Auld Reek

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April 28th 2016
Published: May 11th 2016
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The overnight bus puttered along. The guy next to me was sound asleep. A few hours earlier we had chatted about stem cells, regeneration, biomedicine. He was working on his PHd in pluripotent stem cell therapy. Never know who you'll meet on these long rides. The bus pulled into Edinburgh Station at around six in the morning. The weather was crisp and overcast. Scattered showers were abound. I walked passed Prince street and crossed the Waverley Bridge into the medieval looking old town. Edinburgh has a rich history that goes back a long time. It used to be called Auld Reek because of the putrid smell that was endemic a few centuries ago due to overpopulation and unsanitary conditions. Today it has beautiful Victorian style architecture and draws tourists from around the world.

I walked towards the castle at the center of town and found the Castle Rock Hostel just nearby. This might be one of the best hostels I have ever stayed at. This place had a massive full service kitchen, multiple chill rooms, friendly staff, comfortable beds, complimentary tea and coffee all the time, awesome showers, two guitars and a record player, and all at a reasonable price for a UK hostel. I really didn't know what else they could have added to make it better. Once I dropped off my stuff, I walked down the main road and found the meetup point for the free walking tour. The great thing about European cities is that you can always find these walking tours about. I find they're a great way to learn about a city and its history and see all the major sites. Our guide worked at the National museum and did this gig just to promote his city. He took us around past famous buildings and closes (alleys). We checked out some cemetaries and our guide gave out tidbits regarding the Harry Potter franchise because the author is from here. The walking tour lasted around three hours and ended at the National Museum of Scotland. What was awesome is that all museums are free in this town, so I walked in and spent the next few hours walking through the mammoth exhibits and learning all sorts of stuff about Scotland but also about the world. I walked back to Castle Rock after this and enjoyed the guitars, chill room and of course some free tea. I met a cool couple in the music room and played guitar with them. They gave me some left over pasta that they had cooked so I didn't have to try to find some dinner somewhere. That night I went out with a bunch of hostel folk to a pub where there was a pub quiz. There was various subject matter but our team was pretty good and we ended up placing third. We walked back home after this and I met some hilarious drunk Swedish guys in one of the chill rooms. Then I headed into the main chill room and met Sam and Dave. They were each solo travelers from the states. Sam was a firefighter/paramedic from Michigan and was dropping puns like mad. We all got on really well.

The next day I woke up late and caught the tail end of the hostel breakfast. Then I met up with some hostel folk which included Sam, Dave, as well as Nicole and Sharlotte whom I had met the night before. We walked down the road to the Queen's palace and then we split up and I went with Dave up the small Calton Hill which has some historic structures, and could give a nice view of parts of Edinburgh. Unfortunately, it was cloudy as hell and the rain began to fall, very light at first and then increasingly heavier. We got down quick. Back at the hostel I just took it easy. I met up with Sam in the music room and we guitar jammed for about an hour. He reminded me of a good buddy from back home so there was some nostalgia there. For dinner I went out with the Sam, Dave and Sharlotte and we went to a supermarket where we picked up all sorts of supplies and some canned beer. Since everything is expensive in Scotland, these items are essential. We made a pretty good meat pasta dish. Then we went outside and just over the castle viewpoint to glimpse the sunset through the clouds. That night began with drinking in the hostel and progressed to pub hopping. I didn't buy any booze in the pubs since it was pricey and since I already had canned beers at the hostel. Yeah I sound like I suck but I was trying to be budget conscious at this point. I went back with Dave, while the rest of the crew stayed out and got smashed.

The next day was pretty lazy for me, but in the afternoon I went out and picked up more supplies. Then I walked up Calton Hill again and saw a great view of the city as it was now sunny. I met back up with Sam and Sharlotte in the music room by the late afternoon. Sharlotte had a bad hangover since she never drank back home and last night was her first night she ever got drunk. Only one way to learn your limits I guess. After a small snack, I went out with Sam, Dave and another girl we met recently and went up an extinct volcano called Arthur's Seat. It snowed slightly as we approached the top. Once at the top it was windy but it was the best view yet of Edinburgh. We couldn't see the sunset because of the clouds but we got to see the city lighting up. We stopped for some takeaway Indian food on the way back home. Spent the night just chilling out.

The next morning was my last in Edinburgh. The hostel and the friends I made here made Edinburgh all the more enjoyable. Full gear on, I left with Sam and Sharlotte and we tried to find an affordable place to eat breakfast. In the end we settled for McDonalds due to lack of options and time. Sam had to catch his train to the English town of Whitby, and I walked him there. I said goodbye to my friends and wished them well on their onward journey. I then walked down Prince street in the rain and found a shop called Mountain Hardware. I ended throwing down some cash and buying a tent, sleeping bag, and 65L pack, which my usual 40L pack could fit into. I had the intention of reselling this gear later on, but for now I had a mission. The West Highland Way awaited...

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