Sunday, January 03, 2016

My Ancestral Lands

Finally, this post will finish up the trip that I took that hit a lot of the northern European cities. The end of my journey took me to my ancestral lands...  Hard to say exactly which, because my parents' families came from a variety of places...  No, not completely true.  I know that my father's family was nearly 100% from Wales.  But my mother's side was mostly Celt and from Alsace-Lorraine (France), Ireland and Scotland.  It is the Scots connection that caused my childhood best friend to anoint me with the "Scotti" nickname.

Republic of Ireland

Ireland was just the way everyone describes it.  Beautiful, green -- very green -- and romantic.  It also had the most changeable weather that you can imagine.  It was cool, then warm, then absolutely cold.  The wind was still, then breezy and later, powerful.  It was foggy, sunny and then the mist began which turned into rain.

Glendalough, Republic of Ireland
©2016, Scotti Vaccaro
Glendalough is the site of an historical ruin dating from the 6th Century.  IrishGleann Dá Loch, meaning "Valley of two lakes") is a glacial valley in County WicklowIreland, renowned for an Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin. (Citations to Wikipedia.)

St. Kevin was a descendant of one of the more prominent families from Leinster.  He began to study under several monks and later went to Glendalough with a small group of monks to found a monastery, which attracted numerous followers.  Glendalough as a religious center was in continuous existence until the 15th or 16th century although the ruins that remain on the site probably date to the era around the 11th century.

At the base of the hill beyond the building is what is known as the "lower lake."  The entire site is stunningly beautiful.


Greenock, Scotland
©2016, Scotti Vaccaro

I was very excited to get the opportunity to visit Scotland, from which my childhood friend had taken my nickname.  We had quite the drive through the countryside -- at first coastal, then moorland, then lake lands and then mountains.  If Ireland surprised with the weather, Scotland surprised with the terrain.

When we reached the highlands, I could easily understand why the Scots were considered wild and untamed through much of history  -- their national reputation was a display of the terrain in which they lived.  There were portions, a place called Rest and Be Thankful comes to mind, that were awe-inspiring, which is why it came to be called "Rest and Be Thankful."  The day I stood on that mountain and looked down into the valley there was a very cold wind with ice crystals -- in August -- and a very heavy fog lying in the valley below.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Coastline
©2016, Scotti Vaccaro

Belfast was a city of drama.  At the time that I was there, you could tell whether you were in an area where the Catholics were predominant or where the Protestants were in the majority simply by looking at the huge murals on the walls of buildings.  In the Catholic areas, the murals consisted of masked gunmen wielding submachine guns; in Protestant areas, there were alternate images of innocents being gunned down.

My guide said that the images were largely a product of under- or un- employed youths that kept the resentments festering just under the surface, even though both the British and Irish governments were working toward a peaceful settlement of the "problems."  They referred to them as "The Troubles."  Indeed.

We left on our drive and eventually hit the northern coastline.  Wow.  The Irish coast simply drops straight down into the water as depicted, above.  Here and there, someone has built houses at the base of the cliffs, as in the painting and access their homes with a steep lane down into the small cove.  

Homeward Bound

Finally, we boarded our ship for the 5 day journey home.  All in all, it was a spectacular trip and I spent the days at sea collecting my thoughts and putting the final touches on various sketches.  It was a very satisfying way to spend the voyage.

Homeward Bound
©2016, Scotti Vaccaro