Sydney was our first Port of Call on our cruise. We arrived and looking out the window while seated finishing our lunch this is what we were greeted with. A very very large fiddle. I think that this was the first clue as to the Gaelic heritage of the area. Speaking in relative terms Sydney is a rather new town, founded in 1785 by Col. Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres. It is on the Island of Cape Breton which makes up half of Nova Scotia.
We had booked a tour that would take us to the Bras D'or Lake part of the Island to visit the Highland Village Museum. Our buses were waiting for us when we disembarked the ship. We were going to be riding in comfort. The Highland Village is a living history museum though since we were so late in the season though not closed it was pretty quiet. There were a few costumed interpreters through out the village, but I would guess that in the summer vacation months there are many more. There may have been a few other visitors there other than those from the cruise ship, but I don't think many. The area consisted of many different buildings showing how the people who settled Cape Breton lived not only during various decades on the Island but also how they lived in Scotland before coming to the New World.
This stone hut is the type of structure that most of the early immigrants to Nova Scotia had lived in in Scotland. The women who was telling us about them said that they actually were still being used as homes into the early 1900's. They are one room and have a thick sod roof. I don't know about in the 1900's, but in the late 1700's and early 1800's the people shared their homes with their livestock. One side of the room was fenced off for the animals. As we all wrinkled our noses she reminded us to think about the Scottish Highland winters and then realize the warmth provided by the animals sharing the home was very welcome. We still wrinkled our noses!
This is a photo of the inside of the hut that the people shared. Notice the beds are inside cupboards. These were not very large and the interpreter told us often the family that lived in them consisted of two parents, five children and then the animals; Very, very cozy living arrangements I would say.
Looking up from the area of the stone hut you could see what a village in Nova Scotia would have been like in the 1800's. Very picturesque and a much more pleasant place to live. I would imagine those coming from the stone huts would have been more comfortable with these arrangements, but I am sure they must have missed their homeland.
There were animals in the barns here and several different homes to wander through. They had them laid out along a path that had the structure in a type of chronological order so you could see how what the people of the area lived in changed over the ddecades following Cape Breton being settled.
Their homes were all furnished with period pieces and you could really see how people lived. I will never forget that one of the homes had a bedroom that was no bigger than a twin size bed with a little walking space along one side of it and room at its foot for a small chest of drawers. It made our ships cabin look like a palace. These people did not live in the 2000 plus square foot homes like we have today and they packed many more people into them. Of course I could not pass up taking a few pictures of some of the things the women did during the course of their day. One of those things was QUILTING! This was a beautiful Dresden Plate quilt on a very simple quilting frame. The interpreter in one of the homes was actually working on piecing a quilt and showing how to use the true iron irons. You know the type that had to heat up by sitting on the stove. Now electricity back then so no plug ins.
The church was beautiful setting on the hill and would make for wonderful wedding pictures I'm sure. It was at the top of the hill and overlooked everything. Inside it was pretty sparse compared to our churches today. Also in the village we were able to visit a school, a general store and blacksmith shop and a shed where the processed the wool from the village sheep. One thing of interest that I learned was the the highland sheep that the immigrants brought over from Scotland did not need to be sheared like we do with the sheep today. The highland sheep shed and so the wool is literally just pulled off of them with your hands. They had a film showing how this was done....very interesting.
At the end of our visit to the village we got a cup of tea and an oat cake which was a cookie somewhat like a oatmeal shortbread but very thin. They were yummy and somewhere in all the papers collected on the trip I have the recipe. When I find it I will try making them.
We took a different route back to the ship so we could see more of the country side. One of the things we saw was a bald eagle sitting on the top of a railroad bridge. Our tour guide had been telling us that they often frequented the lakes area and sat on the bridge and so on the way into the village we were disappointed that none were to be seen. But as if he had heard our disappointment the eagle made an appearance on our way out. I'm not sure I have ever seen a bald eagle in the wild before. So I had to crank out the zoom and get a picture. Frankly I'm amazed it turned out as good as it did. He's still pretty small though.
The main reasons we took this cruise at the time of the year we did was to hopefully see some fall colors. I was worried that maybe we would miss them. For as far north as we were I thought that they might change sooner. According to our tour guide we should have been in the middle of the peak color, but the trees were changing slower than usual this year and they were just getting started. We did see quite a bit of color at some points along the way. At others everything was still green. Still it was a very pretty drive though the county side and I enjoyed it very much. The trip back to the ship took us through a very large Indian Reservation which was interesting though really no different than driving though Bay Mills in the Upper Peninsula of MI. Just much bigger.
This was a very nice though short port stop. I'm glad we got to go into the interior of the island and got to know some of the islands history. We got to see portions of Bras D'Or Lake. It is huge. I think our guide said it is 80 miles long and at the widest point 20 miles wide. Obviously we didn't see it all.
I have so many more pictures of the village and of our drive to and from it. We didn't get to see the town of Sydney itself other than our path to an from the ship, but people I talked to who did not take a tour, but just walked through town said other than one or two very old churches there really wasn't must of interest to see. Sydney has only recently become a stop on the cruise ship circuit and since it's main claim to fame was one coal mine that has been shut down for a long time most of the interesting things are outside of town. Besides the Highland Village we went to you could have gone to Baddeck and learned about Alexander Grahm Bell or to Louisbourg which is a fortress on Cape Breton.
So that's it for Sydney. Not sure what will pop up here next. Our next port of call was Charlottetown, PEI (Prince Edward Island)