. Very cool building and great atmosphere. And, it was Curry Thursday when we went. So good! The next day we kicked things off with a free walking tour. The free walking tours are more of pay what you want tours. I think it's a great idea, the customer is never disappointed because you pay what you think it was worth, and in the end, the tour guide usually makes more than a flat rate anyways. Our tour lasted for three hours. It was the best free walking tour we have been on. Our guide was a young Irishman. He had short dark hair with dark glasses kinda making him resemble Harry Potter. He told us to never to refer to him as the one who looks like Harry Potter or he will hunt us down. He could talk very fast and he was extremely knowledgable, deadly combination. He took us up the Royal Mile, in and out of the side streets, telling us the stories and history that go along with each. We went down along the Grass Market to Greyfriar's Church and surrounding cemetery. We were told about grave robbers who would steal dead bodies from the grave to sell to the University. The University used them for anatomy classes. The grave robbing became so bad that loved ones of the recently deceased had to guard their graves for at least two weeks till they decayed enough to be unusable by the University. The loved ones would have to stay up all night to guard the graves. He told us that's where the term graveyard shift came from. Two infamous Irishmen found it easier to kill people and sell them to the university, instead of grave robbing them. Eventually they got caught, and one was publicly executed on Grass Market. This was just some of the loads of amount of interesting facts and stories we heard on the tour. Of course we went by the Bobby the Dog statue. He was a famous dog who was said to have sat by his master's grave for seven years
. Now that's loyalty! The only thing bad about the tour was the rain. It had been lightly coming down for the whole three hours. I found the key to getting good weather in the UK though. Buy an umbrella and bring it with you everywhere. After I bought my umbrella, the weather got better and it has been nice ever since. Another highlight of Edinburgh was Arthur's Seat. That volcano I mentioned earlier is Arthur's Seat. 350 millions years ago it used to be a volcano, then was covered by tons of layers of sediment. Then glaciers came and carved out the layers of sediment changing the hills layout slightly and revealing Arthur's Seat and the nearby cliffside. At the top of Arthur's Seat is a great panorama view of Edinburgh, the sea, and the surrounding countryside! We stopped for lunch on the south grassy meadow side of the hill, way less windy on that side, and less people. We also spent a full morning in the National Scottish Museum. To our delight, most of the museums in the UK are free! We're not talking crappy little one room museums either, but really good, big museums. We spent a lot of time in the Scottish history sections since that was unique to this particular museum. The animal, Earth science, and far East sections were also pretty cool.
We had a great time with our couch surf host Greg. Originally from Leeds, Greg and his girlfriend moved to Edinburgh and found a flat in an ideal location, halfway between the waterfront and the city centre. The flat is on the top floor of an apartment building and from the dinner table, you can see the Edinburgh Castle and a lot of the old town buildings. We were Greg's second couch guests. His first was a Russian woman our age named Anastasia
. Her stay overlapped our stay by a couple days so we had the priveledge of hanging out with her for those nights. Anastasia brought out a game called "Jungle Speed", that we played back in Cluj, Romania. Great game, we'll have to have a Jungle Speed games night back when we get home. Sunday night was the end of the International Festival held every year in Edinburgh. To celebrate, there were fireworks set off from the castle. We were all going to find a couple of cool spots (perhaps the cliff near Arthur's Seat) to watch them, but we had a perfectly good view from the house, so we stayed in. The fireworks went on and off for about an hour.
I am realizing that we saw way too much in Edinburgh to mention everything. However, I think I covered the big ones, except a few particularly interesting things that I will let Jess explain. Stay tuned for part two.
I don't want to be hasty, but I think I will start this blog with a Jess quote - "I know we have lots of places left to see, but I think Edinburgh could be my favourite." Ryan - "Come now Jess, even better then Berlin?" Jess - "Ya, it might be." Edinburgh has a lot going for it. It is built beside an ancient volcano, it is full of amazing buildings, it has great atmosphere, and it is the birthplace of Harry Potter. To say that it is our favourite, may be a bit premature for me, but it definitely ranks high. We spent five nights here, two at a hostel, and three couch surfing. We had been traveling for a while and we didn't want to cook, so our first night in Edinburgh we treated ourselves to a meal out. We went to a place called the Standing Order. It used to be a really old bank, but then it was converted to a restaurant/pub. There is one big main room where you get your drinks and order your food, and then you can sit anywhere in the side rooms. We sat right in front of the old bank vault