Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and they vet samples from distilleries all over Scotland, choosing the finest of the finest for our delectation? Prior to this trip, neither did I.
I also didn't know how to hear the difference between a Glaswegian Scottish burr (from Glasgow), and one from Edinburgh. These cities are about 45 miles apart--an hour's drive at most--and the people sound entirely different to each other. Each city has stereotyped the others' inhabitants (Glaswegians are friendly but they're all named Jimmy, the folk from Auld Reekie are reserved), and while Glasgow is twice the size of Edinburgh, Edinburgh has the busier airport.
I didn't know that you can camp anywhere in Scotland legally. Anywhere. Go ahead, Occupy Scotland--plenty of people do.
I didn't know that the northwestern part of Scotland is an entirely different hunk of geology from the rest of the country. It wandered loose for eons until banging into the larger British island, and thus has its own topography, flora and fauna.
Some words have different meanings here. Many hotels advertised themselves as homely, meaning friendly. To get to the first floor you can take the (usually very small) lift or the steps. What confuses me is heid-picklin' (head pickling) to my cab driver.
I research as much as I can with source materials (I'm on my third biography of Robert Burns), I troll the internet, I listen to Scottish music, and pore over maps of Scotland, but none of that compares to being here. I am so very, exceedingly, wonderfully lucky to have had these two weeks in Scotland.
Wikipedia can't give me the experience of comparing a peated with an unpeated whisky; it can't teach me what the scent of whisky malt is when it's had a day or two for the yeast to work on the wort.
YouTube isn't the same as watching Paul Anderson perform in person, when his fiddle music resonates through you bodily, and his foot tapping thumps the floor beneath your feet.
But then I hear Paul wringing tears from that fiddle, I see the redwoods that thrive all over central Scotland--huge, majestic trees that take my breath away--I get a whiff of a good peaty Isla single malt, and I can't wait to pack up and head back to Scotland, maybe some day for good.
Have you ever been dragged, grumbling and muttering, to a concert, a vacation, or a book, only to find a wonderful time despite what you anticipated? Tried a dish you thought you couldn't possibly enjoy and now you love to order it? Dated a guy you thought was all wrong for you....?
To one commenter, I'll send a $25 Amazon gift card AND Paul Anderson's latest CD of fiddle music (Land of the Standing Stones) AND my favorite Jim Malcolm CD, (Acquaintance) a collection of songs by Robert Burns.