By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #29
We got to see lots of other places of interest including Edinburgh Castle, Parliament Hall, the Grass Market (site of public hangings) and Holyrood Palace. We contented ourselves with a view of Holyrood from the outside because Queen Elizabeth was in residence for a two- week period. During this period she bestows honors on selected citizens. Just a couple of days before our visit she knighted Sean Connery.
Next we drove from Edinburgh to Aberdeen to take a ferry trip (eight hours) to the Orkney Islands off the North East coast of Scotland. As we left inland waters, the ship's captain pointed out an ominous structure on a spit of land known as Slane's Castle. This castle was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's "Dracula."
The main island in the Orkneys is very green and gently rolling with breathtaking views of ocean, harbors, inlets and many of the 74 islands that make up the Orkneys. The year-round average daily wind speed is 40 mph. These islands serve as a staging area for many species (approx. 110) of birds. Apparently, the terns are the champions of long distance flight, and travel between the Orkneys and the Antarctic. Three sites on the Orkneys were of considerable interest to us:
FIRST: SKARA BRAESkara Brae is a stone-age village of ten one-room houses dating back to 3000 BC, and is in a remarkable state of preservation. It is considered the best Neolithic village in Europe. We were able to stroll the area until 11:00 PM (There was still daylight). The houses were dug into mounds made of house waste and reinforced with stone walls. The village is located on a hill overlooking the ocean (actually a bay). The walking path along the ocean leading to the village was lined with marker stones, forming a time reference line. The marker stones were sequenced so that the distances between adjacent stones is linearly proportional to time, and so by walking the path one gets some relative feeling as to how far back in time our "prehistoric" cousins lived. The time reference points were:
1969 First Man on Moon
1876 Telephone Invented
1776 American Declaration of Indep.
1400 Inca Civilization
1095 First Crusade
476 Fall of Rome
BC/AD Birth of Christ
220 BC Great Wall of China
480 BC The Parthenon
962 BC Temple of Solomon
2100 BC Stonehenge
2500 BC Pyramids of Giza
3100 BC Skara Brae
SECOND: SCAPA FLOW Scapa Flow is one of the largest natural harbors in the world and has served as an important British naval base in the two world wars. Following the WWI cease-fire in October 1918, the German High Seas Fleet was escorted into Scapa Flow and interned there, pending peace talks. Fearing that the peace talks might break down, and hostilities might resume, making the German warships available to the British, the German Admiral (Von Reuter) sent a secret message to the skeleton crews aboard the vessels, ordering the entire fleet (more than 70 ships) to be scuttled ... much to the embarrassment of the British.
Along came the next war. In October 1939, U47, commanded by Lt. Gunther Prien penetrated the Eastern Approaches to Scapa Flow, and torpedoed the Battleship Royal Oak, sinking it with a loss of 833 of its crew. It is now a memorial in the same sense as is the USS Arizona, and like the Arizona is the permanent resting place of those who went down with the ship. Oil still leaks out of it and is the single greatest source of pollution to Scapa Flow. This is amazing, given that the largest oil storage facility in Europe is located on the harbor. (The oil arrives from the North Sea oil fields through a 140 mile long pipeline.)
Continued on Update #31
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