Thursday, January 29, 2009

Edinburgh - Jan 25th 09

The next day I returned to where I had finished my sightseeing trip the day before, Holyrood Palace. It is a very dark palace, and Queen Elizabeth obviously liked Scotland that much that she ordered some nice tapestry to make the palace more comfortable. However, it is still very dark.

Unfortunately, because I visited in the Winter months, the garden was closed so I only had access to the abbey from the palace and couldn't walk around which was a shame, because the abbey is really beautiful.

I left the palace and followed the way to Holyrood park. A lot of people prepared themselves to run up the hills. It started drizzling. I followed one of the narrow paths, but found a smaller path that looked way more interesting and brought me to a church ruin. It was muddy and slippery and fun. I climbed up the first hill and found a lake and the stonefort I really wanted to see. However, then I found it way more interesting to ascend the highest hill, Arthur's seat. It was very windy, and sunny again.

I walked back into town toward Carlton Hill where I found yet another cemetery with vaults....

I then returned to town, took the bus and went to Ocean Terminal to watch the Britannica at least from the outside. I had hoped to see more of the sea... and yet regretted that I there was not enough time left to travel to the closest beach.

After having returned to the city I strolled to the National Gallery and went in to see some Scottish Artists. I found paintings from W. Dyce, R. Burns, J. Duncan and W. McTaggart there. Unfortunately, as usual there were no postcards for these paintings...

I couldn't withstand the temptation to return to the castle hill and enjoy the castle at night, before I had to return to the airport.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Edinburgh - Jan 24th 09

I arrived in Edinburgh Friday night. Compared to Cardiff it was very easy to get into town, buses drive their regularly. Even finding the hostel was very easy. I totally forgot that I had booked myself into an eight bedded mixed dorm. The first night was hell. You could hear what was going on on the floor outside the room and next door. However, the room was clean and spacious, but also heated and with no window it was extremely hot after a while. Without much sleep I started my sightseeing trip the other day...

I planned on seeing the castle first, but was a little distracted when remembering South Bridge Street from my arrival yesterday. So I followed the Royal Mile in the other direction.
This street is really impressive. It is a bridge connecting the Old Town with the New Town and below it there is Waverly Station. If you are walking under the bridge it looks as if the bridge would disappear into the houses...
And of course there is a narrow lane leading up to the Old Town (like one of the lanes in Marburg).

My next stop was St Giles Cathedral. Amazingly, I could remember the fountain and the back part of the cathedral quite well (although the first time we visited the street was busy with tourists, guides trying to sell tickets for one of many ghost or walking tours and theater folks). This time I was almost on my own.
The cathedral was almost empty, but I have to confess, that over-hearing people chatting in the cafe which was close to the Thistle Chapel, put me off. The cathedral is beautiful and I don't know how to put it, but the change of religious direction inside the building was noticeable and, that might sound romantic, but it lost its grandeur. I loved the Thistle Chapel though which is a Chapel dedicated to The Knights of the Thistle, Scotland's order of chivalry (whose boss is the present English Queen). The chapel has been finished 1911 and had massive choir stalls with colorful figurines and an impressive ceiling. It was too small though with all these huge animals looking upon you... (Here you might get an impression on how it looks like.)

I fully intended on walking straight to the castle now which is situated on one end of the Royal mile. However, there were too many interesting lanes on the right hand side of the street luring me away. I discovered backyards, caught a glimpse down on the New Town and the Writer's Museum... No wonder that Ms Rowling was inspired in that town!

Passing all these tourist shops selling kilts or checked textures, I was distracted once again from my direct course to the castle and found instead Victoria lane which ended on kind of a balcony, steps leading down to Grassmarket (part of the Old Town).

Finally, I arrived at the castle and, equipped with a guide book started my tour. Only few structures of the old castle remain; most of it has been build in the 16th century. However, the view over the city is magnificent.

On the left hand site, you can see the Carlton Hill in the distance and the sea! And on the picture on the right hand site you can see the hills belonging to the Holyrood Park which I visited the following day.

I remembered the building in the center of the castle hill very well, or let's say what you can find inside, the Scottish war memorial built in the early 20th century. Well, honoring soldiers who have died for their country might be okay, if it does not look like godlike worship. Still, it was less monstrous than what I'd seen in Washington DC, however, still too much for my taste. So I hastily left and walked into the 16th century Great Hall which ceilings were beautifully done...

After having enjoyed myself enough inside the castle, I left, eager to mount Carlton Hill which was visible from the castle. You can get a better look from the North Bridge. However, the way is long, bridges have to be crossed and ample opportunities to get lost on the way present itself...

So, I just stopped for a few minutes at the Scott's Monument. On my way to the monument I found a cemetery with a wonderfuly view on the Holyrood Park and packed with open vaults...

Finally, I mounted Carlton Hill, strolled around the top, passed the City observatory and enjoyed the 360 degree view over the city. (Not to mention that there were blossoming gorse bushes as well).

I definitely loved the hills in Holyrood Park and decided to go there the following day (after having visited Holyrood Palace though).
Having not walked enough for the day, I strolled through the Georgian part of Edinburgh, the New Town which reminded me of Dublin. Then, I returned to the Old Town to walk to the Grassmarket.

I managed to end up at Greyfriars cemetery which I had to visit at once! Again vaults, some were open so that I could glimpse inside them, some were just like one-room-buildings without a roof. One part was locked and I saw a notice that you would only be able to go into that part of the cemetery when attending one of these ghost tours... Still, I do wonder why you would like to move into a house which is adjacent to the cemetery and, if you look out of your back window you can even touch one of the gravestones that is pinned on your house wall...

I continued my walk to Holyrood Palace through Gifford park and got a little lost when trying to reach that amazing hill and the palace. When I finally reached the palace, however, it had already been closed for that night. Next to it I found the amazing complex of the Scottish parliament... A little exhausted I returned to the hostel to meet some new roommates coming over from Cardiff and went to the cinema, before going to bed.