouldn't be back at that stop until 5:45 p.m. (it was currently 1:15 p.m. He said I could probably take a path along the beach.

When I was done exploring the mill, Alistair also told me I could walk along Quendale beach, through the town of Toab, and down the main road past the Sumburgh airport, and to the hotel. Well, as I set off on this journey to the hotel, I had to climb over a fence, walk past a herd of lounging sheep and cows that gave me the stink eye and stood up when I walked by (there was no fence between us), I walked along a beach, climbed another fence, went up a hill, through the town of Toab, over the airport runway and down a main road until the hotel was in sight. I think it took about two hours and I believe I walked 4 or 5 miles in all. That's not counting what I walked to get to the two museums.



It was quite and adventure and if I wasn't so worried about getting attacked by a cow, ambiguous weather, wind, airplanes, and getting lost, I would have enjoyed myself a little more. Being that I haven't eaten for ten hours, I have definitely worked up an appetite for dinner.

Tomorrow I travel by bus to the capital city called Lerwick and then to Scalloway to the North Atlantic Fisheries College where my Centre for Nordic Studies: Viking culture class will start on Monday. Three people have already told me about rain for tomorrow. Hopefully it's not too bad.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sumburgh (Sum bur a)

I arrived in Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands today. There are not words to describe what I've seen so hopefully a few dozen pictures will help.

I should have known Sumburgh was pronounced Sum-bur-a instead of sum-burg. Just like Edinburgh is E-din-bur-a. It sounds a lot better rolling off the Scots' tongues than mine though.

After checking in at the hotel,which is absolutely lovely, I headed to Jarlshof which is a 4,000 year old settlement. I saw the progression of homes from roundhouses, to wheelhouses, to brochs, and longhouses. Those of you who have my manuscript know that this is a crucial setting in my work.

Next I headed towards Sumburgh Head. The guy at Jarlshof pointed me in the direction of the footpath. I walked along a rocky cliff, over a fence that said "Watch for bull," and over unstable ground that had holes in it. When I looked in a hole, a bird cawed at me. I apologized to the bird and went on my way. Near an inlet two-thirds of the way there a large white bird with a yellow bill and dark markings on its face started swooping down towards me repeatedly and making a terrifying noise. I backed away and another one came. I walked with my hands over my head since they were 8-10 feet above me. After one more attempt and the same results I went back to the hotel and called a taxi.

The clusters of puffins on the cliffs near Sumburgh Head were breathtaking. It was a lot more peaceful experience than the previous bird encounter. I took numerous pictures and video. I cannot even begin to describe the sound they make. Now that I have been to the two places I wanted to see and I still have one more day here, I have time to explore other areas.