Saturday, April 01, 2006

Trainblogging

Work has taken me to Glasgow for a few days. I decided to take the train, reasoning that getting to Heathrow, getting through security, etc. etc. and then getting back to my hotel in Glasgow were at least as time consuming as the time I spent on the train. Well, it sort of worked out. Turns out there's some major engineering work on the rails in Northern England, so today I couldn't take a direct route from the capital of the United Kingdom to the major industrial city of Scotland. Instead, I went on a seven-and-a-half hour odyssey via York, Newcastle and Edinburgh--which is like going from Washington to New York by way of Pittsburgh, Erie, and Schenectady.

But in any case, the train, as it always does, gave me a chance to watch the scenery roll by. I was raised in the country, but have lived in cities and suburbs for nearly 20 years now. I always feel like I can take deeper breaths once I leave city pavement behind, even if it's watching countryside whiz by at 100 miles per hour. I didn't want to get into the cliches of sun-dappled fields, showers sweeping over rolling green hills, narrow tracks snaking through hedgerows, or spring lambs scampering in pastures--but you just can't help it. This is a beautiful country--not better or worse than American, just distinctive.

North of Doncaster (and even in York's train station), I began seeing the guys with the binoculars around their necks, scribbling in notebooks--the infamous trainspotters. I switched at York for a route that would take me through Newcastle (via a diversion to Stockton, a town of boarded-up townhouses and rusting cranes that makes Newark look like the Cote d'Azur). The train was pretty packed at this point, and getting even more packed by the stop, almost as bad as the Tube at rush hour, with fans heading to a Newcastle United game. Newcastle reminded me a bit of Peoria or Trenton--an industrial river town about a century past its zenith. After Newcastle, the train hugged the coast, more or less, providing us with scenic vistas of Berwick-on-Tweed and Alnmouth (a little cluster of quaint houses at what must be the mouth of the Aln river). Finally, we crossed the border into Scotland. It was at that point I realized that I'd forgotten how indescribably beautiful Scotland is--indescribable, in that I find it hard to find words that describe it adequately. Our track took us on a clifftop route, where we could see the North Sea crashing into rocky outcrops on one side, and the other side with views of pastures and hillocks.

Turning west after Edinburgh, the train passes through slightly more populous areas, but always with a flavor of Appalachia, which must be why the Scots felt so at home when they arrived in places like Virginia and North Carolina. (These are the Lowlands, mind you). Sometimes I wonder about the lyric devotion of so many to such a land. When I'm here, though, I don't question at all.

2 Comments:

Blogger Schmutz said...

Looks like you had a Grand Tour of Northern England. I want to go to Scotland!

12:43 PM  
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