Apologies to readers of this blog for the extended interim. I could bore you with many excuses of tedious finals and travel plans, but complaining solves nothing. Suffice it to say I have been hitting the books and recovering from hitting the books, and let us not mention the formal, exhaustive, somewhat intimidating finals.
I am one of the lucky few study abroad students whose final schedule ended a week before traversing the ocean to reach home sweet home. (Alas, two of my American housemates have a final tomorrow-poor souls.) In celebration and the desire to get away from a campus where too much studying occurred, I decided to go to Edinburgh in Scotland, or pronounced by the locals as Edinbra.
Edinburgh has an extremely colorful history, and I would definitely recommend taking the free walking tour to learn all about it. The tour lasts about three hours, but they are well worth it. I was taken to the cathedral where Sean Connery was knighted. Coincidentally, this is also only one of two places with a statue of an angel playing the bagpipes. I learned of such characters as Maggie Dickson, who was hanged once for concealing her pregnancy, and then miraculously survived. She could not be hanged again, because it would have been considered double jeopardy. She bought a house right outside of the gallows.
The city has a lot of literary ties. The book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was based on an Edinburgh citizen who built the gallows and made the keys for all of the houses of Edinburgh by day. By night, he would use said keys to steal from the rich. He was eventually caught and hung at the gallows he built. J.K. Rowling based the Harry Potter castle on one of the schools in Edinburgh. Facing the school was a grave of a McGonagall, one of the worst poets in Scottish history. Joseph Bell, another citizen, was the first to solve a murder case forensically, and his assistant was the world famous Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
The ghost tour was also well worth the eight pounds fee. We learned of cursed bridges (biggest rate of suicide jumpers in Edinburgh), horrendous murders, graverobbing (a popular, albeit frowned upon profession), witch burning, faeries who will burrow in your stomach and eat you from the inside out, pagan rituals still practiced today, and a very recent vampire story. Afterwards, the tour treats you to a pint of beer on the Royal Mile. The guides are normally performing arts students who really get into the stories and ad a bit of humor along the way.
Edinburgh castle is definitely an amazing sight as well. The view from the castle is breathtaking. The castle itself has a heartrenching war memorial that lists the names of all the soldiers who died in both World Wars. It contains the museum of the Scottish Cavaliers and the quarters used by one of the kings of Scotland. The military prison is still intact, and contains wax dummies of soldiers who spent time there. Alas, some of the rooms reminded me of student housing, but perhaps it was simply my post-final frame of mind. The hounors and a museum dedicated to them are also located in the castle. These include a scepter, sword, crown, and the Stone of Destiny. The Stone of Destiny was stolen by the English, and has its own adventurous tale. Suffice it to say that it was only returned recently. When it was brought back into Edinburgh Castle, it was escorted in with the Mission Impossible theme song playing on the bagpipes. Scotland, you are AWESOME!