Sunday, October 28, 2007


I can picture, in my mind, a game called "World Scrabble," whereby players can use any word from any living language in the world so long as they can properly identify the language and the country where it is mainly spoken. And when someone invents that game, the people of Wales will become the undisputed Scrabble world champions for the rest of eternity.

Welsh is crazy. The maps are crazy, the buses are crazy, and the names of the towns to which they drive are crazy. Pictured below you here is a map, and that charming jumble of letters down at the bottom is the name of a town. It is all one word. Yes, even the tilde in the middle is part of this single word.
In Welsh , one can often encounter anywhere from three to seven consonants strung together without a single vowel (but always with a 'w' somewhere in the middle).

We started today by heading 20 meters up the street to Caernarfon Castle. This started out as a Rome's western most fortress in the year 79. Yeah, there are no numbers missing from that date. What you see today started life around the year 1000.

We got here a bit early as we forgot about daylight savings time, but by the time it opened, we completely lucked out with the weather and saw the sun (a rare treat in the U.K.). We had some time before heading out to see the border collies, so we decided to climb this:
Climbing up to the top of the lookout, one can see pastures far in the distance.
When I decided to move to Europe for the second half of 2007, I had a "top three" list of things I absolutely had to do no matter what happened or else I flat out wouldn't return home until they were accomplished. One was to see a specific castle in Bavaria (which I will not reveal now because it is on the itinerary), the second was to see the Vienna Philharmonic, and the third was to see champion border collies herding sheep across the hills of Wales.

Captain No-Show over at Enterprise (their slogan by the way is "we'll pick you up!") had put one of my top three in jeopardy. I decided that I would pay the $400 cab fair to get an hour and a half out there if that's what it took (how often am I going to be in Wales?).

When the lady at the bed and breakfast where we were staying caught wind of this, she told me that was nonsense and that I should just take her car(!). She was supposed to pick up other guests during that time and this was her only car, so she actually phoned a friend and borrowed their car for herself. Unbelievable. When I guessed correctly that it was a manual transmission and informed her that I had never driven one, she said I could try anyway (how nice can you get?). When we got back from the castle, she went out to show us the car, and then asked if I wanted a quick driving lesson. So there she was giving me a free driving lesson, as I go bucking bronco down the street in her manual and stalling at frequent intervals. After about 30 minutes of stalling, bucking, and repeatedly turning onto the wrong side of the road, she suggested she just drive us out there. So now she was offering to drive us 1.5 hours out there, drop us off, and drive the 1.5 hours back to pick up her guests, and all for no charge. It was unbelievable how generous she was. We said yes, as our options were quickly running out. She grabbed her daughter and her own dog, and off we went.
The farm was great. The farmer started by bringing out 12 different kinds of sheep (which I didn't even know existed). Apparently, there are 70 different breeds in Britain alone.
The demonstration was fantastic (I may get a short video up soon). The demo was given by a two-time world champion trainer, and I got to chat with him for awhile afterwards about the dogs.The whole thing ended up turning out just perfect. The demo ended early enough such that we were able to all ride back to town in time to pick up the other guests anyway. Coming out to the farm, we were late, and as a result missed the part about all the sheep that I wasn't as interested in anyway and arrived just in time to see the dogs in action -- and as a result we were only charged half-price. So the whole fiasco saved us quite a bit of money (especially since we didn't pay to rent a car) although we did have to skip a few things that were on the itinerary. All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I can happily check off one of my top three "must do's."

1 comment:

tales_from_the_crib said...

it's like babe...only with dogs instead of a pig.