Monday, October 02, 2006

Queen, for a day

Not me-- I mean, not that I was "queen for a day" but that I got to SEE Queen Elizabeth II for a day (well, for one hour, between 3 and 4 p.m.) on the 1st Saturday in September. However, you might also say that Kim treated me pretty special, I must say, & it was a royal treat to see some awesome places in Scotland with my dear friend!

The royalty has been represented at the Braemar Games ("highland games" are many in the Scottish summer; this one is famous for the Queen's presence) since before Victoria's time. Here she is, having had her 80th birthday in April, & she came! Kim & I were elated, & scouted out different places separately, where we hoped to get a good sight of her, & some paparazzi photos. Thank the Lord for a great zoom on my digital camera (thanks, Bruce, for Christmas 2004!).

This year she was accompanied by her husband, the dashing Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was born in Greece of Danish heritage. Also present were 1) her only daughter, Princess Anne, seated to OUR left of the Duke, her father; and 2) her eldest son, Charles, the Prince of Wales and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. (at top above photo, he is standing to OUR right of the Queen; see this interesting official website link to the Royal Family.)

What did she see? Well, men from the RAF (Royal Air Force) and other mostly military guys pulling with all their might in a tug- of-war! It's interesting that this game, which I played VERY unprofessionally as a small kid, has a coach alongside the team! I didn't realize how seriously one can do a rope pull. The trick seems to be to pull together at once, at the same time (isn't that a great example of TEAM WORK and has a good spiritual principle in it!).

The Queen also saw runners. I felt like I was in the movie, "Chariots of Fire," the inspiring story of Eric Liddle from Scotland who won gold, though refusing to race at the Olympics when his heat was scheduled for a Sunday. Later he became a missionary.

And the bagpipes played all day. So moving! I just HAVE to overload my blog with a few shots of these stately gentlemen in all sorts of tartan kilts. I found out that "plaid" is what you wear, like the outfit, I guess, or piece of clothing. But "tartan" is that certain pattern of colors, showing your clan. Yes, I did buy something of that nature while in the country-- you just GOTTA!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The pipes or the "Bagpipe" is a fascinating instrument, consisting of several parts, which apparently is quite complicated to play or for which to write music. Frankly, I would enjoy a little lecture on it. On the other hand, I'm satisfied to hear an all SO moving bagpipe band drone on (they can be really LOUD if you're near just one piper when he practices) & roll out a to-the-skies- calling, thrilling, pompous highland song! Don't you love the full, white beard on this piper? I really admire the idea, in any culture, that one knows WHO one is, and where one comes from. That's cool! I wish I could trace my heritage way back. The idea of a huge clan, a large family. Hmm. Isn't that one thing that is so attractive to me in what God offers us in the Church? Fellowship & belonging. When you see everyone wearing his/her tartan, then I just imagine that most of those folks up in the Highlands know all the tartans & can tell you what your last name is!

Me? I just wore a classy plaid skirt I'd gotten from the Brooks Brothers outlet store in Florida, which had no connection whatsoever with my family tree.

Men in skirts & music in bags

Somewhere north of big cities such as the commercial capital Glasgow & the majestic political capital, Edinburgh, lie the highland hills of Scotland, where I was privileged to explore a bit in September. The topography changes and in the valleys at this higher altitudes one finds fields of heather--light purple or lilac-colored, on close inspection.

From a distance these hills seem a reddish brown-- it's heather, growing like clover or small flowers all over!

Each year thousands of visitors & regular "sports" fans join Queen Elizabeth II in her yearly stay in the highlands. They throng to watch the games in the arena at the "Braemar Gathering" (in Braemar!), near Her Majesty's Scottish home which was built during the reign of Queen Victoria, Balmoral Castle.

I never before realized how normal it can be for men to wear skirts (unless you're in a re-enactment of Brave Heart battles!). And they can be, well... very attractive. Similar in my mind to a track and field event, there are several things happening on the field at the same time. And in the background are always the tunes of pipe bands or lone pipers.

The "heavies" (sponsored by the Glenfiddich Scottish malt company) is the section where muscular men do weight-lifting events such as the caber toss & hammer throw. Kim was really observant and introduced herself to this young man, guessing his name (he & his MacLeod brother had taken so many prizes!!).

The caber toss is when a large pole of about 20 feet must be flipped end-over -end once. Not easy!

At the same time, dainty maids and lads dance the irish jig or a scottish sword dance on a medium-sized stage, judged by others, also wearing a tartan plaid.

High Times in Norway

The German word for "wedding" actually translates: "High Time" (Hochzeit). And that we had! What do you do the morning of a wedding, when you're in Norway? Of course you enjoy the wonderful fjords and go canoeing, out your back door! The end of August some of us from Deutschland attended Sven & Severina's wedding, and since we were staying in cabins (Hütten) where the evening reception was, at a christian retreat center right on the waterways .... well?! Einfach splendid!

Sven came around noon to pick up his best- dressed, best men (Trauzeugen), Jan and Stefan! Wait, I've seen you guys look like this before... hmmm...

Look who was in a suit about 14 months before this date -- Stefan marrying Dawn!

Here I am with 2 precious girlfriends and seasoned travel mates, Steffi and Christiane. It was my 1st trip with Steffi but Christiane and I had been to the US before.
As you know, it makes SUCH a difference when you travel, with whom you share a trip. Is each person flexible & easy- going? You can really have so many different or even opposing ideas about how each one wants to spend his days-- shopping, sight-seeing, in nature, alone or with others, reading or watching TV in the hotel, etc., etc. Thankfully, we-- along with Lukas-- all got along great! And also thoroughly enjoyed the other guests staying at the Strand retreat place.

One cool tradition I noted: the bridal pair first sits opposite one another in the ceremony, beside the maid of honor or beside the best man. Then sometime during the wedding, they change seats and the bride and groom are unified, sitting side by side.

Julie B., the maid of honor, with the bridal pair! At our evening dinner of reindeer meat!!! we shared various customs-- several Norwegian songs which all of us sang; a few speeches; and the Germans led the couple in some typical wedding games. Several games symbolized the couple's ability to work together as a team-- such as cutting out a large pink heart (from a bed sheet) and then he carried her through the hole.