Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Scotland - in review

Wow! What a wonderful two weeks I had! So many of you have asked to see pictures and hear stories, so I thought it only appropriate to do a little of both here on my blog.

I truly had an amazing time, spending one week in Iona and another exploring Edinburgh and Glasgow. My traveling companions were dear friends Teri and Elsa, fabulous young clergy women who provided a lot of laughs and good conversation. While I can't afford to go back anytime soon (oy vey, the dollar is hurting!), I would go back in a heartbeat if I could!

Week One - Iona

The first week we spent on Iona at the Abbey. To get to the island you take a train from Glasgow, catch a ferry in Oban to Mull, drive across Mull in a chartered bus, and then catch a ferry from the other side of Mull to Iona. Quite a long way out! It's hard to believe that Christianity on the British Isles originated from this tiny, remote place.

In this picture you can see the Abbey on the right.

We arrived at the Abbey just in time for dinner! The food was stellar all week long (and they always had yummy veggie options for me, Teri, and the other vegetarians!). Staying at the Abbey that week were about 50 people - including 14 folks from the Twin Cities (I got to practise my Minnesotan accent) and a handful of people who had come for a blessing ceremony later that week. We made several lovely friends that week - including a future Presbyterian minister who's a senior at William and Mary!

During the week we ate together, bunked together, worshipped together, and did chores together. Yes, chores. Part of the Iona Abbey experience is creating intentional Christian community and scrubbing toilets or chopping vegetables is an intrinsic part of that process - or so they tried to tell us. :)

It was almost surreal living at the Abbey - how easily it felt like home, and how odd it was for these tourists to be coming and poking around our home during the day!

Here's a picture of me (the gal in the blue) outside the Abbey with some tourists!

One of my favorite experiences of the week was the pilgrimage we took on Tuesday. In the rain and fog (it was a typical Scottish day for our journey) we walked all around the island - about 7 miles - stopping at certain significant spots like the hill where legend says St. Columba communed with the angels and of course, the bay where St. Columba landed after fleeing from Ireland those many years ago. We prayed, sang songs, carried lobster traps (that one was not a planned part of the trip!), meditated on scripture, and more. It was cold and wet and wonderful.

Not everything on the island was holy, holy, holy. Teri, Elsa, and our new friend Ginna, and I indulged in cream tea and cards, danced traditional dances, and participated in a "guest concert" - at least I did. I was recruited by a darling man to be the princess in a comedic Greek tragedy.

Here's the cast in action!

It was ridiculous and fun and a great way to break down any sort of walls I might put up (I know, I'm not really a wall woman, but still) and make new friends.

While I loved the people and the Abbey, I think perhaps my favorite thing about Iona is the isle itself. The sights, the sounds, everything. It really does just get under your skin.

Week Two - Edinburgh and Glasgow

After a moving and marvelous week at Iona, Teri, Elsa and I headed off for the big city - quite a change. We stayed right off the Royal Mile and enjoyed all the touristy things to do. Of course, all the touristy things that clergy women might do!

When we went to the Castle one of our favorite things was a wedding taking place at St. Margaret's Chapel. We took a picture with the bagpiper and then - gasp - saw the Scottish minister complete with Geneva tabs! And lo and behold, we took a picture with him!

We ate fantastic food - and it's a good thing we walked several miles a day because all those pastries were dangerously good. One of the places we had breakfast we were amused to find advertised itself as the "birthplace" of Harry Potter. So of course, we had to take our picture. Now, I have to confess, I was the one who asked our photographer to take our picture, and I did it by asking this woman walking by if she had a few seconds... she looked very nervous and when I asked if she could take our picture, she relaxed, smiled, and said "I thought you were about to proselytize." Hee. I couldn't resist telling her, "no, but we three do happen to be clergy!" She had a good laugh too.

One day we went to St. Andrews, yes, golf mecca, but didn't hit the fairway. We say ruins of the castle and the cathedral.

This is me, guarding the castle!

The cathedral may be my favorite place outside of Iona. It's in ruins and truly beautiful, eerie, and inspiring.

In Glasgow we did much of the same in Edinburgh - food and walking around looking at the sites. Of course, looking at the sites often consisted of "oooh, that looks like a church. Let's go check it out." You can take the preacher out of church but not the church out of the preacher!

An amazing two weeks - filled to the brim with memories. I'm so blessed to have been able to go and thankful to have just as wonderful a place to come home to!

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