Soon after we had moved to Germany, one of my first projects was in Aberdeen. Though the Silver City might not be the first stop on anyone’s list of top Scottish destinations, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The people were terribly friendly, the granite buildings of the old city charming, the seaside setting at the mouth of two rivers lovely, and the speech largely intelligible (except for that one guy who was on the technical team to whom I could only smile and nod). With this first impression and having spoken with a number of people about their trips through Scotland plus our love of whisky, we have been wanting to plan a trip for years. Luckily for us our world-traveling former neighbors were in Scotland very recently giving us reason not only to meet up with them, but also see a very small part of Scotland for pleasure instead of business.
We have met up with Tom and Sandi several times before in Paris and Copenhagen and as luck would have it they were going to be in Inverness over a weekend. We flew into Aberdeen which elicited waves of nostalgia but also a mild sense of unease since I had a history of having my luggage lost or flights cancelled on my way to/from Aberdeen. Fortunately the flight was uneventful and we were soon on a train to Inverness.
I was depressed (though not surprised) to see that the condition of trains in Scotland is at the same level as those in England. Which is to say grimy, both outside from the belching diesel engines and inside from the unkept upholstery. Though the drab and dreary rail service in the past has inspired me to muse on life, we were blessed with a gorgeous day and the passing landscape made us soon forget about the dingy railcar. The two hours to Inverness passed quickly as we watched a beautiful rolling landscape with fields of sheep and spring lambs jumping and playing, old stone walls dividing the pastures, bubbling rivers and streams, and mountains in the distance.
It was great to meet up again with Sandi and Tom and had a grand time touring Loch Ness, where despite the tremendous scenery I could not get that classic Groundskeeper Willie scene from The Simpsons out of my head. After the trip on the lake, we visited our first Scotch whisky distillery with an authenticity and aromas that far outstripped anything we had seen before (sorry Jameson). We also met up with one of my former customers in Aberdeen who took us out to a pub where her brother was playing traditional music with other musicians. People kept arriving and pulling out new instruments and joining in like a kind of Gaelic jam session. At final count there were two guitars, one acoustic bass guitar, one banjo, one accordion, handful of harmonicas, a lute, a mandolin, trumpet, fiddle, and a bagful of flutes and whistles. Fantastic. Thanks for a great time, Theresa!
We spent our last day on a walking tour of Old Aberdeen, enjoying the beach, the River Don, Seaton park, and the university quarter. It was a busy, but really fun weekend. It took us so many years to finally make it to Scotland for pleasure instead of business that we have resolved to return much sooner than that for a proper vacation. And our bags weren’t even lost on the way back.