What is a “pilgrimage”? In the short time that I have been a blogger, I am sure I have used this term several times. It is one of my pet terms upon which this blog is based. The other is “Dionysian”, which may be the subject of a future blog. In the meantime, let’s focus on “pilgrimage” as it is key to understanding this post.
To the casual reader, a “pilgrimage” would be associated with a journey to a site significant to one’s religion. To an American, a “pilgrim” would be a 17th century British person escaping religious persecution and sailing to the New World. For better or for worse, these terms are linked to religion. And in the Christian world, what has historically been considered the holiest of pilgrimages? Well of course, Jerusalem. And who were dedicated to protecting Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem? That’s right, the Knights Templar. And the Knights Templar have two significant impacts to this post. First of all, if you don’t believe the conspiracy theories, the Knights Templar no longer exist. Travel to the Holy Land by foot or horseback these days is as dangerous as ever, so without the protection of the Knights Templar, I have hijacked the “pilgrimage” term for my own use. Second, the descendants of the Knights Templar purportedly were hiding the secrets to the Holy Grail, but as you will see, the mystery is solved. I have found it.
Let me introduce myself. I am a pilgrim and I take pilgrimages. Not to Jerusalem. Not to that place in Spain many people like to walk to, although I do visit many holy and spiritual places. In fact, you could say that my pilgrimages do involve spirits. But these are spirits of a liquid nature, not an ethereal one. You will surely recognize their names. Beer. Whisky. Wine. Champagne. Names that can spark wars of marketing and wars of opinion, but not the mess we see in the world today. This blog is about the fun that is still left in this world… the passion for travel, culture, and human interaction. But from my own personal angle.
So what is a “pilgrimage”? Let’s get down to it. Pilgrimages come in many levels. Let’s look at them in their approximate rank from lowest to highest.
- Drinking a new beverage
- Drinking a new beverage in a special establishment (e.g. Kulminator pub in Antwerpen)
- Drinking a new beverage in a new special establishment
- Visiting a place and drinking the beverage named after the place (e.g. drinking a Rochefort in Rochefort)
- Visiting a place which makes the beverage but not drinking (e.g. Glen Livet Distillery which has no tasting without a tour)
- Drinking the beverage in the place where it is made. (e.g. Gouden Carolus in Het Anker Brewery)
While I hope that clears things up, I have to say this post is about a pilgrimage that doesn’t quite fit into any of those categories. And on a number of levels, I am prepared to go on record to say that as of this moment, this is the holiest of my pilgrimages.
Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.
It is a movie that without question has had an influence on my life. Possibly yours and you may not even realize it. For me, I am consciously aware of two influences. Both come from scenes associated with the wedding at Swamp Castle. For many years now, when I say “Stop That!” or “Sorry!”, I can’t help but speak them in the way the father does when his son starts to sing or when Sir Lancelot massacres the wedding party. Both of these scenes were filmed at Doune Castle in Scotland, just 15 minutes or so outside of Stirling.
Doune Castle actually served as the set for many scenes in the movie including Camelot (The Great Hall), Castle Anthrax (the kitchen), and the famous coconut and French taunting scene (exterior wall). It is a lovely castle to visit and includes an audioguide narrated by Terry Jones who gives several insights into how the castle was transformed for the different sets. Frankly I’ve been to many castles and the 30-45 minute audiotour was easily the most entertaining.
This was the second Holy Grail castle that I visited in Scotland. The other is Castle Stalker which was Castle Arrrrgh in the film. However, these were only the first two stages of this pilgrimage. The pinnacle and final stage only cost 2 pound 50 and came in a 5ooml bottle. If there was ever a movie that deserves its own ale, it is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Although it was not permitted to drink it on the premises, to photograph the Holy Grail ale in front of the real castle from the film is a pilgrimage all to its own. Now if I could just manage to drink a bottle of Trooper at an Iron Maiden concert, there might just be some competition for the “Holiest of Pilgrimages”.