Whisky Virgin

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“I think everyone should work in a bar before they turn 18”, one of my Scottish friends said. In that way people would learn to appreciate bartenders and treat them properly. At first I thought: “No way! I would never want to work in a bar”. But then I thought again. It would not be that bad to work in a pub in the UK. Sure, drunk people are always drunk people, but the pub culture in the UK is actually quite nice. And what I have noticed, people in pubs are often cheerful and friendly. You can find the “give me a beer, I want to get drunk” people from night clubs, but in small pubs, people are more relaxed.

There is a one really cute whisky pub in Stirling. I have to call it cute because a place that is called “Curly Coo Bar” and has a sign of a happy highland cow is definitely cute. It is also cozy and warm and has a great selection of whiskys as well as gins. Beer lovers and wine drinkers can surely find something from there but whisky is the thing.

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I took my brother and his girlfriend there when they visited because Alpi likes whisky and it would be a pity to leave the country of whisky without having a wee dram. The owner of Curly Coo is lovely and knows about whisky so even if you don’t know what you want, she will help. So basically Alpi just said he wanted something peated and she selected a nice (but reasonably priced) one for him. Then she turned to Ella. “What would you like to have today?” she asked. Ella had never tasted, barely even smelled, whisky but she developed a sudden interest in it when she saw all the bottles lined on the shelves and the little whisky glasses on the table. When she said that she would like to taste whisky, the bar owner was thrilled. “I know exactly what I’ll give for you. This is so exciting”, she went to pick the bottle. Now, I’m not a huge whisky drinker so I can’t remember what was the name of it or even from distillery it was from, but it was good. The best thing was that Ella actually liked it. She had been introduced to the world of whisky.

When we were sitting at a table and enjoying our drinks the bar owner returned to us asking Ella whether she liked it. “Now, I have this little book where I collect first timers’ comments”, she handed a notebook to Ella, “Could you write down something about you first whisky. As much or as little as you wish. And any language is fine”. The notebook was filled with marks from people all over the world. The memories of their first ever whisky and Curly Coo were saved on the paper.

I had my first proper dram of whisky in that same place over a year ago, but I don’t think I mentioned the owner that it was my first so I didn’t get to write on the notebook. Nevertheless, I do remember my first whisky. No doubt Curly Coo has seduced quite a few people and taken their whisky virginity.

I Love Visitors

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Stirling Bridge and Castle

“I’m going to spend the summer working in Maryland. And when the work ends I’ll go to Los Angeles then Ecuador and Bahamas!” “I’m travelling to Cambodia” “I’m going to France next week”… Sometimes it is difficult to listen your friends’ travel plans, when you know that you won’t be going anywhere for a while. But sometimes I truly am happy for others when they get to travel. Like when they travel to me!

This Easter I got to host my brother and his girlfriend (Alpi and Ella) when they took few days off and flew to Scotland. I might have been more excited about the long weekend than they were. It was their first time in Scotland and I got to be their guide.

If you have ever been in a similar situation, you know that being a tourist in your home town is quite different than being a local. I had to really think what we could do here. Usually I spent my time going to lectures, dance classes, gym, grocery store and watching movies. Obviously that is not what my guests expected to do when they decided to visit a new country. So what special do we have in this little town, in Stirling?

The area is pretty and there are nice walks you can take if the weather is nice. However, this is Scotland and the sky was dark and sad most of the time. I had told them to take waterproofs with them, so we tried to ignore the rain. We walked around the town, to the castle and over the old Stirling bridge. Victorian style houses, grey stone churches and little chimneys on top of every building. I showed them around campus and the view points nearby Wallace monument. Even though it was wet and clouds hid beautiful mountains in the horizon and the highland cattle was not out, Alpi and Ella enjoyed their time and quite liked seeing something that they were not used to at home.

We have nice little cafes and cosy pubs here in Stirling as well. I have my favourites which I wanted to show to my guests. I had told them that they can not leave without having proper afternoon tea in Britain, so I took them to the Bluebell Tearoom. It is an adorable, tiny cafe in the town. White furniture and mismatched old teapots and cups, delicious food and old locals coming in for lunch or afternoon tea. Lovely. Another place I would recommend everyone visiting Stirling to check out is Allanwater Brewhouse. It’s the only Brewery in Stirling and located in Bridge of Allan. If you like beer or cider and relaxed atmosphere, this is a place to be. You might find strange specialities like banoffee beer or pineapple cider if the time is right. We spent several hours there drinking tasty beer and playing Yahtzee while two guys played guitars and sang.

Alpi and Ella spent two days in Stirling. That is enough time to check out the attractions and get to know the town, so I sent them to Edinburgh for one day and Glasgow for another. Those cities are both great in their own ways. They are very different so visiting both gives a good sight of what Scotland is.

“Scotland is like England… with a very strange accent” Alpi concluded when they were leaving.

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