Land of the Brave?

I feel that it is only right to write about my hometown as I devote so much time to my travels abroad. It is true what they say, we don’t appreciate our native city until we leave, or show our friends around.

 I am very proud to say I am from Edinburgh; it’s a beautiful city, unrivaled by any other in the UK (although York is a close second). Having gone to university in England, I was met with unwarranted criticism of Scotland and was even asked if I had a British passport by one poor ignorant soul. I mean, what has Scotland ever achieved? Oh wait, didn’t one of our citizens invent the telephone, another the television, another penicillin, and another discover how malaria is transmitted? The English are so quick to dismiss the other three countries that make up this so-called Great Britain, when in reality, much of the “Great” comes from these other three countries.

Edinburgh has a very rich history, one which begs to be told to every visitor. The castle is magnificent of course, as is the volcanic rock upon which it sits, as is Holyrood Palace at the base of the former volcano, Arthur’s Seat, and who could forget Princes Street Gardens? These gardens are of interest not only because they run parallel to Princes St, famous for shopping, or because they are host to a number of concerts in the summer and at New Year, but because of the fact they used to be filled with water. Indeed, the gardens were once a moat protecting the castle, and during the Plague in the 17th century, it was filled with dead bodies and sewage.

Edinburgh is renowned for its underground city and dungeons which are claimed to be haunted by victims of the plague and tortured souls. The current city of Edinburgh was built over the Old Town which housed the slums of the city for the poor and the deceased. It was also a hiding place for the murdered victims of Burke and Hare’s medical experiments. It is possible to go into these underground vaults and ghost tours are a popular tourist attraction throughout the city. In fact, I took one of my English friends on the ghost bus tour of Edinburgh – highly recommended!

But, Edinburgh also has a vibrant social life. Each year in August, tourists and performers alike flock to the capital to take part in the Fringe Festival. A month long comedy festival, almost every pub, bar, club and theatre is turned into a festival venue for comedians, singers, actors, musicians, poets from all over the world. There are family shows, outdoor plays, street performers, book festivals, late-night shows, free shows and puppet shows, all served with our traditional fish & chips and a side of mushy pees, of course!

New Year, or Hogmanay, as we celts all it, is also a must-do if you are in Scotland (and if you can stand the cold!). A three-day celebration, there is a torchlight procession to Calton Hill, which has simply the best views of the city, there is a ceilidh (a traditional Scottish dance), a huge concert in the gardens (make sure you reserve tickets early), a street party on Princes St, with several free concerts but very expensive beer, at midnight, there is a huge firework display over the castle and on New Year’s Day, some very brave (or downright stupid) people go skinny-dipping in the North Sea before sitting down to a New Year’s Dinner of haggis, neeps and tatties (sheep’s tummy, turnip, carrots and mashed potato).



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