The Granite City is Scotland’s third largest and presumably the one with the most churches turned into “dens of sin”. As such it was an astonishing place to visit.
From the local quarries they produced from the mid-18th century a lot of fine, grey granite and turned it into several impressive buildings in the growing coastal town of Aberdeen. In recent years Aberdeen has prospered as the oil capital of Scotland, as has its Norwegian counterpart and my home town across the North Sea, Stavanger. I was not looking for traces of that industry here, but concentrated on walking the long Union Street to the harbour area and criss-crossing the side streets here and there. It was a pleasant town.
I was struck by the number of churches as I walked the streets, the Scots must have had strong religious sentiments in the old days. Not any more: Aberdeen has become the least religious city in Scotland. What is now the case reveals itself at night. Several of the churches has been decommissioned as religious objects and has been turned into bars and nightclubs. I had never seen anything like it.
Church turned bar, photographed at daytime
In one such establishment the DJ held a commanding position up on the old pulpit, the central nave was turned into a long bar, and the side chapels now held seats where yellow buckets filled with beer bottles were being passed from visitor to visitor instead of the good old pouches used to collect donations to the church. Indeed, a minister once returning to perform his old practice was thrown out of a bar, according to this newspaper article.
Church turned nightclub
The nightclub in another of these former places of worship had a crowded dance floor, thumping techno music, smoke machines, and drunken guests raving in the sacristy and other side-rooms.
I was astounded and concluded that such a practice would not be possible in Norway, at least for years to come. If ever. On the other hand I did realise the potential benefits of it: These magnificent buildings are filled with life, joy and activity instead of being left to decay and possible demolishment at a later stage.
This “social” part of my job trip to Aberdeen also gave the opportunity to visit part of the Scottish countryside and taste the traditional “haggis”. We went on a guided bus trip straight west of Aberdeen and visited the old Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire. It had some very nice gardens, but the castle itself looked more or less like a medieval fortress although it had acquired larger and more windows in recent years. The fights between the clans must have been fierce in the old days.
We continued to a whisky distillery for a tour and tasting, very good. On the way we passed the gate to the Queen’s Balmoral Palace and stopped for lunch somewhere else (apparently the palace is open to the public when the royals are not present).
Royal Lochnagar Distillery & Visitors Centre
Wikipedia describes the haggis some of us were served for lunch as “a kind of savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.”
Well, right. Some might not find this tempting at all. I looked forward to it and had a good meal. It was certainly not the best lunch I’ve had, but definitely, (what should I say?) interesting.
Images from this trip: