Friday, August 18, 2006

Harry Potter's Hedwig Has Nothing on Duke

For three nights, we stayed in the famous Dalhousie Castle, outside Edinburgh (pictured below). Built in the 13th Century, Edward I stayed there just before he defeated William Wallace, Oliver Cromwell laid siege to the castle and the nearby Rosslyn Chapel (ring any bells, Da Vinci Code fans?), Queen Victoria had tea there with one of the Ramseys of Dalhousie, and yes, it is haunted as well. What more could you ask for in a castle?

Well, how about a falconry? Okay! My family and I had the fabulous opportunity to meet and help feed a falcon and owl--up close and personal. We couldn't pass up the chance to do this at a non-Disney built castle, as the United States is sorely lacking in medievalness.

The owl in the picture above is Duke, who would swoop down to snatch his meat, and then he'd hang out on my arm until my muscles burned from holding up his weight. Man, he was heavy! Originally, I wanted to fly the itty-bitty screech owl in the picture below. He was so cute...I could've put him in my pocket and walked around! But as you can tell by my windblown hair above, it was a blustery day and it would’ve been torture for the tiny owl to have to fly just then. However, I fell in love with the majesty and strength of Duke, who could probably carry a Nimbus 2001 wizard's broom without faltering.

An hour and a half didn’t seem like nearly enough time to spend with the fascinating birds—we could’ve stayed for hours and hours, but we did have other places to go that day, including Rosslyn Chapel (only a few minutes from Dalhousie Castle).

Okay, I have to tell you that visiting the chapel was quite surreal. In 1996, the chapel had a total of 6000 visitors that year, but this year, they expect to reach 150,000. And the residents of the town are still a bit stunned by the amount of buses and tourists that ramble down the streets of their once sleepy hollow. Once inside the chapel, I felt as if I had entered Disneyland. People everywhere. But the chapel personnel are charging visitors to enter, so they've been raising the money needed to restore the building, inside and out. And they thank Tom Hanks for that.

Oh, and we were told by the gentleman working registration at the castle that a few months ago the chapel's vicar (or priest?) became fed up with the crowds, as he could no longer hold prayer and services there. So he packed up and left. A definite downside to the fame.

So what about you? Have you ever visited a place that has changed because of a work of fiction? Or even just looked at a place in a different way because of something you've read in a work of fiction?