Edinburgh

A couple of weeks ago, PC’s team left for a training camp in Turkey.  Instead of hanging out alone in Berlin, I decided to spend a couple of days in Edinburgh, Scotland.  When my sister visited the UK for her 13th birthday, she raved about the Scottish capital city, and ever since I’ve been eager to go.  Our friend, Greer, recently did her Master’s in Edinburgh, and fell in love with the place.  Unfortunately, she’s no longer living there, but she kindly wrote up a detailed guide for my stay which was so valuable.

I stayed at a lovely guesthouse in the New Town just off posh George Street.

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I arrived in the afternoon, and set off to sneak in a little visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens before closing time.  Unfortunately, they closed the Glasshouse early that day.  In winter, that’s about the most exciting thing to see since  all manner of tropical flora lives inside, and everything outside is dead or hibernating.  But I did a quick lap of the gardens anyhow.  I was especially eager to see their massive hedge…

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It was pretty dead. DSC_0773

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The weather was rapidly deteriorating so I grabbed a bus back into the city. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love that in Berlin you can keep to yourself and be left alone on public transportation.  However, I found it really comforting to hear the laughter and friendly conversations on the Edinburgh buses.

Getting off at Princes Street, I tried to do a bit more sightseeing..until it started sleeting like crazy.  The wind made it extra pleasant.

IMG_3286After it calmed down a little (still raining just less sleet-y), I walked down to one of the restaurants Greer suggested named Khushis.  Now Berlin has an amazing food scene, but I haven’t found an Indian place that really blows me away.  Going to the UK, I had already planned to take advantage of their Indian restaurants.  I ordered the Lamb Biryani which came in a clay pot, and was absolutely stuffed with tender chunks of lamb.  The Peshwari Naan was sweet and soft.

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The only thing missing was a cold beer…which was such a bummer.  I neglected to check whether the restaurant was BYO, and after surviving the sleet storm I was soooo looking forward to that.  I heaved such a pathetic sigh once I sat down and looked at the menu.  Nevertheless, I left full and warm.

On my way back to the guesthouse I noticed this pub, and remembered that Arthur Conan Doyle was born and raised in this city.  In fact, his University of Edinburgh Professor, Joseph Bell, served as inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.

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There’s a proud literary tradition here with native sons Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott.  And for you HP fans, J.K. Rowling penned Harry Potter sitting in an Edinburgh cafe.

It was nice to get away from continental Europe, and soak up a little of that ol’ UK charm.

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Since I was in the UK,  I kinda HAD to load up on Cadbury goods.  At least I thought I had loaded up.

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Almost as soon as I packed up my bag to leave, I realized that this was simply not enough Cadbury.  Almost all of this has been eaten.  I don’t know what I was thinking.

Also, I had no idea the variety of Cadbury egg products one can buy and enjoy.  Why oh why didn’t I buy these???

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And if the Easter Bunny leaves either of these giant eggs for you on Easter morning, you’re a lucky sonofagun.  IMG_3321

But enough about chocolate.

How about castles. And beautiful weather.  The next day was crisp, clear and sunny; perfect for sightseeing.

Although on the pricier side of tourist activities, the Edinburgh Castle is worth a visit.  However, the audio guide is NOT.  Just make sure you take one of the free guided tours.
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William Wallace and Sir Robert the Bruce stand guard over the entrance.  Ironically, Robert the Bruce, a great hero of the Wars for Scottish Independence, ordered the destruction of the castle at one point during the wars.  The Englishsh had been occupying it, but the Scots ambushed them and chased them out.  With small numbers they couldn’t hold the fortress, but deserting the place and letting the English take it back was not ideal.  The only logical option was to wreck the joint.  So they did.   DSC_0806

Everywhere in the castle, there’s a delicate balance between struck between celebrating Scottish patriotism and independence, and acknowledging its place in the UK.  Despite great support for independence, the Scottish Referendum on independence failed in September.  However, little asides and cheeky jokes make it abundantly clear that the relationship with England remains exceedingly complicated and uncomfortable.

But back to the tour of the castle…I took a look inside the beautiful Scottish War Memorial.  DSC_0816

And checked out the oldest building in Edinburgh, St. Margaret’s Chapel.  It was spared from destruction by a shrewd Robert the Bruce who realized that destroying religious buildings turns peasants against you, and that’s not a great idea when you want them to support your whole campaign for independence thing.

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Also in the castle, the very impressive crown jewels including the Stone of Destiny which is the best named stone in the world.

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That big green hill is Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano

After the castle, I walked down the Royal Mile.  I stopped in at St. Giles, a beautiful cathedral.  They were asking £2 for the right to take photos, and I wasn’t about that.  Plus, it was lovely just to walk around and admire the beautiful ceilings and medieval stonework.

Strolling down the Royal Mile, I tried to take a look at the little cobbled closes or wynds (is there a difference?), and far too many stores selling cashmere and kilts.  Another thing I noticed in Edinburgh So. Many. Americans.  I had no idea there’d be so many!  In any city, you’ll see signs outside of bars welcoming tourists or students to come in for cheap pints.  In Edinburgh, many bars specifically welcomed ‘Americans’ on their little chalkboards.  DSC_0842

I continued down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, and peeked through the gates.  The British Royals stay there when they visit, but I wasn’t terribly interested in seeing their fancy Scottish digs.  Instead, I began the walk up to the top of Arthur’s Seat.  DSC_0874

I took a look back at the castle as I started up the hill.
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Winding round the hill, I finally got to the summit.
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From the top you can see out to the Firth of Forth, snow capped mountains, and all the way down to the Royal Yacht Britannia docked at the Port of Leith.  DSC_0894 DSC_0895 DSC_0902

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I definitely took some selfies up there.  embarrassing but whatevs.

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I just had to have a little “Bay” moment.  Rather than taking the same way back down, I totally thought I saw a more direct path.   It was not a real path.  Also, I was not dressed in athletic apparel or hiking shoes.  In the photo below you can see stairs I should have been descending.  I slid down my bit of the hill for awhile, but eventually joined back up with the stairs where you see the break in the fence.

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At this point, it was late afternoon, and I spent the rest of the day looking around and admiring.  DSC_0912

I kind of loved the monstrous Balmoral Hotel.  After a bit of research, it turns out J.K. Rowling finished Harry Potter while staying in one of its rooms.
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I circled the Scott Monument, commemorating Sir Walter Scott.  It’s the largest monument to a writer in the world.    DSC_0945

Before I knew it, I was on a plane heading back to Berlin. DSC_0947Although I wish PC could have joined, it was nice to have a little solo adventure.  Plus, it broke up some of the suffocating grey dreariness of Berlin.  But lucky us, spring has now sprung.  Today we had bright sunshine and 17°C!  It’s that time of year for biergartens and playoff volleyball!

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2 thoughts on “Edinburgh

  1. wow Erin I am at the idyllwild library and just reading several of your recent posts- – – -amazed at your recent solo trip complete with the cadburry eggs love catching up on your adventures- – – photos are great always
    miss you and sending a big hug. . . aunt nancy

  2. Sherlock Holmes, Long John Silver, Dumbledore, Hermione Granger, et all – quite the collection of literary characters. But my new best name ever? Robert the Bruce 😊

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