Friday, April 15, 2011

An Adventure in Edinburgh

My ten-day break began in Bratislava, Slovakia. We spent the night before our morning flight in the Bratislava airport. I used my travel blanket and was able to sleep for a few hours, but the floor was kind of cold. In the morning, as we sat waiting for our check-in, a random woman gave a banana to me and an apple to Sarah. She must have seen us poor college students curled up like hobos and had taken pity on us.

The flight was only a few hours; Sarah napped while Brian and I talked. I also read some of Lewis' The Abolition of Man. When we arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland, everything felt surreal. It was hard to believe that we were actually there. We withdrew some pounds from an ATM and boarded a bus to our hostel. It was my first ride in the top of a double-decker bus, and I watched the passing scenery in fascination. Edinburgh is probably the tidiest and most stately-looking city I have ever seen. There were no rough or ghetto areas; every part of the city we passed was beautiful.

Our hostel, Caledonian Backpackers, was a grungy, artsy place overrun by hippies. Our receptionist was a nice gal with dreadlocks and lip piercings. The walls were painted bright greens, oranges, reds, blues...and the artwork was interesting, to say the least. It wasn't sketchy, just a little weird. Most importantly, the people were really nice, and it was cheap.

After checking in, we wandered around Edinburgh. We saw Sir Walter Scott's house, which was neat; I went through a Sir Walter Scott phase over the summer and read some of his books. We visited a very old, very Gothic graveyard, which actually had a monument to the Scottish soldiers of the American Civil War. We visited Carlton Hill, a park with several famous monuments, including the Scottish National Monument and a monument to Lord Nelson. This wind was so very strong that ever so often, it pushed us back a few steps. If you didn't keep your footing and brace yourself, you could easily have been knocked down.

Holyrood Palace

We then walked through town, past Holyrood Abbey (which is the Scottish residence of the Queen), and up the mountain which rises in the midst of the city. Its summit is called Arthur's Seat. When we reached the top, we sprawled out on the thick grass and gazed into the sky, with the tremendous gusts of wind whipping over us. I thought the wind was strong down in the city streets, but it was nothing compared to the strength of the wind atop the mountain.

We then walked to the crags, but took care to stay a few paces away from the cliffs, because the wind could have easily knocked us over the edge. Rather, I took care to stay away from the edge, and Brian tempted fate by getting as close as I would let him. We eventually found the perfect sitting spot with a fantastic view of the city below. We were in the wind's full blast, and sat with our backs braced against a rock wall.

That evening, we had a frugal dinner, eating some bread and sausage that I had packed. We went to bed early, too, because we were all worn out from our previous night in the airport. This was my first time sleeping in a hostel dorm room, and it wasn't bad at all. Most of the others were fellow backpacking college students, and I really didn't have to worry about my belongings. There were about a half dozen bunk beds, and most of the others got in late after pubbing, so I actually did not see too much of them.

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