As usual, my American stereotypical perspective of Scotland consisted of sheep, lots of them, haggis, bagpipes and kilts galore. Thankfully, my assumptions were 100% true this time! Chalk one up for American accuracy. I saw many guys dressed up like the old man in the picture below. Most played bagpipes, so I got to know the sound of a wailing animal quite well. However, there is more to Scotland than we realize, so much more.
Edinburgh reminded me of Dublin, the environment and the people were very similar. Edinburgh is very hilly, the streets are literally diagonal and if you are not in excellent shape, you will have difficulty getting around Edinburgh. Not only were the streets challenging, my friends and I had to climb six flights of stairs to get to our hostel room. We definitely got our exercise there. The hostel location was perfect, it was on Cockburn street, which is down the street from the Royal Mile, one of Edinburgh's most famous and busiest streets. Believe it or not, the Royal Mile is not a mile long, it is precisely 1 Scots mile which means it really is 1.1 miles, oy vey. The Royal Mile really is an interesting street, it connects Edinburgh Castle from the top with Parliament at the bottom of the hill. The Royal Family would travel on the street to go from the Castle to Parliament, hence the name, Royal Mile :) Along the Royal Mile are closes, alleyways that lead to the next street. Each close has a unique name and some are really creepy, some are really awesome.
The first time I looked into a shop window, I immediately saw the first of many kilts and knew I was in Scotland. The pattern is often mistakenly called plaid by millions of people, it is actually called tartan.
The Royal Mile! Below is one of the many closes that were built to connect other streets and the city to the Royal Mile
Above is one of the bigger closes, alleyways that lead to other streets from the Royal Mile. Below is the Scottish flag waving proudly.
Above is a well, the dot on the bottom is actually the bottom of the well. I wouldn't want to be down there, it's a looonnnggg way down! Below is Edinburgh Castle with the pretty sun shining!
There were so many sites Johnny took us to, all were fascinating. But, only a few really stuck out to me. There was a statue of King Edward I (I believe) on a horse. It was built to try to build up respect for the English because the Scots absolutely despise the English. This statue however comes with a funny history. The statue is not exactly built proportionally. The man is much larger than the horse. So, when it was first put up, the local people would not figure out if the man was riding a horse or a donkey, so they started laughing saying that the king was riding a donkey. Back then, it was considered treason to laugh or make fun of the king. So, the king had guards stand around the statue and arrest anyone who laughed or made fun of the statue. Let's just say that a lot of people were arrested. Edinburgh is a very windy and rainy city, eventually, the horse began to tilt over because the water was getting into the statue and making the head heavier. So, Scots said that the horse was drunk and the statue became even more funny. In result, the king gathered the best designers and physicists to solve this problem. Their solution? Drill a hole at the bottom of the horse, which happened to be in the special area of the horse :) SO, now when it rained, the water would get into the statue, but come out looking like the horse was peeing. This made the Scots laugh even more and the king finally gave up. Finally, a few years ago, the city of Edinburgh put the statue in its upright position, put a support beam at the bottom of the horse's foot and filled the whole thing with some kind of concrete. No more entertainment for the Scots, boo hoo.
Next, Johnny took us to a gigantic landmark which was right in front of St. Giles Cathedral. We all assumed it had something to do with the cathedral's history, boy were we wrong. The landmark was the center of a huge market that would take place everyday way back when. Interestingly, at this market, it was really easy to steal, but thieves were always caught. Once a thief was caught, the punishment was humiliating. Your earlobe would be nailed to the wall of the landmark. You had two choices, one was to stand there and let all the women and children spit at you, men pour urine at you, beat you up, hit, kick and all that wonderful jazz and then the nail was removed from your earlobe and you were free with a small hole in your ear. The other choice was to rip off your ear from the nail all by yourself and walk away with 1 and half ears. Eeehhh...don't try stealing in Scotland!
Above is the apartment where J.K. Rowling lived while she was writing the very first drafts of Harry Potter...the farthest top left window was her room.
Clearly, the birthplace of Harry Potter is in Edinburgh, Scotland thanks to the Elephant House for clarifying that! Below is a picture of the school that inspired J.K. Rowling to dream up Hogwarts.
The walking tour lasted three hours and we were given a great historical perspective of the city. We learned 300 million years of history in about 10 minutes. Not bad!
Above is a view of Edinburgh behind me and below is the view on the other side, the "mountains" of Edinburgh. Both beautiful views reminded me so much of home.