Yep. I know I’ve dropped the ball again when it comes to blogging (although, let’s face it, when it comes to my blogging habits, I have all the athletic skills of – well, of me, really). In my defence, it has been a crazy time: new city, new people, new bookstores to discover and spend way too much time in…. But now that winter has begun to sink its teeth into the city, and tourism seems distinctly less appealing in the biting wind (seriously, what is up with the wind in this city?) I thought I’d share some of my first impressions of Edinburgh. Because to be honest, I haven’t had all that much time to stop and reflect on my experiences here so far. Also, it’s essay-writing season over at the university, and I’m a tried and tested procrastinator.
So… where to begin with this famous city of literature? (And I’m not just saying that, by the way – Edinburgh really was named a City of Literature by UNESCO.)
First, just a brief word about the aforementioned wind and rain and stuff. I’ve always been one of those people who banged on about how I love the cold and how there’s nothing better than sitting inside and reading a book on a rainy day. I was actually looking forward to the gloomy weather of the British Isles. But coming from Australia, I don’t think I was prepared for just how much weather there actually is here. The skies over Edinburgh have the attention span on a two-year-old; look away from their sunny faces for a few seconds and suddenly you’re covered in unmentionable goo from head to foot. I still don’t think I’m entirely used to how quickly the weather can take a turn for the worse here. And I never, never thought I’d miss the sun. I have a slightly lower risk of melanoma now, but I still think I finally get why people like the sunshine.
The Hills Are Alive
Another unexpected thing – just how beautiful the Scottish landscape is. It’s entirely different from the lush greenery of England and Ireland, and much more about strange, gold-and-green-and-brown hills that seem to have a dreamy, fluffy look about them. They’re not easy on the leg muscles, but they are incredibly beautiful.
The City At Night (Is Incredibly Creepy)
Edinburgh is apparently famous for being quite the ghost town, and it’s hardly surprising that so many famous crime writers seem to have made a living from this place. Ian Rankin, Irvine Walsh, and J.K. Rowling are just three names, although on the Rowling front Edinburgh is probably better-known for its connection to Harry Potter (more on that in a later post). Maybe it’s the effect of the towering brown-stone buildings, or the claustrophobic little closes, or perhaps the grim history of body-snatching that made the city infamous in the Victorian era. In either case, Edinburgh at night can be a spooky place.
But despite the huge number of grim tales associated with Edinburgh, it was also home to some of the classics of British literature. Walter Scott, R.L. Stevenson, and Robert Burns all have strong connections with the city, in one way or another. Scott is a constant presence; the Scott Monument on the main shopping street, Princes Street, is the largest monument to a writer in the world. That’s right. They love their writers here. So much so that they build colossal monuments to them. How many cities can claim that?
Bookstores, Bookstores, Bookstores
Edinburgh is also a veritable haven for people like me, who can’t resist a good bookstore. Especially a good second-hand bookstore, complete with creaky floors, funny smells, and random piles of books everywhere. Health hazards? Only for the faint-hearted. And unromantic. I’ve already gotten to know the bookstores in West Port way too well, and in the tradition of all good bookworms everywhere, have inexplicably found myself with a ton of new books that I have no way of finishing in the next year.
So, there it is – a whirlwind tour of Edinburgh. Sadly, for the moment I’m confined to touring the halls of the university library, thanks to my major essay deadlines, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relive all the fun I had when I first got to the city, or plan ahead for the warmer months. Also, I’m betting the city looks pretty cool when it’s lit up for Christmas.
Have you ever been to Edinburgh? What were your impressions of it?