Edinburgh - The City of Festivals
August 24th, 2009 - August 27th, 2009
My next adventure brought me to Edinburgh. Just in time to catch the world famous Edinburgh Festival. I learned that its several festivals that all occur at the same time in August. This includes the International Festival, the Fringe Festival, the Military Tattoo Festival, the Book Festival, and many others. The moment I got off the bus I was surrounded by the beautiful architecture that is Old Town Edinburgh. The festival had taken over the Royal Mile. Street performers were doing their acts, promoters were dressed in costume handing out fliers and the various types of music echoed through the streets. The city had been transformed and the energy was through the roof. I went on a 3 hour walking tour learning about the history of Edinburgh, snapping pictures of all the beautiful buildings.
I just couldn't get enough of it. I ended up in the Edinburgh Castle which is the first real castle I've ever been in. It certainly lived up to my expectations. The massive stone castle was centered on the edge of a cliff in the middle of Edinburgh. It’s large enough to hold a small village inside its walls. The stone streets spiral up towards the top where the many of the social elite stayed. Everyday the 'One O'Clock Gun' is fired as a tradition from long ago when it was fired to alarm sailors in the Fife. Across from the One O'clock Gun you will find Mon Meg which is the gigantic canon given to Scotland as a present. The castles have been home to a lot of Scottish history, including Queen Mary and King Edward (the first person to unite Scotland and England).
Many wars between the Scots and the English were fought over Edinburgh Castle. As I made my way outside of the castle there was a hilarious duo from Israel performing a combination of acrobatics with a goofy humour to entertain the crowds. At sunset I began to hike up to Calton Hill for a view of the Dugald Stewart Monument and the National Monument with the city of Edinburgh in the background. It was absolutely amazing. The next day I went on a day tour through the Scottish Highlands, up to Loch Ness. On the way we stopped to meet 'Haggy', the nicest brown Scottish cow you'll ever meet. We continued the drive to Glencoe which is a village in the highlands.
In Glencoe I met Laura who was an American student/activist and John a CGI artist who's worked on major blockbuster firms such as Bolt. At lunch I tried the traditional Scottish dish, Haggis. I must admit it tastes good until you find out what it’s made of. We ate lunch and then ran across the street to catch the Loch Ness tour boat. It took us around the world-renowned Loch Ness where the famous 'Nessie the Loch Ness Monster' is said to live. Unfortunately, Nessie did not make an appearance. Our tour guide made the long drive seem like seconds by telling us all about the history of Scotland, Queen Mary and William Wallace. She also played some traditional Scottish music on the drive back for us.
The next day was all about the Festival and taking in the shows.
I started off with the 'Early Edition' where a panel of English/Scottish comedians ripped through the headlines making jokes. After that it was off to the gravity defying 'Controlled Falling Project.' An incredible feature of athleticism and acrobatics with a mix of theatre. The highlight of the whole trip to Edinburgh was later when I attended the Military Tattoo. A military aircraft flew over the castle to signal the beginning of the Military Tattoo and the castle lit up in bright red colour as the sun set in the background. A band of Scottish pipers marched out to center stage. There were performers from around the world, playing traditional music, performing local dances and entertaining the crowd like I've never seen before. Chinese dancers, Japanese trombonists, and African tribe dancers all dazzled the crowd. The most memorable performance for me was by the "TOP SECRET MILITARY DRUMLINE", from Switzerland. They moved the crowd with their drumming and halfway through, when everyone thought they were done their drumsticks went up in flames and they began playing with them on fire as the crowd went completely crazy.
For the finale, all the performers came onto the stage and fireworks went off over the castle. The Military Tattoo was a great finish to a trip to Edinburgh that I will never forget but before I left I went to an improv comedy show and after that I went to a Silent Disco. This is a place where clubbers get a headset and are given the choice to listen to two DJ's battling each other as listeners would dance and sing to two different songs.
On my last day I went down the Royal Mile and began a hike up the dormant Arthur's Seat volcano which shaped the city of Edinburgh. The hike was harsh but the views more than made up for the challenge.
As a child I used to hate the sound of bagpipes, but now after visiting Scotland the sound of them will forever bring joy to my heart as a reminder of the wonderful time I had in Scotland.