I pulled that line from an epitaph and Glasgow Cathedral. The Scotland chapter of my adventure came to a close today around 2:30pm, when I boarded the Stena line ferry bound for Northern Ireland. I have so many thoughts about Scotland after the last four or so days. Edinburgh is so beautiful, such a mix of all of its historic eras. It’s also so clearly geared towards a high amount of tourism. The city is very clean, very well marked and seems to take every opportunity to highlight it’s past and present. It was also interesting to talk to some locals in the pubs and restaurants about the recent referendum on independence. In Edinburgh, the consensus was: “We voted No, and we aren’t surprised that the No vote went through. Everyone has a great deal of Scottish pride and patriotism, but at the end of the day, there was no real place for sustainability. There was no economic safety net. Independence would have been a disaster.” From my own perspective, Edinburgh has a lot of cultural and spiritual ties to London and England in general.
Then we turn to Glasgow. Glasgow, from the first moment, is a very different climate. Construction cranes dominate the skyline (engaged in both demolition and construction of new structures). “YES” placards, flags, and graffiti are everywhere. There is some Victorian/Georgian influence to the architecture, but it’s a much wider range of types of buildings. It’s a little city, easily walkable (I crossed every planned experience off my list and still had plenty of time for the unexpected). Glasgow felt much more like a typical city where people work hard and go home to their families. It definitely did not seem to have the same practiced “affect” that parts of Edinburgh have, but it had a more subtle charm and spirit all it’s own.
Glasgow as a city voted Yes for independence. That much I heard on the BBC before I ever left home, but she I got to Glasgow and started talking to people, the difference came into focus. Glasgow has been independent, and proud of that independence for most of its existence. Glasgow saw more direct civic actions for pay, more rent strikes, more conscription protests, and more work stoppages than Edinburgh. Glasgow is also a city that has always struggled with poverty. While there was a housing shortage all over the UK after WWII, by the 50s, nearly half of apartments didn’t have bathrooms or hot water in the units. Women went to the wash houses into the 70s. Housing project towers sprung up, only to suffer the same issues as housing projects in the states. There isn’t a lot of love lost between Glasgow, and London, it would seem. There is also tension here. My hosts talked about seeing a large group of National Socialists yelling racist slogans in George Square when it became clear the referendum was lost. Some pubs had signs banning carrying Scottish flags into the bar, while others made a point of redecorating in solely blue and white. On Saturday, nearly a week after the vote, there were groups of people walking around wearing and waving the blue and white Scots flag. Interesting, to say the least.
But, it is a city of great energy and potential-many of the remaining blocks of crumbling housing are being replaced. New businesses and hotels are going into downtown areas, and unemployment is falling. During my time I was able to visit:
- The West End, and have a lovely toastie and eggs on gf bread at North Star cafe (proper coffee remains elusive)
- Glasgow Botanic Gardens, where the leaves weed just beginning to change
- Sauchiehall Street market, where every kind of food was of sale-it was amazing
- Glasgow Cathedral- the only “Kirk” to survive the destruction of the reformation
- The Necropolis- endless Victorian merchant cemetery, built in a spiraling pattern covering a high hill. I saw incredible views, and left feeling pro