Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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Glasgow, Scotland

Posted on 8/29/03

By the time I fell off the bus in Glasgow, I had been happily spoiled by Scotland. Both of the cities that I had visited had been enjoyable, fun and pleasing to look at. Not to mention the four star hostel accommodations earning paragraphs of raving. Unfortunately I saved the worst for last.

Glasgow was big, dirty and completely lacking in any huge cathedrals, castles or even a noteworthy statue. Admittedly, there were an abundance of art galleries and museums, but I’m about as likely to pay eight pounds to see Victorian art as I am to pay eighty pounds to have my ass kicked. The hostel, while not terrible, could not come close to the bar set by Aberdeen and Edinburgh. In two days of wandering in every direction from the city center, all I could find were, ugly, dull buildings, chintzy casinos and a thick layer of filth covering everything. The inescapable fragrance of piss incessantly assaulted my nostrils. The few oldish looking buildings that I could find were mysteriously covered in a dark soot, making them look as if they had recently sustained major fire damage. The air in the city didn’t seem that bad, so I was only left to assume that the building blocks themselves naturally and randomly turned charcoal with age.

The populace wasn’t much better. Despite school having started the prior week, teenaged boys were conspicuously wandering the streets and swigging from whisky bottles at 10:30 in the morning. Unemployed men who had obviously been party to a recent bar brawl staggered around, begging for coins and drinking cheap beer. While in general, the Scottish accent is easily my favorite accent in the English language, the Glasgowers had such a weird, indecipherable dialect that they might as well have been speaking Russian. I could only pick out one word in 10, making something as simple as getting lunch a wearisome ordeal.

Then again, maybe the air in Glasgow IS bad!

Demoralized and bored, I headed for the main library. During the first half of my summer travels, libraries had acted as my business office. I sealed up details on the sale of my house, closed the last remaining issues of my lengthy absence from the U.S. and of course kept my web site updated. I even managed to clean up and sell an article to the Rake. Then somewhere around Germany things changed. Suddenly libraries didn’t offer free internet. Or they didn’t offer free internet to people without a library card. Or they charged more than the internet cafes. To make matters worse, they had less than average resources, like the annoying practice of blocking access to their floppy and CD drives - which I needed for the vital task of uploading files to my web site - because they were afraid of people introducing viruses into their networks. Wussies. After a while, I simply stopped trying the libraries and surrendered to the fact that I was going to have to pay for the pleasure of using the internet.

I know this is juvinile, but these "To Let" sign were everywhere and i couldn't see how the Scottish youth resisted the urge to go around the city and spraypaint an 'i' in the middle of all these signs.

As I approached the Glasgow library, I mentally prepared myself to be chased off the premises like so many other times in the past month, but instead something amazing happened. Glasgow’s public library not only had free internet with all the media drives in full working order, but they had 50 PCs! Their connection speed was lightning quick and best of all, you could surf until your ass got sore and they never asked you to leave! I’m not sure what the Glasgowers do with their time (actually I do know; Drink, fight and have sex), but they certainly were not making use of this oasis of cyber wretched excess because the internet hive in the library was never more than two thirds full. I took advantage of this resource and answered weeks worth of email, made huge, time consuming updates to my web site and even did some research on future recipients for my writing samples. It was web-heaven folks, open 13 hours a day and with nothing more in Glasgow to attract my attention (except my dirty laundry), I spent many productive hours there.

It wasn’t until the afternoon before I left town, after exhausting my internet stamina, that I wandered even further out of town and stumbled onto Glasgow University. While most countries spent all of their time and money building cathedrals, Scotland was using that time to build their universities and Glasgow was the gem. Parts of this gorgeous campus were over 500 years old and looking very gnarly and medieval. As I approached the main building, the sun was low and shinning right onto the main façade like it was being christened at that very moment by Mother Nature. The Scots’ agonizing habit of building something delightfully picturesque and then planting a heinously large orchard of giant trees all around it, made getting a clear, full shot of the university’s gorgeous main building an exasperating process. By utilizing a wide, harsh angle I was able to get away with a few choice shots before heading back into town (pictured). I couldn’t possibly tell you whether or not the Glasgow University has a high academic standard, but on a scale of photo opportunity alone, I’d give it my highest rating.

Feeling better to have found something complimentary to say about Glasgow aside from their library’s internet service, I went to bed full of peace (and three ciders), looking forward to my morning bus and ferry rides to Belfast.


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