arriving in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Travel Blog› entry 51 of 68 › view all entries
Immediately apparent upon arrival in Waverley station, Edinburgh is a massive city, bustling with activity. The staff at the Tourist Information Centre confirmed that every budget accommodation in town was full, but gave me a map to go and check each one personally for cancellations.
My first objective was to ditch my backpack so that I might roam freely around the city. After a half-hour hunt to break ₤3 into 50p coins, I stashed my pack in a coin-operated locker. Anticipating a long night on the streets, I packed a day-bag in my small duffle, but even that would become a burden.
Edinburgh is another city with grand, stunning architecture. One Romanesque building with sphinxes adorning its crown, a hilltop castle, cathedrals, and so on, but the most prominent structure has to be the Scott Monument in the city centre. It resembles a stone Eiffel Tower, adorned with statues. I strolled about until 6:00, half looking for a hostel and half just taking in the atmosphere of the Scottish metropolis.
I stumbled upon the SYHA, which was expectedly full to capacity due to the festival in addition to the day being a bank holiday. The receptionist began calling other hostels, all of which were predictably booked, but then she poked around on her computer a wee bit and discovered a room to accommodate me. My room was a single that cost ₤18.50 (the special elevated festival season rate), but I was glad to have a bed for the night.
On the advice of the receptionist, I took the Mercat Ghosts & Ghouls walking tour. Our guide took us through several closes (the narrow alleys between the tall residential dwellings) as she told the stories of how in the time before sewer pipes and toilets existed in the buildings, buckets served as receptacles for human waste. After a certain hour each day, the tenants were permitted to empty the buckets into the close. Those on higher floors, rather than walking the pail down several flights of stairs, would simply toss the contents out the window. They were first, however, supposed to call out “Gardyloo” to which any pedestrian below could look up and reply, “Hold your hand.” Eager to remove the sewage from their living areas, and to the befoulment of unsuspecting passersby, the tenants would occasionally neglect to call out the warning until they had started dumping. As the resident began to dump and called out “Gardyloo,” the pedestrian below would look up to wave off the spill while calling “Hold your…” (splat!) Though not at all frightening, the tour was an engrossing and typically Edinburghin activity that concluded in some of the historic underground vaults.
After the tour, I sat down for bread and cheese with a couple of cans of McEwans. Delia, an English woman celebrating her 35th birthday, pulled up a seat on the other end of the bench and initiated conversation, asking about the next tour just beginning at the Mercat Cross. We ended up hanging out together around the city concluding the night in a pub watching fireworks from the patio and sipping beer until 2:30 am.