Published: November 18th 2008November 18th 2008
My weekend in Edinburgh (ed-in-brra)
-Scottish pronunciation- or (ed-in-bor-oh)
-English pronunciation- with the International Students Society was stowed oot
(full to the brim)! It was great! I had originally signed up for the trip not knowing anyone - all of my friends had either already been to Edinburgh or were too busy with coursework this weekend - but I figured it would be a very long time before I would again get such a convenient opportunity to see Scotland, so I signed up anyway, thinking that the point of ISS is to meet new people, and I was right! I ended up making some very interesting friends from around the world.
We left UEA bright and early on Friday morning, reaching Edinburgh after a very short, very enjoyable 9+ hour-long bus ride. Note the sarcasm, please (it was awful!). We got to our hostel at 5:30 pm and it was already dark - like it was 10:00 pm. Checking-in took a long time, but that was to be expected with 100-or-so people. My hostel group and I became pretty close over the weekend and consisted of Emily (Canada), Vania (Canada), Abrahim (India), Bisma (California), and Johnny (aka Jonas, from Germany).
the big group on our first night
Laura, Amber, Vania, Emily, Abrahim, Bisma, Johnny
We also hung out with Laura (Australia) and Amber (Oregon) a lot, to add to the already-interesting melting pot.
After settling in at Globetrotter Inn, the eight of us went into the city center for dinner. We found a really nice pub/restaurant called The Filling Station
that served good Italian food where we got to know each other and exchanged ideas for sightseeing the next day. We stayed for a really long time to relax after the horrid bus ride and then walked around the center for awhile. What we saw of Edinburgh at night made us all so completely excited for the next day. Edinburgh is built into seven major hills, which makes for a very interesting landscape. We could see Edinburgh Castle in the distance, mystical with the moonlight shining brightly behind it. Further away, we spied King Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags looming ominously. Everything in the distance looked very dark and mysterious, especially when compared with the bright lights and bustle of the nightlife where we were in the city center.
The next day, we started with a trip to the Edinburgh Castle, which is massive and has an amazing view of the
city. There were loads of towers in which to explore, and also included was a prison, a dungeon, a war museum, and the Great Hall. Emily and I spent about an hour and a half walking through, and, while we weren't very thorough with reading all the displays, we still managed to see everything there was to see. Emily and I had lunch at a cute little cafe off of the Royal Mile and then headed to the Edinburgh Dungeons to meet the rest of the ISS group.
I'm sort of a jumpy person, and I hate being frightened, so it wasn't exactly the best decision to sign up for the dungeon tour, but it turned out to be sort of silly anyway. The stories told were fun to hear, though. Legend has it that hundreds of years ago, some priests sent a little drummer boy into the dungeons when they were first discovered. He walked and walked through the tunnels of the dungeon while drumming away so that the priests could hear how far he went. The drumming eventually stopped and was never heard again. It is unknown whether the little boy got lost or was found by
someone/something in the dungeons. Apparently, Edinburgh has been home to some really twisted-minded people throughout the years. The Dungeon tour was basically a recount of the lives of people who had been caught with major crimes and were thus imprisoned in the dungeon cells. Once, there were two men who murdered people in order to sell the bodies to medical students for research purposes on a don't-ask-don't-tell basis. There was also a huge incestuous family that lived in a cave off the coast, and they were all put into the dungeons for murder and cannibalism. I'm not quite sure how much of all this is true, but it was sort of creepy nonetheless. I have to say that the actors were all pretty good and did an excellent job at entertaining us.
Emily and I then went souvenir-shopping / sightseeing. We did the whole Royal Mile, saw a part of Princes Street, and then found an open-top bus tour, which lasted quite a while. We got to see all of Edinburgh, which was fun. We then hit the mall and bumped into the rest of the group, and all of us had dinner together at a pub/restaurant near the
city center. I had a very traditional Scottish meal - haggis, neets, and tatties! The dish was sort of weird; I felt like I was a baby being introduced to solid food. Everything was mashed up, which I didn't like because I enjoy the methodical efforts of getting to bite into and chew on my food. Everyone tried scaring me out of having haggis, but I had to have my way. I mean - when will I ever be able to eat haggis in Scotland again? It's a good thing I didn't read the description of it beforehand, though, because this is what wikipedia is telling me: "sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours." Yum! Actually, it really wasn't bad - tasted mostly like liver. However, let's just say that I will not mind if I don't ever have haggis again.
