Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Glaswegian for a day (part 2)


After our leisurely stroll around Glasgow city centre, we opted for a change of perspective. To get an aerial view we headed to the rather secluded Lighthouse. On the way there we encountered some fantastic street art – a giant mural panda crawling out of the jungle. The entrance of the Lighthouse was not utterly exciting and rather reminded of an entrance to a mall – glass doors leading to an escalator with some shops and cafes around. But I was wrong. What I thought to be items from shops turned out to be various exhibits scattered around the building. The different floors hosted various displays one of which was dedicated to the Commonwealth games and another to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a prominent Glaswegian architect. It was he who had designed the building which is the Lighthouse today but his intention was for it to be used as a contemporary fire extinguisher system. As this project was abandoned, the building was converted for its current purposes. Unfortunately, the tower itself was closed for maintenance but we still got to see the exhibits (and by the time we managed to get on the next floor, the weather had turned completely).

As with any other city split by a river, Glaswegians have a north-south divide. Rumour has it, the northern bit (where the city centre is) is the more pleasant and safer one, yet we dared cross the river. Our adventure there was cut short by the fact that we didn’t know what exactly to look for there, so instead we headed to the subway and the West End. I have been to several subways across Europe and they generally do no surprise in terms of features – two lines and a platform, and that’s it. And yet, the Glasgow Subway Railway did surprise me. It is the 3rd oldest in the world and its size is doll-like. The ceilings seem impossibly low, the tunnels are like two eyes in the wall, and the platforms can barely hold a handful of tourists. The trains were even quainter with their colourful seats and low arched ceilings, and every time the driver announces the next stop you can hear metal creak as if he is opening a can in an empty swimming pool :).

As the Glaswegian subway has not been extended ever since it was built in 1896 it wasn’t long before we arrived at the West End. From the main street there we got a good view of the University of Glasgow and the lone magic bird of the park. 

As the weather was getting worse we decided to break the ‘no-museums’ rule and have a look at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Thanks to the variety of artifacts on display there we had a good hour walking among eccentric sculptures, skeletons of prehistoric animals, and peculiar art. As interesting as it was, our feet began to ache and our tummies to rumble and we did not manage to see the Dali exhibits.

Instead, we headed to the nearest pub (just across the street) to rest and recharge. 

By the time we were finished with the burgers, fries, and lager, the sun was shining again and the annual West End festival was to begin. Unlike other street carnivals I have attended, this stood out with the fact that it was not hard to find good spots to watch. On the other hand, the procession was not part of the show and the different groups seemed a bit fragmented, which was disappointing. Regardless, we watched and clapped and danced until the performers marched passed us and then headed to the Botanical gardens.

We didn’t have time to walk through the whole park as the subway closes at 18 pm on Sunday, but I still had a chance to grab myself a cactus from the sale in the hothouse. And before we said our goodbyes with A, we had a chance to have a look at her place. Flats let out to different people always come in different forms and sizes, but this one offered something I had not seen before – an ‘electricity lock’ (for the lack of a better word). Every time someone wants to use an electric appliance, they have to insert 20p (for anything, including the heating). The flat also featured a medieval clothes airer, which by the look of it had not been used since the advent of the washing machines.

Our last stop before we caught the train back to Edinburgh was at a restaurant downtown which had taken chairs and tables out in the sun, where we could soak in some rays before the sunset. The place offered a variety of international beers and thin inviting pizzas. Although the waiter told us that the pizzas were people’s reasons to visit Glasgow, I find that the city had a lot more to offer.


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