On lack of time and shades of North Korea


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April 10th 2018
Published: April 16th 2018
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Finally, I reached the Scottish Highlands. Probably not the roughest, wildest part - but the Highlands nonetheless. Unfortunately, in this rat-race of connectedness and disconnectedness from space and time we are living in, I had by far not the time I wanted to explore them in-depth. In the past, things like these would upset me. I was so close, I would say. I haven't seen even 10% of what I wanted to see, I would say. Things have changed a little bit these days, maybe with advancing age, maybe with the realization that life is, indeed, much shorter than it seems when you are 18 years old and take your first solo-trip. Realistically speaking, I know that I will probably not be able to see all the places I want to visit, although I consider myself extremely lucky to have a job with permits me to, and sponsors me for many of my trips.

So anyway, during our short time in Scotland me and THH decided to take a day trip to the North-west of the country. While this area is slightly overshadowed by the North-Eastern trips in search of Nessie, the area is stunning in its wild beauty. Leaving
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Castle Stalker
Glasgow, we took a bus trip up north, passing Loch Lomond - an immense Scottish lake, reflecting the (unusually) blue sky in its crystal-clear waters. Further north, the planes of Glasgow slowly morph into a hilly landscape, slowly rising towards the Scottish Highlands. One of the first things I noticed, is the crazy abundance of lochs, lochans and lakes (the difference among which I do know not) in the Scottish landscape. Not only do they vary in size and shape, but also in colour and depth. Some of the are dark, almost black, others are blue, azure, or even transparent.

The next thing I noticed were, of course, the sheep. While for the visitor the (sometimes spray painted) fluffy, white animals are a complementing asset to the mountains, sheep farming in Scotland has a very sad history. During the Industrial Revolution, Scottish highlanders were forcefully removed from their natural habitat, many of which froze and starved to death. Others ended up in the harbour and mining industries in the lowlands, while others again escaped to the United States or Canada. Now, let this pass through your head - at a certain point in history, humans allowed our fellow global
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Glencoe
citizens to starve to death, in the name of the revenue that sheep farming would create. On a lighter note, the sheep are flanked by the Scottish Highland cow which, although its horns look like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie, has a friendly enough face to end up on countless Scottish souvenirs - from t-shirts to fridge magnets.

As the mountains get higher and considering the historical tragedies, the landscape also gets notably emptier. The occasional castle-ruin and Loch mostly stands alone, with here and there a lonely country-pub waiting for the visitor. While visiting a couple of castles on the way and listening to some stories about William Wallace (which our tour guide called a "murderer" - he seemed much more in favour of Robert the Bruce), I started wondering about a phenomenon which I had noticed for a while all over the United Kingdom. During my stay in Scotland, there was a probable maximum of 10 degrees Celsius. This however, did not stop the Kilt-wearing scots to not only wear the Kilt, but also complement it with a short-sleeved t-shirt. In fact, I had seen plenty of British people (men and women) walking outside with shorts and short sleeves, sometimes even flip flops, in December and January. Maybe they are tough, I thought. But then, looking at their skin, one can sometimes even notice cold-burns from the exposure. When I asked my English colleagues they said, "they just don't care." Although England and Scotland are very different, this they seem to have in common.

Anyway, after a lunch in the middle-sized city of Oban on the Western coast, we finally reached our last stop - Glen Coe, Scotland's biggest glen (valley). Snow-capped mountains and bleak, rocky landscape gave me type of deja-vue and I was thinking what it reminded me of... only to figure out that the Scottish Highlands look like a mix of Wyoming in the USA and... the icy, mountainous landscape of North Korea which I had driven through for almost a week! This is what makes traveling interesting, finding yourself in the Scottish Highlands and thinking of that weird bus-stop that I took on a North Korean "petrol station", where a lonely "shopkeeper" was pretending that other people actually had stopped there for food or a drink.

With this I don't mean to be demeaning to the Scottish
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Inverarary Castle
Highlands - which are an undeniable beauty in themselves - but just to highlight the phenomenon that one, by traveling around the world, notices certain patterns. Sometimes patterns are cultural and seemingly disconnected. The Scottish Kilt did remind me of the Burmese Longyi. The Scottish Highlands of the mountains in central North Korea and Wyoming. Scottish Haggis reminded me of "beuschel", an Austrian dish of heart and lung mince in my hometown. Some years ago, a friend of mine told me "you compare too much, every place is unique." After many years, I realize that almost everything reminds me of something.

What is important to mention though is that for me, comparison does not take anything away from the experience. On the contrary, comparison reminds, enhances, evokes memories and stimulates discussions. The Scottish Highlands are a true thing of beauty, so were the mountains in Wyoming and the moon-landscape near Kaesong in North Korea. I am grateful that I had this short trip, this is another thing I have learned - better little than nothing. Will I be back in Scotland? Certainly. I would love to see the Isle of Sky, Loch Ness, Inverness and get deeper into the
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Inverarary
Highlands. Thanks for the memories Scotland, Wyoming.... North Korea.


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