Today is our second day in Edinburgh, Scotland (the capital of the country). Yesterday morning we took a train from Glasgow to get here. It's only a 40 mile or so ride, so we were here within an hour by 1pm. As soon as we arrived we bought our train tickets to London for tomorrow. Not cheap, £69 I believe. Oh well, what are you gonna do?
So, Edinburgh is possibly the most amazing and beautiful city I've ever seen. The main "tourist" street is called the Royal Mile (actually longer than a mile) and starts at the bottom of a hill and works its way up to the Edinburgh castle. The street is lined with buildings none of which is less than 400 years old give or take a year or two. They contain various shops, pubs, and other stores with chuches mixed in. I'm pretty sure the top 3 or so floors of each building contains apartments. At the top of the hill is this massive medieval castle which towers over the entire city. It's perched precariously on a huge bluff and is an amazing sight to behold.
About an hour or so after arriving, we went up to the castle for a tour. £10 to get in, but well worth it. You cross the moat and go through the gate which is guarded by two huge statutes of William Wallace (Braveheart) and Robert the Bruce (won Scottish freedom from the English). The castle itself isn't one building, but rather a compound of several buildings, the oldest of which was built in the 1130. That's old. We toured the castle for about 2 or so hours. The crown jewels are located there. Nice looking headwear, I must say, and the oldest crown jewels in the world. The views from the castle were also amazing. It was about 70 and sunny, and you could see for miles all over the entire city and out to the Firth of Forth.
Okay, before I go further, let me back up a little. When we left Baltimore last week, PositiveMode had a conversation with some Scot at a bar in the airport that this month is the annual Edinburgh Festival, and that the week we would be here would be the Military Tattoo. The Edinburgh Festival consists of performers from all over the world, actors, jugglers, comedians, singers, etc., etc., etc., performing at some 40 venues throughout the city at all hours of the day. I think there is literally some performance starting any minute if you wanted to see it. In addition to the actual scheduled performances, the Royal Mile is jam packed with street performs of all types, not to mention the population of Edinburgh more than doubles during the Festival.
The highlight of the Festival is the Military Tattoo. Set in front of the castle are bleachers for about 12,000 people, creating an arena of sorts with the Castle as the backdrop. Each night at 9 the Military Tattoo takes place. What is a Military Tattoo (I had no idea . . . thought it was something to do with skin art)? The Military Tattoo is an amassing of the military bands from throughout the British Empire, led of course, by the Scottish drummers and pipers. They perform under the lights and the castle each night for a month. Tickets go on sale in December for this month, and are very difficult to come by. However, we heard that if you went to the office and someone had happened to return tickets within the last few minutes, you may be lucky and score some seats. We decided that it would be an awesome thing to see, so tried to get tickets. Wouldn't you know it, two people had just returned tickets, and we were able to snag two pretty good seats for last night's show.
After touring the castle and dinner, we headed back to the hostel at about 7 pm. It was amazing, there was a line that stretched about half a mile of people waiting to get in to the Tattoo and it didn't start for two hours. I'm not really sure why there was a line, because there were assigned seats, and we were able to walk in after only a 10 minute or so delay at 8:30. The show started right at nine and was amazing. The Scottish pipers and drummers were first. It was quite a sight to see about 75 pipers and 75 drummers in full kilted regalia marching and playing. The show contained horns, rifle twirling, full bands, dancers, motorcycle stunts, even a staged seige of the castle by the Scottish Marines. As it got darker they castle became more lit up in every color of the rainbow. The finale was the Scottish Tattoo and the rest of the British Tattoo playing together. There must have been 350-400 men playing all at once, pipes blaring, drums pounding, all with the massive castle lit up in reds and blues in the background. Cannons were going off, fireworks were going off. It was a sight to see and I am so thankful that we were lucky enough to get tickets (£18 and worth every penny). I have tons of pictures, but I can't post them from this computer. I think I'll be able to do it later in the day though. Until then, check out this link to the official site, which has tons of pictures of what we saw.
So, that was yesterday. What a great day in a great city. I'm not sure what the plan is for today. PositiveMode is still in bed last I saw. We'll probably just wander around some more, watch more performers and see more sights. Until we meet again. . . .
- There is a bagpipe player on every corner here in Edinburgh. I love it, but if you don't like bagpipes, this may not be the place for you.
- People in Iceland cannot seem to park. The attempts at parallel parking are laughable. There were cars on sidewalks, half in the street, parked on the corner between two streets. I probably shouldn't categorize an entire nation, but something was up with the parking.