Friday, November 9, 2012
Argyll is part of the Scottish Highlands. Just by looking at this map postcard to your left, you can see how mountainous the northwestern two-thirds of the nation is - this comprises the Highlands, more or less. The Scottish Highlands are quite empty - they have one of the least-densely populated areas in all of Europe. Culturally, the Scottish Highlands is quite different than the neighboring Lowlands. The peoples of the Highlands were traditionally the Gaelic-speaking Scotsman, and some rural areas of the Outer Hebrides (the larger islands northwest of the mainland) still speak Gaelic. This makes Gaelic Highland Scotland more linguistically related to Ireland than to mainland Britain.
The region of Argyll (see here for map) is a coastal region of the Scottish Highlands, and the second largest county in Scotland. The name derives from the Old Gaelic airer Goídel, or "border region of the Gaels." The word airer carries the additional meaning of the word "coast" when applied to maritime regions, so the place name can also be translated as "Coast of the Gaels." The largest two towns in this sparsely-populated county have just barely over 8,000 people. The county's third-largest town, Campbeltown (pop. 5144), is historically known as a whiskey-producing region and home to distilleries such as Glengyle and Glen Scotia.
Campbeltown almost certainly received its name from the Scottish clan that presided over the Argyll region - Clan Campbell. (The chief of Clan Campbell eventually became the Duke of Argyll.) Although the British government attempted to quash clan culture following the Jacobite Uprisings of the 18th century, the clan culture has persisted, particularly in rural areas. In a recent Yahoo! Answers post I found during my internet research for this post, I found this interesting example of hostilities between clans that began over 300 years ago and continue to this day. I recommend you read the post, but I particularly loved the example of the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe (historically a region presided over by Clan Donald), which still hangs a sign on the door stating "No Hawkers or Campbells."
The Campbell clan's name derives from the Gaelic caimbeul, meaning "wry mouth," "crooked mouth," or "twisted mouth." The earliest known Campbell is Gilleasbaig of Menstrie, who was active around the year 1260. The Clan Campbell tartan, known as Black Watch, is highlighted in a red box on the above postcard. And in case you were wondering: your favorite pair of argyle socks do, in fact, get their name from the Argyll region of Scotland.
And this leads me to the postcard that inspired this entire post: the beautiful Kilchurn Castle, located on Loch Awe in Argyll. Kilchurn Castle was constructed around 1450 by Sir Colin Campbell as a five-storey tower house with a courtyard defended by an outer wall. The castle passed to Clan MacGregor for a time and then returned to Clan Campbell through marriage. The MacGregors remained stewards of the castle until the early 17th century, when a feud between the two clans brought the castle back into the possession of Clan Campbell. In 1760, the castle was badly damaged by a lightning strike and was completely abandoned. If you visit the castle today, the turret of a tower still rests upside-down in the courtyard as a result of the lightning strike 250 years ago.
The castle is now under the protection of the Scottish government, and you can visit it in the summer time by boat or on foot. You can read more history of the castle and see many lovely photos at this Undiscovered Scotland website.
Posted by Katie Hocevar at 2:55 PM
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
|CN-656595: Earthen House, or Fujian Tulou|
This beautiful family scene comes from Postcrossing user sysukun, and depicts an entrance to Earthen House, more commonly known as a Fujian Tulou. There are about 46 sites in the mountainous region of Fujian province composed of these homes, and together they make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A tulou is a large, enclosed, earthen-made building, usually in a rectangular or circular shape. They are fortified and usually have a single entrance to protect up to 80 families who live there. These buildings have been constructed since the 12th century in Fujian province, and were originally designed to protect against armed bandits that frequently roamed the Fujian region.
Fujian Tulou are unique because they are one of the original examples of community housing for equals. All the rooms in a tulou were the same size and shape, built with the same quality materials, and decorated the same. Tulous were generally occupied by one or two large family clans. If a clan grew over time, additional concentric rings were added around the original ring. You can see the inner courtyard of a traditional Fujian Tulou above. It's easy to imagine how such a place would inspire a sense of safety and community.
I'm glad to be back - hope you'll keep checking in on my newly revived blog!
Posted by Katie Hocevar at 10:57 PM
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
A few words first: Shibam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because it is said to be home to the world's oldest skyscrapers. It is a walled city and the first known example of urban planning based on vertical construction, and has been called the Manhattan of the desert. Some of these buildings, made of mud brick and up to eleven stories tall, are over half a millennium old. Shibam itself is over 1700 years old.
The economy of the region of Hadramaut is largely agrarian. Cities exist mainly as a place to sell and distribute goods produced on farms. The region is home to the Arab ethnic group the Hadhrami, which has its own Arab dialect. The Hadhrami have diaspora communities around the globe, particularly in Singapore, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Please enjoy the video, I really did!
Posted by Katie Hocevar at 5:39 PM
Friday, June 4, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Turkey has many folk dances, and the one featured here is called the horon. The name comes from the Turkish word "horom," which refers to a line of six or seven corn stalks tied together to form a lattice. From a distance, it appears to be a line of people joining hands with their arms raised. The horon is the most well-known dance of the Black Sea region (and is also performed in other countries located on the Black Sea, such as Bulgaria), and is meant to suggest the actions of fishermen, the swimming fish, and the sea. It features alert and tense shivering movements and sudden squatting. The horon is traditionally performed by a line of either men or women, but generally not both at the same time, except in rare cases called "rahat horon," or "comfortable horon." In these cases, the dance is slower, simpler, and more relaxed. (source: University of Florida website) The people of the Black Sea region live in fertile, isolated valleys, and are known for their merriness and their lack of inhibition. They remind me of Mediterranean peoples of Greece, and probably their culture was influenced by similar forces.
I've found another interesting website describing the people of Turkey's Black Sea region. As you know, it's important not to stereotype groups of people or consider them to be "all the same." However, it can be useful to determine typical traits. This is how a man of the Black Sea (or a "Laz") is described:
"He sports a majestic nose and speaks Turkish with an outrageous accent. His diet consists of hamsi (Black Sea anchovies), cooked to the legendary one hundred recipes that include hamsi bread and hamsi jam, with corn bread and dark cabbage to accompany. He dances a wild horon to the syncopated, manic tunes of his kemençe (bowed instrument that sounds like a fiddle). His oddball sense of humor makes him the butt of an entire genre of jokes. To a certain extent these jokes correspond to those of the Polish, Scottish, Marsilian or Basque variety, but they lack the crude ridicule that characterizes some of the latter. In most stories he either pursues an altogether wacky idea, or responds to situations with an insane non-sequitur. The best ones contain a hint of self-mockery, and it is not really clear who the joke is on. Inevitably the most brilliant Laz jokes are invented and circulated by the Laz themselves." (source: Kara Lahana)
I'd like to share this wonderful video (from what looks like 1971 or so) showing the horon in a very rustic village performed by a little old lady in all black.
Now watch this more modern and complicated version of the horon. It gets better and better starting at the 1:20 mark, so stick with it, it'll be worth it, trust me.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
My sincerest condolences to the nation of Poland over the terrible loss of President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and other government officials. My heart is full of sadness for you all, and could not imagine withstanding such a terrible loss myself.