Last weekend, I visited some extended family in Edinburgh. Not only did I get to crash on their couch and play with their cats, they knew the best places to go and the fastest ways to get there – a key advantage to visiting locals.
The city itself is rather how I first imagined Dublin, especially the Old Town. Edinburgh Castle looms overhead on a rocky crag; turning down a random street, you will suddenly be presented with a view of it. The Royal Mile runs downhill from the Castle with dozens of “closes” (alleyways) branching off in a herringbone pattern; at the end of each, you’ll find a little apartment courtyard, or a garden, or maybe a pub tucked away. It’s very much a walking city, something I appreciated even more after London.
It also has something of a grim sense of humor. The Grassmarket, a square historically used as a public execution site, features pubs named “The Last Drop” (complete with a noose on the sign) and “Maggie Dickson’s Pub,” after famed Half-Hangit Maggie, who survived her execution and was allowed to go free. More ominous-sounding is the well-known gentlemen’s club “Burke & Hare,” named after two 19th century serial killers who sold their victims’ bodies to Edinburgh anatomists.
We hiked up Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, located in the middle of the city and described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.” Most of the walk was easy, but reaching the peak required scrambling on all fours up rocks worn smooth by use and the wind. It was worth it when we made the peak, standing in the middle of 650 acres of highland landscape and looking out over the whole of the city.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Bea Gantzer, and I am a junior English major at Washington University in St. Louis. I'm a distance runner, baker, and Minnesotan. This will be my first time out of the United States, and I look forward to experiencing a new culture, soaking up Dublin's rich history, and getting little-kid excited over seeing buildings older than the U.S. itself.</span></p>