As you may have noticed by now, I have a thing for cramming in way too many places when short traveling. Especially when going back to Europe, where flying from one city to another is really cheap (at least compared to the US). Last year it was Florence and Pisa, which were two short visits that went by in a zap.
This time I randomly chose Edinburgh. With only a short train ride from England and me never having been here before, it seemed like a great destination to explore. And spending 36 hours in the Scottish capital was certainly an experience. Not only because it was in mid-February and an odd time weather-wise. I also had no clue what to expect and that was perhaps the best thing to happen to me. Scottish history – say what?
I arrived late at night and took an airport bus from Edinburgh airport. If you ever arrive here – take it, it’s the best thing ever! It’s a charming red double decker and you already get a pretty good view of the Scottish city when driving into it. With the so-called Airlink 100 I got off at Waverly Bridge and walked over to the Castle Rock Hostel, where I was staying. As the name implies, it’s located right beneath the fabulous castle and I got a great view of this medieval chunk when exiting the hostel.
On my way over there, I couldn’t help but notice a few drunks stumbling around in the streets at 11pm on a Monday night. This reminded me of my time in London a few years ago and how bars close down way too early (or way too late for Brits and their alcoholic drinking habits). I also came across Skinner’s Close, which literally meant what it said: It was a mirror propped in the streets on the Royal Mile, meant to make everyone who comes across it look extremely thin. Kind of like a gag in the middle of the city. I wonder if it was more crowded during day time, but at night I was certainly the only one taking selfies in front of it.
After a short night I decided to make the best of my first and only full day by doing a free walking tour. These are pretty much offered throughout the entire city but staying in a hostel really helped, since they could recommend a good company (Sandeman’s is a star!). As it happened to be, there were so many people waiting outside of the Starbucks on High Street, that we were divided into three different groups. Our tour guide was an adorable American lady, who obviously had a passion for her city-of-choice and told us lots of great anecdotes about medieval Edinburgh.
Who knew what the true meaning of “shit-faced” is? Well, to spare you much detail, it has to do with residents emptying out their night pots at certain times of the day. Also, just the fact that Scotland was not its own real kingdom after 1603 is quite interesting in itself. And then of course the romantic tale of the Stone of Destiny and students stealing it back in the mid-20th century. But what we all really wanted to hear about were the executions: From several centers in town, the grass market is perhaps the most intense one, with mystic tales of that one woman who got away.