I have wanted to see Scotland ever since I was a kid. I felt its mystical allure for the first time while watching the first part of Highlander and of course Braveheart, and I am not afraid to admit it. There was something magical and captivating about those lush green hills, ice-clear water, fairy-tale castles and the ancient Celtic traditions. When offered a chance to go, I didn’t think twice and took the bait. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the hills or the castles up close.
Fortunately, we watched something just as beautiful and magical, only in a somewhat different manner – Scottish football.
After a 20-hour flight from Australia and then a long ride from London, I cried tears of happiness when I finally set my foot on Glasgow soil and greeted my friend Will, who I will be staying with.
Will welcomed me with greasy fish and chips, encouraging me to eat it while it’s hot, assuring me that the extra grease will warm me up and help me adapt to their climate and the time difference.
He handed me a Celtic FC scarf and took me to his house to rest before the match.
When we got out later that day, low April clouds looked like they were ready to unleash a shower storm any second. That can be very unnerving for an Aussie, but Will told me not to worry. “It is often cloudy here, but without rain. Let’s get a beer”.
To a Sidneysider, used to living in a country that is only a couple of hundred years old and has plenty of sunshine, a place like Glasgow can look like an ancient, misty northern land of wonders.
Everything has a great and longstanding tradition, and football is no exception. Scots are crazy about it, as every football fan knows, and fans of Celtic FC, known for their gentlemanly conduct, are the cream of the crops.
While entering 121-year-old Celtic Park, I felt very safe and comfortable, like I was among lifelong friends. I haven’t seen a trace of violence and hooliganism that European football supporters came to be known for in the last couple of decades.
The Celts, as Celtic FC supporters are known, make a fantastic atmosphere at every game, turning Celtic matches in an incredible experience for every visitor unaccustomed to the ways of British football.
The match itself was great, too. Celtic welcomed Hibernian in a glorious 3:0 victory and got another three points in this first phase match (and eventually Celtic won the championship).
It was a glorious victory, indeed, worthy of an equally glorious celebration, so after the game we triumphantly went to the pubs.
Group of Celtics we were with found my accent hilarious, insisting that I repeat some of their slang expressions, none of which is, unfortunately, remotely appropriate for mentioning here.
I can only tell you they are very creative and have a number of expressions for everything inappropriate you can think of, and much, much more.
Although Scottish food is not for everyone, the beer is fantastic and I took full advantage of that fact that evening, which took its toll the next morning. Scots work hard and they celebrate in the same manner, so on the second day we took it easy.
Will took me through the center of Glasgow the next day, showed me the magnificent Glasgow Cathedral. It seems that faith in god means much to my friend, but seeing a cathedral doesn’t do anything special for me.
The Necropolis cemetery on the other hand feels creepy to visit, especially since I have no kin there. I have to admit that finding out people from both WWI and WWII buried there was interesting, especially so as it provoked an interesting conversation between Will and me where we figured that we are thought slightly different versions of history. It seems that it is true that the victor writes the history as he wants it, and this makes me wonder…
After the Necropolis we changed scenery a bit and went to the Botanic Gardens. They seem to be a public park, not that it lessened my enjoyment. Kibble Palace glasshouse is huge and the excitement I felt being in it might be comparable to the football match I say the day earlier. Mind you, I am not into horticulture, but I do enjoy the fresh air and basking around all the different types of plants just makes me feel good.
Finally, we agreed to spend a quiet evening with Will’s family, still a bit tired from the night before. Then, a couple of hours later, we hit the pub for the last beer before I had to leave for home and summarize my impressions of Scotland (and I would rate my trip 5 stars, if you missed it in the text).