Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with auld Scotland

One thing I like to do while I travel is go to football matches. Standing outside Lechia Gdansk’s highly impressive stadium (which I got to courtesy of the free train), a local man came up to me and started speaking gibberish. 

gdansk-stadium

‘Sorry, no Polska’ I replied, before he repeated his kind offer in English, selling me a spare ticket for cut-rate price. Over the course of the game we got chatting and he was delighted when he found out I was from Scotland. Mainly, I think, because Gdansk play in similar green and white hoops to Celtic.

As well as giving me insight into the home side’s players (“that one, even when there is 100% probability of scoring, will miss”) he got to telling me about the city itself, particularly enjoying telling me about a Scottish style pub near the old town centre. (I later went and, unlike the Scottish pub I visited in Lille, it actually had a Scottish beer on tap.)

scottish-bar-gdansk

It wasn’t until a while later that he told me about two suburbs, Nowe Szkoty and Stare Szkoty, which translate as New and Old Scotland. It was suprising that he took so long to tell me about these, considering he lived in one, but maybe he didn’t trust me to go anywhere near his family home.

It might seem strange for a Polish city to have two suburbs named after Scotland, as well as there being a town farther up the coast called Szotland (situated right next to Hel, make your own jokes), and it did for me. I found out that, back in the day, there were around 30,000 Scots living in Gdansk and many traders made their fortune working with the Poles, including a certain Mr Robert Gordon, who was instrumental in me getting some sort of degree.

As well as the placenames, the Scots (who were renowned for being drunk all the time) left their mark on the language. ‘Szot’ apparently means business traveller while ‘Skąpy jak Szkot’ translates as something like ‘stingy as a Scot’.

A couple of days later I made my way out to Stare Szkoty, despite the girl in the tourist office telling me not to bother. For most people the trip would’ve been wasted — a few nice houses and an old fort which, if it was as hard to get in to for invading forces back in the day as it is for tourists today, then it did a great job.

stare-szkoty stare-szkoty-houses stare-szkoty-fort stareszkoty-fort

 

I didn’t bother with New Scotland, as apparently it was close to a Tesco but not much else.

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