Monday, July 21, 2003

Shetland-birds, birds, and more birds

Right, well I'm in a madly expensive cyber cafe in Stromness, Orkney (it consists of one computer!). My journey up to Shetland started off on not the greatest note- it took me ages to get out of the house in Burntisland and when I finally hopped on the train it was standing room only (and not much of that either). I did finally get a seat, with two oil workers who were quite a laugh, but didn't see anything of Aberdeen except the short walk between the train and the ferry.

A night in a reclining chair on the ferry proved to be somewhat long. Can't wait for all those days on the train in Canada come November ;) however, we arrived and Lerwick, the sun was shining the entire time I was there, and it was such a nice town. The hostel was lovely (I highly recommend it) and I was charmed by the main street and the harbor. And every town seems to have a bowling green-not something I had noticed before.

My first day I headed down to the south of Mainland, and saw St Ninian's Isle (connected to Mainland by a beach bridge), Jarlshof, Old Scatness, and Sumburgh Head with tons of puffins. Also visited a croft house museum (for those of you familiar with the Hebrides, it was exactly like a blackhouse). The next day I went off to Mousa Broch, where I achieved an interesting sunburn. Oops. Again, some archaeology, some birds, some seals. However, due to the erratic bus schedules, I got stuck in Sandwick with an Australian girl from the hostel for three and a half
hours. Fifteen minutes would have been enough time to appreciate Sandwick, so it was a long evening. The next day I saw more birds, this time on a boat cruise around Bressay and Noss, where there are tons of seabird colonies. God, do they smell.

My last day on the island, I went to Scalloway, where there isn't much to do really-one castle, one museum, a set of public toilets. In Lerwick itself, the museum was odd, crammed full of old stuff but without much actual order. Up Helly Aa is a winter festival where a Viking boat is burned at the climax, and I went along and saw the boat to be burned next. There was a fort and a town hall. And lots of touristy shops. however, the most enjoyable thing to do was just sit in the sun at the harbour and watch the sail boats launch for the European championship.

I've been on Orkney for two days now, hanging around Kirkwall. St Magnus' Cathedral is gorgeous and the castle is cool, with tons of half ruined turrets. Today I am exploring Stromness after I finish up here at the cafe. Tomorrow the touristyness starts in earnest, as I have booked two day trips to do all the sites on Mainland-having a car up here would make life a lot easier! After I will hopefully manage a trip to Hoy, if the weather stays ok.

Off to be a tourist, possibly one in a raincoat the way the sky looks just now!

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