In truth, I hadn’t planned to come to Aberdeen, but I’m glad I did. When I arrived, I was in poor shape. The journey across the northern seas from the Shetland Islands had taken a toll on me that night. It took me nearly a day to stop feeling like I was on a moving ship in rough waters.
I did, and it was worth it. The staff was very pleasant helpful, especially Karen. She’s from Venice, Italy, but she was able to give me all of the information I needed as I explored a little of Aberdeen.
Now, walking the streets of Aberdeen was an entirely different experience from the walk I took outside of Scalloway. It was Saturday night, and all of the clubs and pubs were pulsing with life. Traffic hurried through the streets and people were walking everywhere. All of the commotion was especially interesting to me as I looked at the stonework of the buildings and the statues that quietly stand guard throughout the streets of Aberdeen.
In some ways, Aberdeen seems cold and frozen in time, and, in others, it seems like a bustling metropolis. It has been the most cosmopolitan place I’ve been in Scotland. There are malls and shopping centers that have worked their way into the stonework of the past and provide the commerce of the present.
Another constant in Aberdeen, like in many of Scotland’s port towns, is the sound of seagulls. They merge with pigeon flocks in parks and cemeteries and are a constant reminder that a ship is waiting to dock or to leave soon.
My evening walk was also the first time that I’ve really experienced any rain, but it had cleared by Sunday morning. The skies were cloudless and blue, and the gray of the stone seemed a bit whiter and more pleasant in the sunlight.
I only talked with a few people in Aberdeen. The city is busy.
On Saturday, I met two Mormon missionaries–Elder Oxspring from Arizona and Elder Parsons from Petersborough, England. They are doing a two year mission throughout Ireland and Scotland.
“I found something in my life that’s brought me a lot of peace and comfort, and I want to share that with others,” said Elder Oxspring.
Elder Parsons agreed.
“I love seeing other people change their lives for the better. When something influences you, it’s great. But, when you can see it impacting others, it means so much more.”
On Sunday, Chris, who is a native, helped me orient myself on the map as I looked for a laundromat. While Chris is from Aberdeen, he’s done some traveling and has family from his grandfather’s side in Scandinavia.
I asked him what the people of Aberdeen were like. I asked a similar question to a teenager who worked in Cafe Nero the night before. She said that “people wore gray and black to blend in with the city.”
Chris was a bit older and more practical.
“A mixture. People are nice enough–with the exception of the younger guy who might be an a–hole. But that’s true anywhere, isn’t it.”
While I was running my laundry, I decided that I would look for a local cafe. And I hit gold.
Rosie’s Cafe and Takeaway isn’t just a place to grab a bite of food. It represents the essence of what I’m looking for in my travels.
It’s a part of Rosie’s Social Enterprises, which is the Aberdeen nonprofit that is a part of Turning Point Scotland, a national effort to help people with special needs gain employment and improve their communities and their own lives.
Kim, who has worked at Rosie’s for five years, told me that it’s been wonderful to see some people who have never held employment because of their physical or mental challenges start to thrive as they work.
“It’s nice to see people who are wee bit apprehensive start to open up.”
Kim suggested the soup and sandwich to me, so I ordered a carrot and coriander soup with a brie and cranberry sandwich on wheat.
As I took in the place, which was most inviting with it’s long windows and blue trimming, I heard a doorbell ringing. I watched the waitress walk over to the wall and open a small door to retrieve my food.
Rosie’s Cafe is on the Rosemount hill, and the cooking staff works below the main floor where the customers sit. They use a dumbwaiter to shuttle food from the kitchen to the cafe. That was a first for me.
The orange soup was speckled with spices and its heat matched the cold sandwich well. When I dipped the brie and cranberry, which had been quartered, into the soup, bits of the white cheese and purple fruit melted into the soup, adding a new touch of color as well as flavor.
Rosie’s Cafe provided me with a pleasant surprise all the way around. I was sated with good food, and I also knew that my money was going to a good cause.
Aberdeen might be a city of wealth and sophistication. Those qualities are certainly here, and you could easily spend a fortune at its many high-end restaurants and shops. But the city of stone also has a lot of compassion etched within it.
Until my next post, keep looking to the heavens and seeking your own star.