We then headed back to the hostel to freshen up and take catnaps before going out again. ISS organized free entry into Po Na Na Nightclub, which started slow - the music was sort of weird at
first - but then picked up and turned out to be a lot of fun. Finding our way back that night, however, was a huge mess. Taxis are useless in Edinburgh, and so is the night bus system. My friends and I wandered around for over two hours trying unsuccessfully to hail taxis, and finally - after all that time - we ended up taking a half-hour bus ride back to the hostel. It was almost 4 am by the time we got back - oy! Looking back, it was sort of a funny situation because my friends and I met two French girls who didn't speak English very well but taught us how to swear in French so that we could curse the Scottish transportation while still sounding really nice. So, transportation to and during Edinburgh were not exactly my favorite experiences, but the next morning made everything so completely better.
We woke up really early on Sunday in order to have enough time to climb King Arthur's Seat, which my friends told me is a must-do while in Edinburgh. It was absolutely my favorite part of the entire trip. The hike to the mountain was really refreshing
- the morning air felt really good, and I was put into an instant feel-good mood. The climb up wasn't terrible; there were hundreds of stairs that were conveniently placed, which was exhausting, but we would stop every once in a while to take in the views, and that made our efforts so worthwhile. As we climbed further up, we got to see more and more of Edinburgh. It was wonderful!
We reached the top after a bit over an hour of climbing and stayed for about 45 minutes taking in the sights and, of course, taking loads of pictures for bragging purposes. The view was immense! I can't even begin to describe how cool it was to see the entire city from the top of the mountain. It was a lot of fun to point out areas where we had already been and to be able to identify key monuments and cathedrals and the castle in the distance. It was a really gorgeous day, too - cool, crisp air, with just a little breeze and blue, blue skies. We were really lucky to have such wonderful weather because, apparently, Scotland is even worse than England when it comes
to rain. Reaching the top of King Arthur's Seat was such a triumph, like making it to the top of a gigantic snow hill in the wintertime before every other kid and getting to yell, "I'm King of the World!!!!" - or, in my case, I always yelled 'queen' - except 500 times better. It was a really cool experience, and I can probably put it down as one of my top favorite things I have done this whole semester.
We were all reluctant to go back down and moseyed around trying to make it last. I accidentally led my group away from the path that we used to climb up, so instead of the safer (more tedious) stairs, we had to pick our way down a treacherous slope, which turned out to be really cool, actually, although sort of dangerous. It was really steep, and there were loads of prickly plants in the area. The rocks were looser and tumbled down the cliffs easily, which was disturbing to watch, but there was a narrow area between two giant cliffs that we used, and leaning against the wall while climbing down made it okay. We all managed to reach
the bottom safely and spent some time frolicking in the fields, rejoicing in our successful adventure.
We then wandered around that side of the city and saw Holyrood Palace (where the Scottish royal family lives), the Scottish Parliament (which is the most modern building in Edinburgh, according to the bus tour), and passed by a lot of little souvenir shops and the Queen's Gallery. We also saw Our Dynamic Earth, which is a really cool museum dedicated to teaching people about the environment and includes an exhibit where people can "experience" all sorts of weather and natural disasters. We had lunch at a little cafe near Holyrood and then headed towards the city center where we found the Museum of Childhood, a really cute tribute to toys from the centuries.
We caught a bus going back to the hostel really easily, which was nice considering our aggravating situation the previous night. The long bus ride back wasn't even that bad because we were all so exhausted that everyone on the bus promptly fell asleep for most of the ride.
Time's running out! I have three weeks after this week - ahh! It's getting to be academic crunch
the girls at Edinburgh Castle
Laura, Emily, me, Vania, Bisma, Amber
time - I have all sorts of papers and presentations due in the next few weeks, but I'm not too worried. I've realized while being here how much of my time back home is eaten by extracurriculars, working, and volunteering. I've been completing my assignments really efficiently here because the only thing I do besides school is hip-hop dance, which only meets once a week for a couple of hours. So I get my stuff done and have lots of time for travel, which is excellent, but I do miss the things I enjoy doing most. I'm still having fun in England and taking in all that Europe has to offer, but lately, I've been getting more and more ready to come home.
I hope life is treating everyone well. Much health and happiness to you - always.
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