Edinburgh, or the City of Weeping Feet
Yesterday (Friday) morning, we finally left Glasgow behind and arrived in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, which was just a little over an hour away by overheated bus. We were immediately blown away by the impressive landscape of the city. It seems that the city developed around Edinburgh Castle, a big castle on top of a hill, that used to be the home of the King and Queen of Scotland. The city is built in and around those hills. This means that parts of the city are very high, with very low parts in between. The very lowest part of the city is its middle, where lie the train station and its tracks; on the east and west side of the station are the East and West Princes Street Gardens, which are beautiful green parks where we ate both our lunches. Three bridges go over the station and the tracks and between the parks, and link the north and south parts of the city, respectively the New Town and the Old Town.
Our hostel was situated in the Old Town. We learned the implications of the landscape of the city when we walked on a street we thought was crossing our street, and found out it went OVER our street. At that point, we knew we needed a better map!!! We finally arrived at the hostel, drenched in sweat from all this walking around and getting lost with our 35-pound backpacks. Side-note about the hostel: It really, really REALLY smells like feet. (According to me; Laura doesn’t seem to notice as much.) For the first time we don’t have the bathroom and shower for only the people in our room, we have to share with people from multiple rooms, which are arranged in a sort of flat, the hostel being multiple buildings full of these flats. At least we use the kitchen to cook so we’re saving money on food.
Walter Scott Monument
Our first stop was this monument, built to honor some famous Scottish writter. It’s this big tower on Princes Street that you can climb through a VERY VERY VERY TIIIIIIGGGGHHTTTT staircase. There are 4 levels to it. The higher you get, the less space there is on the platform, which means more squeezed tourists taking pictures of the view, and the tighter the staircase gets. I bumped my head countless times on the ceiling, and when we ran into people going in the opposite direction, we were basically hugging them to continue on our way. On the way back, we hollered “Coming down, don’t go up please” as we made our way down each staircase, though it didn’t help much.
National Gallery of Scotland
A few museums sit directly on one of the bridges that cross the gap between Old and New Town. While we visited this one, you could actually feel the museum shaking because of the trains that ran underneath it. This gallery was amazing. Under the same roof, paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, Pissaro, Raphael, Rembrandt, and I’m probably forgetting some other big names too. There was also a very disturbing painting about a saint named Agatha (like my cat!!!!) that had her breasts cut off for some reason. In the painting, this woman was holding a plate with her breasts in it… EWWWWW
Getting lost on our hurting feet
At the end of our first day here, we set out in search of a grocery shop. We had received some directions by a girl in the hostel. Those directions were wrong! We must have searched for an hour before we finally found a supermarket with the same kind of prices we got accustomed to in Belfast and Glasgow. At that point, our feet were screaming from all that walking around in these steep streets and we had realized this was a very expensive city ( judging by the price of admission to most attractions and the prices of all the restaurants we looked at on our way, since we were getting desperately hungry). We were relieved to finally find the Tesco and pay basically 10$CAN each for 3 days’ worth of food.
Festival and stuff…
That night, we learned the hard way why there were so many people in Edinburgh this weekend. We came here in the final days of their annual international Festival. Club music was booming through our hostel bedroom window. However, we’re looking forward to the big fireworks on Sunday night. We also found out today that there was some big triathlon competition happening this weekend too. We saw some fellow Canadians losing the race (someone from Scotland won). But it kept us from visiting Holyrood Park, which is a very large park right by the city center that has hills and lochs within it.
Laundry… and National Museum of Scotland
Our Saturday morning was spent walking 25 minutes each way to reach the nearest laundromat, which was very expensive, but we were about to run out of clean things to wear. After dropping the clean laundry at the hostel, we made our way to the National Museum of Scotland, which is just around the corner. We unfortunately didn’t have enough time to visit all of it. We finally got to learn more about Scotland’s history. We were fascinated by the stories of its kings and queens and the things that belonged to them, and about the story of how Scotland became united with England.
Our afternoon was spent exploring, though not completely, some very pricey attractions. We walked up to the Edinburgh Castle, and took some pictures in front of it and of the view from the hill, but we didn’t feel like paying the 13 pounds to enter it. After lunch, we visited St Giles’ Cathedral (Laura insisted upon it because of her Buffy obsession, but it’s ok, because my Harry Potter obsession caused us to go take pictures of the café where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the first book), but we found out it was a very commercialized cathedral. We had to pay to have a permit to take pictures. So you’re not getting any!!! We thought it was less impressive that some of the other churches we have visited, but we still liked the blue ceiling and the modern redwood and silver organ. Finally, we made our way to Holyrood Palace, situated at the other end of the Royal Mile (a long street that runs from the Palace to the Castle). The Palace is the residence of the Queen when she comes to Scotland. Once again, we didn’t want to pay, so we ended up taking pictures through the fence.
We ended our Edinburgh visit by a hike up Calton Hill, which is just across the way from the Palace. Atop it sit various monuments and an observatory. The view from the top was simply amazing. We took lots of pictures, and Laura finally succumbed to the social pressure and asked me to take some pictures of her with the monuments. We could see the whole city, and see all the way to the sea. As I am writing this, we have gotten back to the hostel and taking it easy, because of our big day tomorrow: before crossing over to England on Monday, we are taking a bus tour of the Scottish Highlands, including a stop at Loch Ness. Details coming soon!!!