October was cold in New York. Not the kind of cold that bleeds through your clothes and to your core, but rather the sort that chills the outside air while still leaving your body its warmth. After every drawn-out summer, October would seize the earth with its brisk weather and reinspire my love of the outdoors. In the mornings before school, I would wander through the dew-strung grass searching for mushrooms. On the weekends my parents would take me to the local pumpkin patches and farm stands for produce and apple cider donuts. Our scarves and jackets would come out of the attic, and rakes would come out of the shed. The leaves in the wood across the street would change; my dad would often recite to me that the better the rainfall, the brighter their colors.
October in Siena is warm, so I made plans to leave: to find a place where I could feel Autumn the way I’ve longed to all summer. I booked a trip to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.
Edinburgh is a windblown medieval city on Scotland’s southern border. Buildings scale the hilly geography: from many winding streets you may look up and see Edinburgh’s stony castle where it stands born up on a green crag, withstanding the forceful gales of the sea. Peering through alleyways, you may also catch a glimpse of the Scott Monument, whose gothic spire looms over a sprawling park of lush, amber deciduous trees. Reddening leaves blow across cobblestone sidewalks, light mists wet the ground. On Halloween day, I was experiencing the city in its prime.
If you happen upon the city in October, don’t miss their Mercat Tours. You will find that they offer an array of immersive experiences inside the city dungeons, churches, and graveyards. Tour guides often dress in Victorian costume as they recite the city’s dark past of witch hunts and ghost lore.
Roaming around, I was instilled with a sense of transportation. Walking along its dark curving roads flanked by steep gabled townhouses, I felt a sort of dark magic in the air. Edinburgh is known as the birthplace of Harry Potter: JK Rowling is said to have written the earliest chapters of Harry Potter here. Daigon Market, the fictional wizard thoroughfare Rowling invented in her books, is thought to have been inspired by Edinburgh’s cobblestoned Victoria Street, wherein you’ll see storefronts and pubs stacked one on top of the other, recessing into the bend of the buildings. In the dark of night, Victoria street is aglow with the dim light of pub windows and wintery string lights drawn overhead. For dedicated fans of the Harry Potter series, it is worth looking into the other pilgrimage sites Edinburgh has to offer, including the very cafe where Rowling spent hours each day writing the Chosen One into existence.
Countless other authors and scholars have buried themselves in Edinburgh’s academic charm while at the craft of writing. One such person was the famous Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, after whom the Scott Monument itself was dedicated. In fact, before Cambridge and Oxford had established themselves as the sparking hubs of scholarship that they are today, Edinburgh was recognized as Britain’s foremost center of knowledge and learning. Intoxicated by the atmosphere, I had an insatiable appetite to settle down in one of Edinburgh’s many cafes with a hot cup of coffee and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Being a prospective grad student myself, I even slipped down the rabbit hole of researching programs at The University of Edinburgh and their international admissions policies; I loved the city to such an extent that I could envision myself living there.
One last thing you must experience is the night life. In Scotland where winters see only seven hours of sunlight, taverns and bars are abundant. There are many subterranean speakeasy-style joints buried beneath the street. To find them one must only listen for the sound of music and laughter as the streets take on the quiet ambience of the night. Try heading down to Nightcap, where you can find a good drink while surrounded by the sybilline, dark character of Edinburgh.
Having returned to Italy, Edinburgh's charm still lingers in my mind. As an undergraduate student studying in Boston, the personality of Edinburgh translates easily. Where I study we mythologize Robert Frost and the Salem Witch Trials. Edinburgh, however, with its gothic spires and rustling autumn leaves, is perhaps the forerunner of this aesthetic.
Though I don’t know when, I am certain one day I will return.
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My name is Olivia Bozuhoski, and I am a Boston-based Arts Administration student. I love painting, reading, journaling, hiking, wine, and learning about art history. I am thrilled to be in Italy this semester, and even more thrilled to be sharing the experience with students like myself.