Flashing from one end of the world to the other...

Trip Start Jan 26, 2007
Trip End Jul 23, 2007

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Thursday, May 31, 2007

I had a very fulfilling day.
In the evening, my meandering took me up Salsbury Hill to The Craigs.  I climbed straight up and it was steep.  I climbed into the sunshine and the sat and watched the golden rays settle out of sight along the horizon of Edinburgh.  The castle, elevated in the centre of the city, looked magical and glorious.  I ate a can of pineapple rings and wrote instead of taking pictures. 
Since arriving in Edinburgh, I have climbed many hills, some nameless. A few days ago I climbed a hill at dusk with some other 'Brodians'.  We climbed past the ruins of St Anthony's Chapel and sat in the tall grass between the Goss (those brambles with yellow flowers) and watched the sun set and the stars come out.  I spent some time walking on George St yesterday, checking to see if really every building is beautiful (the answer is yes). Also walking up the Mile, after coming down from the Craigs where I had a tea (as in a snack) on the hillside, I again noticed new little wynds and closes that led into courtyards, balconies and windowsills with little flourishes that gives so much character to this city.  I've heard a lot of people say this age is the time of one's life.  I'm not sure I ever felt confident that this was true but it occurred to me a few days ago that I am having the time of my life in Edinburgh.

I had a delicious curry at the Mosque where you can eat for 2 pounds.  I ate outside and the weather was lovely, sunny and warm.  I read a little bit about Islam from a book I picked up near the food area.  Besides the Mosque, I have also been to a Hare Krishna meeting and a Quaker information centre.  The Hare Krishna meeting was in the basement of a church.  I went with my Spanish friend and we did some singing and there were a few discussions started with questions from the people sitting around us.  At the end they tried to sell us books but I didn't have the money to spare.  We had a delicious uncooked vegetarian meal with some sacred herb related to basil that is pronounced 'Tu-Lassie'.  The Quaker centre had a lot of pamphlets where I learned about their silent worship and how every individual is entitled their own definitions and ideas about God and Jesus.  Another friend staying at Brodie's told me about Bell Ringing at St Mary's  Cathedral.  I was very intersted in learning this new kind of instrument so I tagged along one day for practice.  We climed to the very top of the great landmark, through very narrow and dark and tightly wound stone stair case whose steps had been worn down over the hundred of years. At the top, I met up with a bunch of 'ringers'.  The process of rining is quite precise and actually complicated (it takes a lot of strength and has to be well timed as there is a couple second delay from pulling the rope to hearing the bell chime).  The bells' "song" is created through someone calling out an orchestration of commands. There was acutally much time spent on safety, you might not think bells could be that dangerous but they are ridicolously heavy, weaving back and forth over our heads, and if you get caught up in the rope... well, hence the expression 'dead ringer'.   Living in a capital city, there is a lot of opportunity to learn about other religions and attend various services.  I worry that maybe I am being a very invasive tourist sometimes though.  Although I am 'just looking' I have to remember how special these places and meeting times are to the people in attendance.  On the other hand, I went into the St Giles Church for a second time earlier this week to find peace and was asked to leave because it was 5pm and visiting hours were closed.

Besides these activities, I have been spending a good amount of time at the free galleries and museums in Edinburgh.  I won't go into detail about them just now but if you have any questions about them just ask. 

The Scottish National Museum (my favourite so far)
The Royal Gallery,
The Museum of Childhood,
The Whisky Museum,
The Gallery of Modern Art,
The Police Museum,
The Museum of Torture,
 The Fruit Market Gallery,  
The Writer's Museum, 
At the Writer's Museum there is a whole floor dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson, a very famous Scottish writer whose book Kidnapped I have read since arriving in Edinburgh.  Stevenson was a huge traveller and made a lot of cool statements about travel.  One I liked particularly was this 'Travel not to go anywhere, but simply to go. ...to move... go flashing from one end of the world to the other in mind and body'.

Taking all this information of art and culture in, I have learned a lot about the city and the country.   I expect that that I have changed a lot since coming here.  I like that this is a capital city, big enough but not too big (a population of 400,000 but I still see people I know passing on the street).  I give people directions all the time and suggest things to people that they might like to see and do in the city. 
On Friday and Saturday I spent time with a German I met at Brodie's, we walked around the city for many hours.  Now, my Canadian friend James is visiting from Warwick, England where he has been living as a student.  He said last night that I seem very well settled here and am doing well for myself.  After work, I am going to show him around Edinburgh and take him to Castle Arms for dinner where the food is delicious and we get 'backpacker' rates at ridiculous cheap prices like 1-2 meals.  I know a place that plays the kind of music he likes so we will go there afterwards.  I love to show people around this city, I'm feeling quite proud that I am learning so much about it that I can share with others.

I've just spent over two and a half hours in another sacred space, dry and warm despite the over dramatic thunder and rain outside, a used book shop.   
I found a shelf of George Orwell novels and picked out The Lion and the Unicorn right away.  It turned out to only be 1 and I happily searched my purse for one of those heavy gold pound coins as a Gordon Lightfoot record played in the corner.  Almost surreal eh? 
Today I explored the shelves of Scottish writers such as Sir Walter Scott (who wrote Ivanhoe and The Talisman), Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Kidnapped), and David Hume. I perused through Whinnie the Pooh and Peter Pan, works of Louisa May Alcott, and Carson McCullars (she wrote The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, which coincidentally I just thought of this week as I was meandering through Hunter's Square).  I contemplated buying The Odessey and the Illiad for my travels into the Highlands, as well as books on geography of the Orkney and Shetland islands, Galic dictionaries, Swedish phrase books, vegetarian recipes, Hans Anderson and Grimm fables, celtic rituals, 'The People I Have Shot', and 'Identifying Wild Flowers'.  Then I found the downstairs which was music for all instruments, biographies, and novels in foreign languages!
I have been trying to read down the stack of books I have accumulated over the past few months (reducing the weight of my pack for the sake of my back), so I was lucky to escape before allowing myself to buy even one of those beautiful hardcover, comfort-scented, soft worn-paged books. I came here to this ornate ciy library now and am trying to finish "Hichhikers Guide to the Galaxy" and a novel that my Japanese penpal recommended to me called "Good Luck".  My favorite part of this book was the character The Wind, Lord of Destiny, and I also found it poetic that the last page quoted a Japanese proverb; 'There's a door through which good luck enters - but you have the key'.

Now it is time for me to leave Edinburgh for a hiking excursion and I will miss this place. I am on such a good track here now. However, I've been wanting to see the Highlands and Hibrides of this glorious country for quite some time. I've gathered information from other hostelers who have traveled North and also the locals who have family outside of the capital. Let the backpacking begin!!

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