May 2nd 2010
Stirling, Scotland (but writing on Edinburgh)
Since leaving you all on Thursday night many things have happened broadening my horizons more and more. Thursday night as I told you I was going to check out the local club scene and being it was only a 5 min. walk from my hostel I decided on a place called the Hive. According to their adverts and all that they were doing a sort of indie music dance night and I figured it would be fun to check out. After convincing the security guard that in fact my passport was me and getting my arm stamped with a “checked” I went into the club. It opened at ten and when I arrived at 10:30 it was still a little slow, so I bought myself a cocktail and decided to do some of that people watching I’ve come so accustomed to. People dress in many a sort of fashions at such things from full out punk to barely any clothes to full fledged business suits. Now I personally have never been clubbing in the states or another place for that matter so it was all a rather new experience. So I plop myself down and I’m sort of moving along to the music and I see people coming and going and all the sudden this guy just comes up to talk. Of course anyone with half a mind knows perfectly well what most people want in such a venue so I naturally held my guard. Anyway he introduced himself as Stuart, asked me where I was from and why I was out all alone etc. etc. and then invited me to join his group for the evening. Which being it was a very secure club and so close to my hostel with police out every block or so; I figured I was in safe territory and maybe safer joining a coed group of 20-somethings for the evening. So, I did, and we had a really great time of talking and dancing and just being silly. These were truly funny kids, though parts I had a hard time understanding due to the accent and speed of talking. After about 2:30 after one of them was made to leave after drinking too much, I decided to go back to my room, Stuart kindly came with me in a taxi and paying for it to take me to the hostel and for him to get back to his friends. (I simply felt safer going a few blocks in a car rather than walking alone). On the taxi ride it was decided Stuart and I would meet up the next evening for dinner and maybe a film and then I quietly went into my room and crashed until 8:30am.
The next morning I was up to check out the castle, and later was doing a historic vault walk. The castle was truly neat a great symbol of Scottish history and sort of one of those you have to see in Scotland. I particularly enjoyed the exhibit on women in WWII and what they were doing on the home front. Some were “Lumber Jills” and worked in the lumber industry and others took care of a lot of farming. It was great to read their stories and about where they worked and just to think how much it sort of advanced women in the working fields and being independent is really respectable. They also had many an exhibit on various types of Scottish soldiers and how they were throughout history. However the most powerful part of the entire castle was the cathedral built to commemorate the dead from the two world wars. That alone made me go into a puddle of tears, there is just something so more upsetting to see the lists of names and where they lived, died, worked etc. that makes you really comprehend what is lost when only one person dies, let alone thousands upon thousands of people.
Now the story around Mary queen of Scots is an interesting one and of course she spent a large amount of time at this castle including giving birth to her son James. They had a really neat running history exhibit that sort of showed different large royal figures with their coronations and lives in paper mache statues and wall murals. They had a large chunk on Mary Stewart which really added a lot to the historical relevance and they even had her old bed chamber open for viewing.
I would also have to say the views of the city were pretty great from the castle and great really anywhere you went on the castle walls. Then with the canon firing ceremony at one it added a lot to that traditional tourist moment feel of Edinburgh castle!
After the castle I had a good hour and a half to kill before doing an underground vault tour so I took back some gift stuff I had bought to the hostel. Then I went out for a bite to eat, finding Maxi’s a great little bar/restaurant with great extensive food choices! However I am becoming a brie and cranberry sauce junky so I went for that! Included with my meal was a nice chat with the barman and a really lovely bookish feeling atmosphere with great quotes on the wall and very comfortable lounging couches. It was one of those nice little spots I won’t forget.
