Greetings from Scotland!!
So much has been happening these first few weeks that I have scarcely had chance to write. Wow, where to begin?
Let’s start with the handsome and engaging city of Edinburgh. Perhaps the first thing you notice is its history, tangibly inscribed in the cobblestone streets and visibly written on the browned buildings of Old Town and the Edinburgh Castle that stands atop one of Edinburgh’s seven hills, looking down at the very heart of the city. Athens was also built upon seven hills and for this reason, along with the fact that it was a major well-spring of the Enlightenment, Edinburgh is known as the “Athens of the North.” Furthermore, the setting of the city is striking. Having been built on a series of extinct volcanoes and rocky crags, the wild beauty of Scotland can still be found within the city. Arthur’s Seat, the largest and most impressive of Edinburgh’s volcanoes rises up over 800 feet from the generally flat landscape of the Lothians. The climb to the top, which I made the first weekend here, provides one of the most picturesque views of the city. Edinburgh’s natural beauty does not end there though. Aside from the numerous green spaces interwoven throughout the city, the shoreline of the Firth of Forth can be seen from one of its most infamous streets, the Royal Mile, which begins at the castle and descends to prospects of the royal Palace of Holyroodhouse, situated in Holyrood Park, an extensive area of open countryside dominated by Arthur’s Seat and woven into the fabric of the city.
Frost-bitten flowers in front of Grant House of Pollock Halls where I live. Plants manage to survive the cold here in Scotland, keeping much of the country’s wild places green year-round.
Pollock Halls, the complex of student residential buildings where I live. It is situated directly in front of Arthur’s Seat, which can be seen in the background.
On the way to the peak of Arthur’s Seat
A view of the distant hills surrounding Edinburgh upon sunset from the top of Arthur’s Seat
Edinburgh is home to one of the finest higher education institutions in the world. The University of Edinburgh was established in 1583 and it is happily integrated into the city, making Edinburgh not only a vibrant, youthful capital, but also a hub for intellectual thought. Students here take their academics seriously and the few hours of daylight they do receive in the winter months, are spent in the libraries. I am not kidding when I say that you cannot find a seat in any of the five floors of George Square’s gigantic library, where many of the University’s Social Sciences buildings are located. However, a hard day of study merits a night of fun and socializing. Night life here is centered around the city’s distinctive pubs. One of the best places to meet students and the locals (I know from personal experience), you are sure to encounter the lively and friendly nature of the Scottish people at the many historic pubs around the city.
The “pretty sort of wilderness” (as Lady Catherine de Bourgh would say) that George Square is laid out around. This is where I attend most of my classes.
A huge expanse of green lies upon one side of George Square, called The Meadows. It stretches for over a mile in the heart of the city and is a favorite among runners, nature enthusiasts, or students simply looking for a beautiful place to study.
And so for the past week I have been adjusting to life here in Scotland, where you say “cheers” instead of “thank you”, eat sheep’s innards instead of hamburgers (it was actually delicious!), you’re “bonnie” instead of “beautiful”, you “bag a munro” instead of “climb a hill”, you walk instead of drive, and wear tights instead of jeans.
Concerning the second to last point, I walk nearly seven miles a day just to go from class to class. The science buildings (King’s Buildings) and those of the humanities and social sciences (George’s Square) are a 40-minute walk from each other. Unfortunately, I have classes in both since I am studying Animal Biology, Anthropology, and taking a course on Scotland’s history while here. My legs are still getting used to the fact that I walk nearly 10 miles a day. Consequently, my stomach is getting used to digesting the extra calories…lots of extra calories. It seems I’m hungry all the time! Thank goodness I have catered housing or else I would be spending all my extra time cooking!
A bit of what I see on my way to class at the King’s Buildings, where all the science courses are held. The apartments here display an architectural style common in Edinburgh.
Walking does not burn nearly as many calories as what I did Thursday evening though. In an effort to learn more about the Scottish culture and meet people, I joined the New Scotland Country Dance Society. Three hours of hopping, skipping, spinning, and weaving and I have been sore ever since. I tell you though, that is the most fun I have EVER had dancing. I’ll most definitely be going back next week to learn more Ceilidh and Country dances. The University has over 250 societies and aside from the NSCDS I am also looking to join the Catholic Student Union, the Hillwalking Society, and the Exmoor Pony Trekking Society. If I can find a cello to play or rent I’ll audition for the Chamber Orchestra Society as well. Hopefully renting a cello will fit within my budget!
Speaking about budget, the living here is so much more expensive than back in the States. I feel guilty every time I have to result to going out to eat since you pay a pretty penny unless all you decide to have is a scone or something. And with my newly developed appetite of champions I never even came, or will, come close to calling a pastry a meal (although I did have a scone and latte once for lunch once). The buck doesn’t stop there though – you literally have to pay for everything including plastic shopping bags and laundry. Oftentimes, you even have to pay to go to the restroom! Which by the way, they call “toilets” here.
Grabbed brunch before class. That was one of the best cranberry scones I have ever had.
Ah yes, Europe. Nothing is as great as paying twenty bucks to go to a movie and 5 dollars to have a drink. Sigh, I suppose I’m just going to have to forgo the many common pleasures of life, like free high efficiency washers and driers (every inch of my room is covered in my wet clothes…I didn’t have any coins left to pay for zeeeee dryer). However, I must admit that the good aspects of living here so easily outnumber the not so good. Edinburgh is one of the most gorgeous cities I have ever seen and the people of Scotland some of the kindest. I would be crazy to not look forward to every moment I spend and every experience I have in this wonderfully beautiful country. And so, with that said, I will post again soon with more photos of Edinburgh and all its enchantments!
Beijos and cheers!
A glimpse of the reverent Edinburgh Castle
The setting sun casting a warm glow on the castle walls is truly a magnificent prospect
A piece of Princes Street Gardens, a park that envelopes the area beneath the Castle hill in green
Edinburgh is just as beautiful when night falls over the city
The history of Edinburgh is so tangible. You can feel it as you walk its streets.