A Travellerspoint blog

Dundee-Edinburgh-Galway

Day 8: Nothing much, just travel


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After checking out of my hotel this morning, I decided I did not really want to walk about Dundee with my bags, and since there was no real reason to stay, I headed out of town, back to Edinburgh. Today is mainly a travel day and as such, I did not really plan much else, but I ended up in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh around midday and looked foe something to do.

I wandered about the area for a bit and discovered there was not much of interest. Again, since I had my bag on my back, I did not want to walk more than few blocks from the train station since that was where my bus to the airport was. I spent some time trying to get some wifi so I could kill time checking email and such, but did not find anyplace that advertised it, free or otherwise. I had some coffee, read and finally gave up and took the bus to the airport where I am now waiting for my flight.

The Edinburgh Airport, though small, appears to be a nicely equipped airport. Restaurants, pubs, some shops, etc., and wifi, of course.

My flight leaves in a few hours to Galway where I stay overnight then head to Ballyvaughan tomorrow. Ballyvaughan is the home to the Burren, which refers to an ancient rock plain, a national park or a college of art depending on your meaning. Over the weekend, I will explore the countryside around (or of) the Burren, and on Monday I meet with Anna Downes of the college of art to discus the MFA program and the like. But more on this later...

Posted by philobermarck 09:03 Archived in Scotland Tagged travel bus air rail Comments (0)

Dundee

Day 7: Meeting and Tour

sunny
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This morning I had a meeting with Mel Woods, the director of The MFA program at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD). She was very pleasant and we spoke for a while about the program at DJCAD. Since they are part of University of Dundee, they seem to be more research based in general, having not only an MFA, but also a PhD arts program. The MFA program is one year, there semesters, long, August to August, and sounds very intense. Although a dissertation is not required, there is definitely a written component to the degree, which I do not feel would be a problem to me.

She then took me on a tour of the school where I was able to meet some of the staff. Since the MFA program continues through the summer, there is staff here all year round. The people I met were all very kind and I should think that working with them would be interesting. She took me through the sculpture, metal and wood working areas, as well as the MFA studio spaces.

They are getting a foundry installed in the next year and may even have a dedicated ceramic shell casting area by the time August 2012 rolls around, so I would not need to go elsewhere to do bronze work. The facilities were constructed in the 50s, so although they are not as old as ECA, they were purpose built and are quite nice.

It turns out that my trip coincides with the graduation ceremony for UD undergrads. This explains why I had difficulty finding a hotel near the city center, where the festivities are being held. It is rather fun to see a bunch of grads and their families walking about with their robes, fur lined colored collars and kilts, looking like refuges from Hogwarts. I keep expecting someone to pull out a wand and turn Malfoy into a ferret.

It is midday now and I shall soon be seeking lunch and wandering Dundee. Dundee is less of a tourist town than Edinburgh, so there are very few attractions in the city itself. The city has had a rather turgid history and was destroyed several times and finally reached stability as an industrial center during the Victorian era. The oldest buildings tend to be Victorian or perhaps Georgian, and many have that gothic look one associates with the Addams Family. Much of the city is newer, and it is now considered one of the centers of research in the UK.

Well, I am out and about now. Ta!

Posted by philobermarck 04:48 Archived in Scotland Tagged art djcad Comments (0)

Dundee

Day 6: Rail from Edinburgh to Dundee

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Today I travelled to Dundee, which is about an hour and a half north of Edinburgh by train. The ride went comfortably and I divided my time between watching the scenery and reading Terry Pratchett's "Feet of Clay" which I had picked up in a secondhand book shop.

When I arrived, it was raining and I discovered that I did not have a map of Dundee to find my way to my lodgings. More to the point, neither did the travel centre or the news agents at the station. Rather than wander around in the rain looking for wifi so I could bring up Google maps, I caved and got a taxi. He easily took me to my hotel, which is a bit of a distance from the city center or the train station. If I had know where I was going, I would not have minded the walk, even in the rain-I have been doing a lot of walking since I got here and plan on doing a lot more before I leave.

