Glasgow: The Baltimore of Scotland

You might read the title of this post and think that I am using the phrase “The Baltimore of Scotland” in a pejorative way. Rest assured that I most certainly am not. I went to college in Baltimore and I love that city. That grimy, gritty, blue-collar, drug-infested, relatively dangerous city. I really do. Because with all that comes character and an indomitable spirit. A sense of pride and heart that screams out “We don’t give a fuck if you don’t like us.” And for the brave who are willing to call it home and really mean it, the city will love you back in its way. Glasgow is much the same. I quickly fell in love with this city of obesity, rotted teeth and unintelligible accents.

Guerrilla street art in one of Glasgow's dirty streets. To me, quite successful as I don't understand it at all but it still MAKES ME FEEL ALL THE FEELINGS

Guerrilla street art in one of Glasgow’s dirty streets. To me, quite successful, as I don’t understand it at all but it still MAKES ME FEEL ALL THE FEELINGS

Glasgow and Edinburgh are only about an hour apart on the relatively inexpensive train (TAKE NOTE, ENGLAND. TRAINS DON’T HAVE TO COST ELEVENTY BILLION DOLLARS) but there are worlds of difference. The Edinburgh accent is that classic delightful Scottish brogue that we’re so familiar with. The Glaswegian accent sounds like a foreign language. I’d find myself working on a tape delay in conversations with people as I’d have to replay what they said in my brain and untwist the vowels to translate it to standard English. Whereas Edinburgh is quite a touristy city filled with parks and, of course, the stunning Hogwarts-esque castle on the rock that towers over the city, Glasgow has relatively few tourists and exists for its own pleasure.

An example of typical Glaswegian character. Back in the 80's someone put a traffic cone on this statue's head as a prank. It has stayed there for THIRTY YEARS just because people thought it was funny. The statue sits outside the city's main art museum.

An example of typical Glaswegian character. Back in the 80’s someone put a traffic cone on this statue’s head as a prank. It has stayed there for THIRTY YEARS just because people thought it was funny. The statue sits outside the city’s main art museum.

Something else that I loved about Glasgow that came as a total surprise to me is that the city has a subway! Not just any subway; the third oldest subway in the world behind London and Budapest, having opened in 1896. It’s one line that goes in a circle. It’s orange, so sometimes known as the Clockwork Orange (though I think that’s stupid). It’s a right of passage for the city’s university students to complete a “Sub-Crawl,” meaning in one straight session to get out at each of the system’s 15 stations and have a pint at the nearest pub.

Art in the Glasgow subway system. I like the message.

Art in the Glasgow subway system. I like the message.

One thing about the subway being so old is that the cars are really small (you basically are bumping knees with the people across from you) and HOLY JEBUS IT IS LOUD. I couldn’t quite figure out who uses it and for what. Some times we’d be on it and it’d be totally empty, other times professional folks and other times girls going to a hen-do. Always, though, insane people looking as if they’re clutching a knife inside their coat.

Mrs. Banh Mi loved that the system mascot is a penguin.

Mrs. Banh Mi loved that the system mascot is a penguin.

 

A typical glasgow subway station. Pretty oldey-timey, right?

A typical glasgow subway station. Pretty oldey-timey, right?

Alright, I’m sure that not everyone is a transit geek like me, so enough about the subway. Glasgow is home to a large student population and has some really hip places to go and, surprisingly, has some pretty stellar food. We ate very well in all of the UK, once again proving those old American stereotypes of Europe are worn, outdated and obnoxious. (Spoiler alert: French people are actually pretty nice and they don’t smell.) Of course, some stereotypes are born of truth: English teeth are pretty abysmal. We found a well-reviewed Indian restaurant in Glasgow and decided to give it a go as we hadn’t had proper Indian since Malaysia. We’d had a “curry” in London, but that’s practically more English than it is Indian. Kat freaked out because she found Paper Masala Dosa on the menu, which we hadn’t been able to have have since we were in Kuala Lumpur.

Little known Katherine Sprissler-Klein factoid: Her favorite dinner is some form of starch with an assortment of dips. This fits the bill perfectly.

Little known Katherine Sprissler-Klein factoid: Her favorite dinner is some form of starch with an assortment of dips. This fits the bill perfectly. This is not a visual trick, btw. The dosa really is THAT big. Like three feet long. We also ordered mango lassis, which were a Bali and Malaysia staple we’d been craving.

I guess this is not a commonly ordered dish. After the meal the waiter came to our table and asked if we’d ever had paper dosa before and asked why we’d ordered it. We told him we had it many times in Malaysia and loved it. He said that he’d lived in Malaysia for many years and how he was so happy his restaurant could prepare it for us. Scots and Malays are basically the kindest people ever.

There are also some really cool pubs. We went to once place nearby the University that was in an old bank. It was really nice to be somewhere that felt out of the backpacker cheapskate scene and into a cool, underground urban vibe.

SAM_2955 SAM_2954

While in Glasgow we went to two Scotch distilleries: Auchentoshan, which you’ve already read about and the Glengoyne distillery. I won’t bother writing much about Glengoyne as I found the tour sub-par and the whisky was unimpressive. One sort of neat thing about Glengoyne though is that the road that it is one (which our bus took to get there) is the dividing line between the lowlands and the highlands. The whisky is actually distilled in the highlands but the warehouse where it ages is in the lowlands.

Here's the road. The white building on the left is the actual distillery. The building in the middle across the road is the warehouse.

Here’s the road. The white building on the left is the actual distillery. The building in the middle across the road is the warehouse.

Getting to and from the distillery was a typical example of what makes Scotland so awesome and quaint. We got on the bus, really had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. We just told the driver “Uh…we’re going to Glengoyne.” He was all chipper and happy! “Oh! Grrrrrrreat!” We paid our fare and sat on the bus as it left the city and drove into the countryside past farms and sheep (LOTS of sheep) and through small towns. I was a bit nervous about where to get off, but I needn’t have been. The driver stopped right in front of the distillery (no stop was there or anything, he just stopped) and said “Ok! Here you go!” To get home, we just waited outside the distillery and when we saw the bus, we just flagged it down.

I really, really loved Glasgow. I much preferred it to Edinburgh, which to me was beautiful but way to touristy. Edinburgh felt too cutesy for its own good and too much like it existed just for Americans and Asians to come there and go “OH MY GOD IT’S JUST LIKE HARRY POTTER!” Glasgow doesn’t care about you. Glasgow doesn’t care what you want it to be. Glasgow’s doin’ Glasgow and I LOVE that about this city.

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4 responses to “Glasgow: The Baltimore of Scotland

  1. Duly noted! Glasgow now is firmly (in INK) on our itinerary for our U.K. tour in 2015.

  2. What’s the name of that bar in the photos? I’m gonna be going to university there and I’m trying to make a list of places I wanna go see when I get there 😀

    • Hi Erika! It’s called The Hillhead Bookclub (www.hillheadbookclub.com) on Vinicombe street, right off Byres road. Very close to the University. You’re going to love Glasgow. Very jealous that you get to go to university there.

  3. Hello – where was the dosa?

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