Oban and the Scottish Johnny Cash

Seeing as how my time in the UK is rapidly growing to a close, I wanted to make sure to get in all the sights as I could. Edinburgh? Check. Loch Ness and the afternoon disco? Check. Distillery? Check.

The Bridge over the Atlantic? Ch...


....WOAH! Wait a minute....

Without a second thought, I piled everything into the trusty Fiesta and hightailed it out of Fundee. Go West, Young Man! (In this case the Scottish West Coast, which is actually only about three hours away, making it possible to drive from the Atlantic to the North Sea in a matter of hours.)

My base of operations this time was Oban home of some of the best seafood in the world, which is a pity, since I'm a vegetarian and don't like seafood. But I wasn't about to hold that against my West Coast brethren.

The drive was fairly uneventful. The roads were pretty good at first, however, for a bit of a stretch before you get to Oban the Fiesta made it's way thorough some nice hairpin turns on a mountain pass and a couple of narrow one lane roads.

This was the West Highlands as they're called and the mountains are pretty spectacular. I've seen some big mountain ranges - the Sierra Nevadas, Rockies and the Alps - and the Highlands aren't quite that size, but they're beautiful in their own sort of subtle way.

I found my lodgings - which I highly recommend if you're looking for a no frills place to stay in Oban. Why can't more places be like this? A bed and a sink in my own room. That's all I'm asking for. Why pay extra for a bathroom if there's a sink in the room?  (Sorry, ladies.) It even had a flat screen TV! Not that I bothered to turn it on, but I was still appreciative of the gesture. They even threw in fresh scones (as my people in the States say, biscuits) in the morning! But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Once I was settled in, my first stop was refreshment for both body and mind. Seeing as how I was going to be here, alone, by myself for a day, it's always good to have some reading material on hand. I stopped by the local charity shop and found a few different tomes: Michael Palin's "Full Circle", Stephen Fry's Chronicles (I had no idea he used to perform with Emma Thompson) and some book called "The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz." Man, with a title like that you can't go wrong. I'd heard a little bit about the story of someone infiltrating Auschwitz and thought it might prove interesting. Turned out the book was about someone else entirely. We'll get to that later, too.

I had a beer while I thumbed through my books and quickly realized that, at least beer wise, Oban was as expensive as anywhere else. I guess I'm spoiled to Dundee prices - £1.95 for a pint of Abbot Ale is hard to pass up. I saw a Pancake Place where I thought a baked potato looked good, but at this late hour (7 pm), they were closed, so I settled for a curry instead at one of the ubiquitous Curry/Kebab/Pizza combo places that seem to be everywhere in the UK.

It was only 8pm and I wanted to give Oban a couple of hours to warm up before sampling the night life scene, so I returned to my room and cracked up the Auschwitz book. As I mentioned earlier, this wasn't about Witold Pilecki, the Polish Army soldier who broke into Auschwitz and reported details back to the Allies, no, this was ANOTHER guy, a British Army Solder named Denis Avey. The actual Auschwitz part of the book doesn't take up much space, but it doesn't matter. Here's just a little sample of what this guy went through before he was 25 (stop reading now if you're going to buy the book):

  • Holidayed in Butlins!
  • Partied in Cairo
  • Fought the Italians with the Desert Rats in North Africa
  • Killed people
  • Got taken prisoner
  • Was torpedoed on his POW ship going to Italy. Survived by floating on a box.
  • Lived in an Italian POW camp, escaped and started walking to Switzerland
  • Transferred to a German POW camp located next to Auschwitz
  • Snuck into Auschwitz - TWICE
  • Marched and escaped on foot from Poland through the Czech republic to Germany

Jesus. What was I doing then? Working in a library.