I should probably mention that I decided at the beginning of my trip that I did not want to pay AT&T's egregious overseas rates, so I turned off data roaming and simply have phone service which is just for emergencies. What worked well in London was that I had previously downloaded an offline map which helped immensely. Unfortunately, my phone seems to have a weak antenna and has not been able to access wifi from any of the sources I have visited, so I haven't been able to download maps for Edinburgh or Dundee. The signal is strong at my hotel here so perhaps I can take care of that this week, and prepare for Ireland.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with Mel Woods, the director of the MFA program at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. After that I will browse around Dundee and take in whatever sights there are.

Posted by philobermarck 01:39 Archived in Scotland Tagged train rail Comments (0)

Edinburgh

Day 6: Meetings, the story of Burke and Hare, Surgeons Hall and Mary King's Close

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At 10:00am I had an appointment to meet with Dr Neil Mulholland, the Director of the MFA program at Edinburgh College of Art, so I awoke early in order to make sure I would be on time. I gathered up my notebook, iPad and Grad Packet and headed out early to scope things out.

I arrive nearly an hour early so I decided to grab breakfast while I waited. I managed to down a large coffee and a full Scottish Breakfast consisting of sausage, an egg, bacon, black pudding, a potato scone (which was more like a small, heavy pancake), beans and toast. I lied-I didn't eat the toast. There were two of us with appointments this morning, myself and a young lady named Amy (or possibly Aimee). We talked with Neil separately and then took the tour as a group.

I felt surprisingly at ease talking with Neil, and I am not sure if that's good or bad. We spoke for about half an hour, and it took the form of an interview, him asking me why I wanted to come here, what was my art about, and so forth. I answered as best I could and he seemed favorably impressed. He seemed to like the fact that I have Gallery experience, being the current manager of the Student Union Gallery at UAA. Apparently there is a lot of opportunities to set up shows not only at the school, but I dependently as well. Their version of First Friday tends to be a grassroots effort rather than city sponsored.

While he spoke to Amy, I went back to the cafe for more coffee. When I returned, it was time for the tour. Neil showed us around the school, starting with the library, two floors filled with periodicals, books and videos about art, then took us through the studios, showing us the sculpture labs, metal working room, woodshop, and various student workspaces. They do have a foundry but unfortunately, it was locked and he did not have the keys. The MFA Degree Show was just over, so we were able to meet some of the graduating artists as they were taking down their shows. The work was very intriguing and it was great meeting them. We went through the printmaking and fashion studios and he pointed out the painting and photography studios on the second floor.

It is really a great environment and I am definitely interested in attending.

After the tour, I stopped back at my room before heading out again. This time my destination was Surgeons Hall, the heart of medical learning in Edinburgh since the 1700s. I perused the displays of instruments, specimens, photos and ephemera. There were two displays of particular interest to me. The first related to Dr Bell, the model for Arthur Conan Doyle's creation, Sherlock Holmes. It talked about both Dr Bell, Conan Doyle and Holmes, showing letters and photos as well as items that belonged to both Doyle and Bell. I may try to visit Doyle's birthplace tomorrow.

The other display was on Dr Knox and Burke and Hare. Now, many of you already know who Burke and Hare were, but for those of you who don't, I'll give you a brief history. 

In the early 1800s, the medical schools in Edinburgh were the best in the country, but there was a shortage of corpses to dissect. The University medical school was allowed by law the bodies of condemned criminals after their execution. The belief at the time was that on Judgement Day, the dead would physically rise and if they been dissected, they had no chance at obtaining paradise. This made it difficult for not only the University anatomists to teach, but made it virtually impossible for the independent lecturers to do so.

Into this niche, came the grave robber, the resurrection men, the ghouls. They would dig up bodies, the fresher the better and sell them to anatomists, earning up to 8 shillings, a princely sum in those days. William Burke and William Hare were Irish immigrants who had set up shop in Edinburgh, Burke as a cobbler and Hare as a landlord selling beds for pennies a night. It so happened that in one of these beds lay Ol Donal, a former soldier who lay dying, unable to collect his pension and unable to pay Hare. Before Hare can toss him out, he dies. Hare discusses the situation with his friend Burke, and someone has the bright idea of sell g the body to the anatomists. They load him into a tea crate and head for the University. Asking directions from a student of Dr Knox, they are directed away from Dr Monro's, the chief anatomist for the University, and instead are told to see Dr Knox, an independent lecturer. When they deliver the body, they are given more money than they imagined and are told to return if they can get more. Long story short, they got more.

