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Day 5 - June 9, 2010 - Aberdeen Scotland

By Christian Walter, Historian

Co-ordinates: 57º08.8N, 002º05.3W
Weather: mostly overcast, but dry

As on previous days of our cruise, the Prince Albert II had to enter the harbor stern first. When the bow-thruster was used to ease the ship in, it was time to get up, and to prepare for the excursion.

Aberdeen’s harbor was full of ships working for the oil-trade. In some cases, up to three ships were tied up one next to the other, and two ferries for the northern islands were berthed not far from us. Before I went to have breakfast I took some pictures of ships and life-boats, thinking I might use them for recap this evening.

The busses showed up on time and our excursions took off around nine o’clock. One bus headed for Haddo House, which has been the home of the Gordon family for more than 400 years, while the other three went to see Pitmedden Gardens and Crathes Castle.

It took us over an hour to get to Pitmedden Gardens, but our guide(s) entertained us with information regarding the local history. The garden was laid out in geometrical patterns, with several gardeners working to improve its appearance. An oystercatcher that had built its nest in one of the flowerbeds was not too happy to see us, and was quite noisy – telling us to leave (him alone). On the other hand, the bird could have felt disturbed by a more permanent threat than our visit: a well-fed cat roamed the garden….

After an hour at the garden we continued our drive through the northeast of Scotland to have a hearty lunch at a local manor (converted into a hotel). A pie and bread and butter pudding were the local choices, while ravioli and crème brulee were the international dishes.

Crathes Castle was more of a tower-house than a castle, and certainly had been constructed to withstand attacks. Of special interest as a defense measure was that the spiral staircases had uneven steps –an aggressor would not know this and fall- and went up in a clock-wise fashion, which meant that a right-handed person would not have been able to fight with a sword going up, as there would not have been enough space to move the blade.

The castle had been modified to fit modern use, but was still quite interesting with its different period pieces and paintings.

The garden had been walled in and was divided into 8 different sections, including a greenhouse with some cacti (why??), and a solitary and unhealthy looking hibiscus. The other plants were all doing well, and a stroll through the garden(s) was again pleasing. The gift-shop had many books about gardening and/or Scotland, and seeds and plants. Unfortunately, customs does not permit to bring these into Chile, or else I would have bought some for our garden at home.

Once we had managed to get through the rush-hour traffic, most everybody headed back onto the ship, while some of the staff decided to have a last look at Aberdeen’s center. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to see many of the architectural jewels of the “Granite City”.

Recap was set for 18:45, and Richard started with pictures he had taken of fellow travelers taking pictures, Chris Cutler talked about crows, I myself about life-boats, while Kara pointed out wildflowers we had seen today and yesterday. Victoria talked about a little-known historical fact of Fair Isle and Spanish shipwrecked invaders. Robin gave a preview of tomorrow’s activities, promising nice weather for our first two Zodiac operations.

Since we had left the harbor, the ship had started to move a bit –the North Atlantic is seldom calm- and a number of fellow travelers decided to skip dinner.

I retired to write the log and go to bed early, as we were going to start disembarkation at 07:30 tomorrow.

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