An Ionian seaside town, Avola is a mix of old and new. The town focuses heavily on the sea, with its history as a tuna fishing port. Today, the remains of the Vecchia Tonnara at the wharf are a stone backdrop to the sandy beaches. Avola dates back to a pre-Greek people called the Sicani.…
3 days in Edinburgh! A weekend getaway 🙂 Except that we expected to see creepy, grey, sleepy, medieval town, but instead the sunshine was blessing us most of the weekend while we were running the gazes of the centre.
First stop was the bar, of course!
I mean, we arrived quite late to Edinburgh as our flight was delayed. Our hotel was in the old port called Leith so after quick check-in we ran into a first pub to eat but unfortunately too late. Some Scottish whiskey for dinner and typical Scottish pub scene: men discussing their business while holding beer, students mingling around while ordering a beer, Ladies smoking outside in their open outfits… Ever watched Transpotting? It was exactly like that.
About Edinburgh: the capital of Scotland since at least from 15th century. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been invaded by the Romans so the city has splendid mazes and many main squares.
Of course, the traces of Celtic culture are visible as well.
In one of these first day wanderings, we went some shopping. The reason was the kilt. It’s a type of knee-length skirt worn by Scottish men. Every pattern belongs to different Scottish clan since the times of fighting against English. Ever watched The Braveheart? 🙂
Well, in case you didn’t, let me introduce you to William Wallace – a peasant who fought English Army and became knight. And King Robert Bruce. They are bought at the main entrance to the Castle.
The Castle stands on volcanic rock which is more than 350 millions old and is centered in the heart of the city.
St. Margarets’ Chapel, is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh in which also, famous Mary Queen of Scots was praying (cousin of Elizabeth I). Then the famous canon that still fires every day at 13:00 is also worth to see. As well as the chambers of the prisoners and how they lived, engraved their names, secrets and compassion into the doors and walls. Many of the prisoners were from the Napoleonic wars of American War for Independence.
Time for a break again. Do you know what is haggis?
A typical scottish meal containing sheep’s pluck, minced with onion, oatmeal etc. We found a chips of haggis! 🙂
In 12th century, Edinburgh, trying to prove its essence of the capital city, Edinburgh aastarted to build the St Giles’ Cathedral, or the High Kirk of Edinburgh.
Mediaval Edinburgh was noisy, dark, with small streets, usually with poor sources of water. So living there had its own problems. Water had to be collected from water wells and carried up by many stairs. With no flush toilets, residents used to open their windows in the evening and (after shouting gardyloo) tip their foul nuisances into the streets below. Hazardous evenings, no?
Time for a beer! 🙂 and some Edinburgh Golden old ale!
More mediaval stories? Well how about the Greyfriars bobby? A nice pub, full of flowers from the outside but it actually sits on the Graveyard and is full of stories. Like the story of the dog called Bobby, who never wanted to leave his masters’ grave.
The graveyard just behind helds the secrets of more than 60,000 people. The graveyard looks calm and nice, with students visiting the place, even J.K. Rowling when writing her Harry Potter… Until the rain comes and starts to drag down the mud and discover the bones of deaths…
As I said, next to it is the pub where the Harry Potter was born. The author like to sit in this pub and write the book. She was usually finding her inspiration in names at the monuments of those who were buried there.
That day, I met my lovely friend from Montenegro who lives in Edinburgh. So the medieval storytelling continued. 🙂
We strolled down the famous Cockburn street (you don’t pronounce the K – otherwise they will mock you!).
Down the Cockburn street we strolled to the Grassmarket area. This place is surrounded by pubs with some really interesting names. We entered the pub called The Last Drop as the square used to be the execution place and the accused ones used to go this pub for their last drop of whisky.
Or perhaps Maggie Dicksons pub… as it used to be her own house. Maggie was famous for surviving the execution by sleeping with the executor the night before and convincing him not to strength the robe too high. After surviving this experience, she became famous across Scotland and bought the house at the Grassmarket square.
Up through to Victoria street for some more wandering…
Following the Treaty of Union in 1706, the Parliaments of England and Scotland passed Acts of Union in 1706 and 1707 respectively, uniting the two kingdoms in the Kingdom of Great Britain.
In 18th century, Edinburgh was described as one of Europe’s most densely populated, overcrowded and unsanitary towns. Visitors were struck by the fact that the various social classes shared the same urban space, even inhabiting the same tenement buildings. So the New Town was re-urbanized with parallel streets and squares. The most popular street is the Princess Street with all the shopping stores.
There is a statue of Sir Walter Scott – a Scottish historical novelist and poet of 18th century Scotland. Ever heard of Ivanhoe?
In the second half of the century, the city was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, when thinkers like David Hume and Adam Smith were familiar figures in its streets. Edinburgh became a major intellectual centre, earning it the nickname “Athens of the North” because of its many neo-classical buildings and reputation for learning.
PS I am really not a fan of calling some place after some other, like Venice of the North or New York of the East…
Time to stop for a second. Whiskey tasting? 🙂
Often simply called The Scotch, it is a Celtic spirit and the most popular drink here.
The Scottish Parliament is an old building from 13th century, except that in 1999 somehow Scotland decided to re-build and gave the trust to some Catalan architectures. Now, there is nothing wrong with this except that Barcelona is full of modern architecture that to my eye leads to dis-functionalities and nonsense. For example, the weird shapes of windows that are supposed to present people, or the leaves, or the birds or whatever kind of freedom because there is really no right answer, but in reality is just hard to open and close the widow and let the fresh air in. Not even talking about politics and federalism led by British Parliament in London and reasons of having (or rather not) this one here in Edinburgh… (sorry, political scientist here speaking!) 🙂
Eat haggis, sleep in Leith and climb the Arthur seat. It is an extinct volcano peak in the middle of the city, some 250 meters high where king Arthur used to come to think, before he would chair the table of the 12 knights. Remember Sir Lancelot?
Except the Arthur, some other notable peeps from Edinburgh like Sir James Maxwell and Alexander Graham Bell – the inventor of the telephone.
Now, there is something strange about Edinburgh – apart the fact that there are dog statues and commemorations across the city.
We noticed that almost every business from before has been turned into a pub business. Just like the birth house of the Alexander Bell above on the photo, or the pub which was the cinema before, or the barberry shop that became the pub or even the bank!
Being now in modern ages again, we visited the Georgian houses. The typical architectural style from the times of George V. When he died, all the doors were supposed to be coloured in black but the Scots and Irish protested and coloured in pink, green, red, blue…
The last day was used to visit Britannia – famous ship of The Queen Elizabeth II, but retired and given to tourists for visit. You can see the ship from the inside, check the rooms of the Queen or even the private sleeping room of Princess Diana and Prince Charles when they outset for they honeymoon.