Grave robbing was not for Burke and Hare, though. They decided to become serial killers instead, preying on the poor and destitute. They came up with a way to kill that did not leave obvious marks on the body, by holding a hand over the victims mouth while pinching the nose shut, a practice known as "Burking" to this day.

After a number of successful murders, they became sloppy and first killed a well known prostitute who was so beautiful that Dr Knox had an artist come in and draw her prior to dissection, and then they murdered Daft Jamie, the local idiot, known by all. When Knox bought that body, he cut off Jamie's club foot and his head, making it impossible for his students to recognize the corpse. Eventually, the police were brought in and apprehended Burke and Hare shortly after they had murdered another old woman, but before they could move the body from Hare's lodging house.

Hare turned King's evidence, Burke was hanged and then dissected by Knox's rival, Dr Monro, and Knox lost his reputation.

There is also a nursery rhyme that came out of all this:

Up the close and down the stair,
But and ben with Burke and Hare.
Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief,
And Knox's the boy who buys the beef.

Jolly, eh?

Anyway, this little bit of morbid history has been an interest of mine, off and on, for many years. I could not go to Edinburgh without visiting some of the spots that featured Burke and Hare, and Surgeons Hall is one of them.

So, although the display was focused on Dr Knox, it was interesting to me. The highlights were A cast of William Burke's head, made after his execution, and a queer little journal. Apparently after dissecting him, they tanned Burke's skin and sold it or presented it as souvenirs to the doctors and others attending the dissection. Some folks made the skin into purses, others into journal covers. Very few survive today. Grim.

I walked back up to the High Street for supper. This time I had chicken stuffed with haggis on a bed of mashed potatoes. I really like the Scottish puddings! Afterwards, I walked over to Mary King's Close, a touristy attraction that takes you on a tour under the city. Back in the 1700s, the council decided it needed to replace some tenements with public works, so rather than just tear them down entirely, the took them down to the level of the High Street and used them as foundations for the new buildings. Eventually, the closes and wynds that were built over were completely blocked off until they were uncovered in the 1990s. The tour was interesting in a historical sense and not at all spooky. I enjoyed it a lot. 

Today I head for Dundee to meet with the MFA director for Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design tomorrow.

Posted by philobermarck 01:45 Archived in Scotland Tagged underground hare knox burke ressurectionists eca Comments (0)

Edinburgh

Day 5: the Royal Mile, Queens Gallery, Aborted Murder Tour and more

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Time to try and catchup. Yesterday was Sunday, and since I had an appointment Monday morning, I decided not to stay up and update the blog. Let's see if I can remember what I did yesterday...

I spent the morning doing laundry and other boring tasks. I left around noon and walked the Royal Mile, or basically the length of the High Street from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood, the Queen's residence in Edinburgh. I started near the center and walked uphill to the Castle, saw the price of admission and decided to forgo the tour, turned around and walked downhill to the other end where Holyrood Park is situated. Here also is Holyrood Palace and the Queen's Gallery. I opted not to see how the Queen lives and chose I stead to view the artwork that she hold in trust forth people of Scotland. Currently, the exhibit is on the Northern Renaisannce, one of my interests.

I spent a couple of hours wandering this small gallery, admiring prints and paintings by Durer, Holbein the Younger, Gossart, Cranach the Elder and Clouset. There were ink, pencil, charcoal and chalk drawings as well. Some of the most interesting were the preliminary drawings done by Hans Holbein the Younger which were displayed next to the finished paintings. And the best part was that I was allowed to take photographs (no flash), which both the Galleries i visited in London forbade. Those and other photos will be posted on my Facebook page in due time.

