08 January 2010

The Maltese Blog Post

I have a few minutes at an internet cafe here (Justin and I could not resist checking our e-mail in case we had any job offers... so far nothing is settled but we'll keep you posted). Anyway, being me, I could not resist the thought of having an entry on our blog posted from Malta.

The weather has been gorgeous and the history very interesting. We have the Heritage Malta pass which gives us access to all of their sites (save one, on a special ticket) and if you travel like we do, for museums and historical sites, this is definitely the best value for money. Individually, the sites feel a bit overpriced; on a collective ticket, it's actually very inexpensive.

Some highlights:

- some spiffy new Weird Things For Your Entertainement (cactus liqueur, anybody?)
- three new UNESCO World Heritage Sites to notch on our metaphorical UNESCO belts
- a brief encounter with a British WWII veteran in the war museum from Northumberland (the Durham light infantry) who told a great anecdote about a guy he knew while serving who could dissassemble his motorcycle and reassemble it drunk or blindfolded
- sunset on the ferry between Malta and one of the other two islands, Gozo (which is a fabulous name for an island)
- a chat with a local lady, originally from Libya, on the bus, when she told us that a man whose fabulous silk shirt we were admiring is a bit of a local celebrity for the way he cuts a rug at Carnival
- a lunch with three different kinds of sheep cheese

and much more!

See you soon from snowy Scotland, with photos to accompany more reflections!

05 January 2010

Off to Malta!

If you haven't guessed already (or read the answer in the comments to our previous post), Nana and I are off to Malta tomorrow. We'll be back Saturday evening, but may not have regular access to e-mail until then.

04 January 2010

Hogmanay terror obliterates town!

The other day, Nana and I were just enjoying a simple walk through an ice-bound Holyrood Park . . .

. . . when, coming to the end of our trail, we spotted what looked like a giant green pod of some sort. (And I had a sheep in my pocket, for some reason.)

A crowd began to gather. Then, after a little while, there appeared a gaggle of oddly dressed artistes (in ankle warmers!) who performed some strange ritual before opening the egg.

At first, the blue giant was calm--drowsy, even. That is, until some guy who looked like a bearded Screech from Saved by the Bell donned a red wizard's robe and sang what I can only assume was a Gaelic love song to the beast.

When the song ended, the blue giant broke free!

Although some of the bystanders seemed oddly sanguine about his rampage up the Royal Mile.

Seriously, though, the Big Man was just a small piece of the three-day New Year's celebration known in Scotland as Hogmanay. Hogmanay has become a kind of blanket term for a variety of traditional winter solstice celebrations, and different towns throughout Scotland celebrate Hogmanay in a variety of ways.

Edinburgh celebrates the holiday with a festival (something had to fill in the three-week gap between Christmas and Burns Night!) that includes a street party, a giant rendition of Auld Lang Syne (a poem written by none other than Rabbie Burns himself), an enormous blue puppet walking up the Royal Mile for some reason, ceilidh dances, copious amounts of food and drink, and of course lots and lots of fire. All in all, a fitting way for a city like Edinburgh to ring in the New Year!

03 January 2010

Educated Burgher Travel Challenge!

After arriving back in Scotland a good ten days before classes start (alas, we are slaves to airfare sales) Justin and I started poking around for something to do this week. Lo, we discovered a bargain ticket through Ryanair, which is not affiliated with my brother-in-law or cousin-in-law of the same name, at least as far as I know. To put our winter holidaying in perspective: these round-trip tickets, for BOTH of us, cost less than what it would have cost ONE of us to stay in Pittsburgh or Columbus for an extra few days.

It comes with some strings - Ryanair is known for its draconian baggage policy (one free carryon of extremely limited size and weight and hefty add-on fees for anything else) and poor cancellation refund/replacement policy. So it's a gamble to travel with them, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly.

But where, after all this, are we going? Well, we're not going to tell you! Instead, here are some clues to help you guess the destination!

The country we're visiting has:

1) its own breed of dog
2) its own order of knights
3) its own cross
4) an official language in the Semitic language family; the only country in the EU to do so

So, where is it? First person to guess correctly wins... um, the pride of having guessed correctly first. Go to it!

New Year's Inspirational Messages

... courtesy of the Stirling Boys' Club: (e-mail subscribers, these are pictures)

Not Pictured: "Take the fall! Act hurt! Get indignant!"