Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Water, wind and whisky

Wild, warm and wonderful could also be some of the many words to describe the Orkney and Shetland Islands and their very hospitable and friendly people. The towns are cozy, laidback and have a particular provincial and seaside charm to them.

In Kirkwall at the Orkney Islands we were greeted by what most of us would consider windy weather, but what the locals referred to as a calm day, practically without any wind. It was clearly that most of us come from a gentler climate on mainland Europe. None the less the sun was shining and our visit to the excavations of the Stone Age settlement of Skara Brae was most fascinating. To imagine that people had lived here more than 5000 years ago was hard until seeing the incredible shape the dwellings and other of buildings of the Stone Age people that lived here just by the side of the ocean.

A place of mystery and magic is the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle of original 60 stones between 2 m and 4 m in height, today 27 stones have remained. It was a place for rituals to celebrate life and therefore several couples love to get married in this magic circle.

One cannot mentions Scotland without thinking of whisky. The visit to the northernmost whisky distillery in Scotland was great. Being explained the process of how to make a single malt whisky and actually seeing the peat burning to give the smoky flavor to the whisky was fascinating. From now on I cannot imagine myself drinking a class of scotch without letting my thoughts go back to the Highland Park distillery in Kirkwall.

Most of us strolled through the small capital with its round about 7000 inhabitants, and right in the centre is one of the most impressive churches of the north ─ St. Magnus Cathedral, which is nearly 1000 years old. It is more than a church, through the centuries it was a community hall, a market place and also a prison, still nowadays it functions as a perfect concert hall.

This morning we woke up in the harbor of the picturesque town of Lerwick, the capitol of the Shetland Islands. In many ways the Shetland Islands resemble the islands of the Orkneys. But each archipelago do have their own very distinct self-awareness and not to forget their own flags. Their flags show the Scandinavian connexion and heritage by the characteristic cross.

Instead of having the whisky as a trademark like the Orkneys and the rest of Scotland the Shetland Islands can boast of their very small but very quite Shetland pony, which is known and loved all over most of the World.

The beautiful weather, we were told, it is very seldom on the Shetlands, invited us for our trips to Jarlshof, a former resident of a Norse Jarl. The eldest buildings at this place dated back to the Stone Age, other are from the bronze and Iron Age. It was fascinating walking around looking at the different buildings, it was like being a time traveler.