After the gallery, I spent some time in Canongate Kirkyard browsing the grave markers for a while. There is something that fascinates me about the old churchyards. The markers were made with a creativity that seems nonexistent today, with interesting scripts and type engraved into their faces, poetry and elegies, names, dates and information about the people they remember. The sculptural details intrigue me as much as anything else, as does the impermanence of these  permanent memorials. Many are toppled or broken, others have eroded to the point of being illegible. Yet there is a peacefulness that permeates these places that seems to be lacking in their modern counterparts.

I continued my climb up the Royal Mile and simply walked around snapping the occasional photo. I had supper at the World's End, so called because it was situated just inside the city walls. A rousing meal of Neeps, Tatties and Haggis later, I decided to try and catch what was advertised as "Burke and Hare's Haunted Edinburgh", a free tour led by William Burke. Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations, with a guide whose only tonal variation was to start loud and end soft, while saying an entire paragraph all in one breath. It consisted of wandering around Edinburgh with the guide stopping occasionally and telling a story which may or may not have had something to do with the spot we were standing in.  I gave it up after the fourth stop, having already heard all four stories, none of which involved Burke or Hare (more on them tomorrow).

I decided to call it an early night and headed back to my room.

Posted by philobermarck 15:17 Archived in Scotland Tagged art edinburgh gallery royal mile queen's kirkyard Comments (0)

Edinburgh

Night of Day 4: Double Dead Tour


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I went out in the evening with the intent of going on the Burke and Hare Murder Tour, so first thing of course was to grab nourishment. I stopped at a slightly touristy pub, the Royal MacGregor, and had their Porkbelly with Black Pudding and Onion Tatties, with a pint of Edinburgh Gold Ale. Surprisingly, the pork belly was very good, tender and flavorful, with a crunchy bit of cracklen. The black sausage was excellent and the onions and Tatties were great, a sort of potato-onion casserole.the ale was as good as any I've had here and better than most.

After supper, I went to the West Port Tours stall on the High Street to sign up for the murder tour. Unfortunately I was the only one interested in it that night, so the tour was cancelled. Instead, I went on the Double Dead tour, which combines mini versions of two tours, the Underground and Graveyard tours.

Rob, our guide, led us through narrow streets and wynds, up closes and alleys until we came to a dark doorway beneath Southbridge. We entered and he led us to a locked door at the end of a dark corridor. Through here we entered the underground. The first chamber was dank and musty, with water dripping from the stone ceiling. The floor was uneven, worn smooth by water and thousands of feet passing through. Here, he explained a bit of the history of the Southbridge, built with 19 arches, many of which were below ground level. This is where the Southbridge Entity is said to dwell. Rob was an excellent storyteller and gave us bits of history as well as ghost stories.

The underground portion of the tour is not for claustrophobics. There were many times when 30 people were crammed close in a darkened room, listening to Rob tell us about the Entity, by candlelight. When we finished the underground portion, with no fatalities, we surfaced and made our way into the open air again.

We went to Greyfriars Kirkyard where we heard the story of Greyfriars Bobby, with Rob's special twist to it. He makes it into quite the ripping adventure story, highlighting the more unlikely parts, and informed us, sadly, that the story was not factual. We visited some of the markers, heard the story of the Flodden Wall (built to keep out the Brits) and then visited the Covenanters' Prison, a site where religious rebels were slowly tortured to death.

It was a wonderful tour and a nice capper to my first evening in Edinburgh.

This morning has been spent doing laundry and planning my day. More later.

Posted by philobermarck 03:04 Archived in Scotland Tagged dead tour graveyard underground Comments (0)

Edinburgh

Day 4: Arrival

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Today was primarily lost in travel. I checked out of my hotel this morning and then headed for the Tube. Underground from Charing Cross to Kings Cross where I caught my train. The train took me direct to Edinburgh past some of the nicest countryside I've seen. Not the tall forests and craggy mountains of the Us Pacific Northwest, but rolling green hills and farmlands.

I arrived at the station about 3:30 and decided to stop and get some coffee before I check in to my room. If London is an old city, Edinburgh is ancient. The Old Town area is amazing, all stone buildings and narrow cobbled streets with alleys, courts and closes hidden around every corner. I expect I will do some more exploring tonight after I divest myself of my bag. Which I will do shortly.

Posted by philobermarck 08:48 Archived in Scotland Tagged edinburgh train Comments (0)

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