For my walk I originally decided on a vault walk with a bit of a “scary” ghost feel to it. But, when I arrived for my tour it they wouldn’t run it because they didn’t have 10 people to go on it. Which to be perfectly honest really irritated me so I just went with another group 30 minutes later to simply a different section of the underground city. So off I went with a group of 12 others and our guide Roger; he gave us a quick rundown on the history of what section of tombs we were going into. These tombs exist because for a very long time people lived in these more or less sky scrapers that were built up an into the volcanic hillside going into the old town where the castle sits. So basically the houses roofs all sit or sat at the same level and as you would go down the mountain side you would sort of add floors to the bottom. Thus one could have a 12-13 story building and everyone would basically live in these building from working to upper class. Working would take the tops and bottoms and then the wealthy would have the middle floors. So basically you still had the hill but the houses and streets went along with the mountain. So in the 1700’s when the wealthy decided they wanted to live in a different spot and move to what is called the new city they built bridges so that they wouldn’t have to keep going up and down the hill, so therefore the bridges were built over homes and built with storage and shops for people to utilize and for those that built the bridge to pay for the investment. So, the vaults went into use but as things often go the South Bridge wasn’t the place to have a shop and the vaults leaked really bad and there were many an illicit activity going on! So in time they closed, but before you had all sorts of things such as oyster bars and an illegal whiskey distillery, vine storage a peddler’s shop on and on the list goes of usages. Probably one of the most fascinating aspects is the link to the illegal body snatchers who would use the vaults to store and hide bodies before delivering them to the medical schools. It was a very insightful and fascinating hour and a half and I really really enjoyed it!
After the tombs it was another jaunt back to the hostel where Stuart met me for dinner and a movie, he drove me out to the seaside docks, where there was a large mall with movies and restaurants. The restaurant had a great view of the bay with the sun setting it was truly beautiful and one of those things I would have missed had I not met him. After dinner it was a movie and we opted or “Kick Ass” an comedy about vigilante super hero kids. I must say it was a really good film and “Mindy” the little girl in it was a genius character, now the movie had major plot faults but was still good and really enjoyable! Not to mention having a new friend along made it even more enjoyable and a really fun evening, go figure I travel 6,000 odd miles and I end up seeing an American film!
The next morning I had to say goodbye to the “Castle Rock Hostel” which I had actually grown fond of. Stuart met up with me again and it was decided I should see the suburbs where he lives. So I had another great drive in the “country side” along mind blowing sea sides and through the truly beautiful Scotland! Stu had me meet his parents at their very lovely home in a more rural community and then he took me to see what the locals have deemed “the pencil” which I’m actually not sure what the true name is. It was a really great hill alone but then you climb up this almost abandoned tower that not another soul is present at and one can just see for miles and miles of ocean and farm land! Stuart growing up there explained the different little spots one could see but also the different spots he personally had stories from. After the tower his friends insisted we stopped by for a while and it was mostly the gang from the night before. It consisted of Keith, Sean, Chris and of course Stu, all of which are very funny guys. They did have a hundred and one questions on things from 4-20 to if I had ever seen a drive by shooting! Oh and they told me of a wickedly sinister joke they thought of playing on me by tying up Chris’s girlfriend in duct tape and falsely threatening me, which in theory would have been hilarious but in truth it would have been the most horrifying moment of my life. So I am very relieved they didn’t do such a thing! After learning the goodbye handshakes the group specifically had and telling them to come to Colorado sometime for a visit; Stuart took me out to Tantallon castle. Which beautifully sits on the coast on a cliff! So another spot that was well worth the effort for the views and atmosphere even though it was absolutely freezing it’s something I would not have seen in a million years had I not made a friend so I am very grateful to him.
Now this was rather unexpected in all of my journeys I never thought what I am about to tell you would happen next. Stuart’s family was all getting together for his grandfather’s 80th birthday, he had aunts and uncles flying in from everywhere! So this was a mighty big deal, but when we mentioned it I had no problem meeting more of the wonderful Scottish people and like I have seen over and over I was very welcome to be there. I had many questions thrown at me and pictures taken of Stuart and I and I really had a great time! With wonderful people, food, wine and good cheer. I even tried sake for my first time being that I was in Scotland and sake is Japanese but none the less it was nice. After the party it was sadly time for me to go on to Stirling and Stuart took me to the station as originally promised. It was a sort of sad farewell but we hope to keep in touch and maybe get to see each other some more before I head back to the states. That or he’ll simply have to bring himself and his mates to Colorado to show them what we do there!
On a final note Stuart gave me a Scottish phrase book which is a hoot and a half to read through. I was told by him and his friends to learn: “It’s a braw bricht moonlit nicht the nich” Meaning: “It’s a nice bright moonlit night tonight.”
I also learned that the Scots delight in trying to convince American tourists that haggis is a goat-like animal and not sheep stomach stuffed with meat and oatmeal. Oh and I’m informed that people really believe them, shows you what people will buy into on vacation.
So that’s my thought and stories on Edinburgh, a very beautiful city that I will always hold a love for and that I hope to visit once again here sooner rather than later.
Peace and Love,