Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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Edinburgh, Scotland

Posted on 8/29/03

Due to my paranoid fueled, fear of sending my credit card details willy-nilly through the internet via unsecured email to confirm room reservations, I did not have a bed waiting for me in Edinburgh. This didn’t make me very nervous until I belatedly learned that I was arriving in Edinburgh on the last weekend of the world renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Every bed in town was booked. So was every square of grass at all of the campsites. So was every bed in all of the cities within a one hour train ride of Edinburgh. So was every bed in fricking Glasgow!! The gravity of the situation was apparent upon my arrival. The streets were packed. Plowing through three blocks of Fringe-goers with my bags in tow from the bus station to the tourist information office was like navigating through a Nine Inch Nails mosh pit with a wheel barrel. The information office didn’t offer much assistance to my accommodations predicament and I briefly debated the possibility of bussing all the way back to Aberdeen rather than spending the night on the street before I decided to throw all the chips on the table and just show up at the biggest hostel within 150 miles in the hopes that they would let me sleep on a couch in their lobby. For once, gambling paid off. Although they denied it on the phone, when I showed up on the steps of the Globetrotter Inn hostel, they somehow found a bed for me and I was saved from spending the night with Edinburgh’s teeming homeless population.

The Globetrotter was the second in my series of impressive and comfortable Scottish hostels. I was placed in a six person dorm room, but there was plenty of privacy to be had as each bunk was built with walls on three sides and a sliding curtain on the front. If you weren’t overly claustrophobic, the closed bunks felt snug and cozy. The Globetrotter was located at the end of the #42 bus line, on the outer edge of Edinburgh, isolated by the ocean on one side and a huge golf course on the other. I was adrift in dismay and visions of traveling to the wide open country while I was receiving directions out to the hostel when I was told that I needed to get off at the bus stop after the campsite. Globetrotter compensated for this objectionable seclusion by having everything you could ever need available on the premises. There was a kitchen, a grocery store, cheap (and slow) internet access, a fitness center, tanning booths, TV/DVD room, video game room and a well stocked bar. With all of the attractions that the hostel had to offer, if I had been in any other city, I might have spent the entire weekend at the hostel.

But that was, of course, out of the question. Edinburgh was wild with action. Street performers and musicians were working hard in pre-arranged spots every few feet down numerous streets. The valley under Edinburgh Castle was overrun with people lounging on the grass and watching bands perform on the giant temporary stage that was erected at the base of the castle embankment. The streets were an all-around madhouse, making a short walk down the sidewalk to a pub a frustratingly slow and exasperating process.

Even without the draw of the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh was a beautiful, scenic city. Countless medieval structures had survived the centuries. Unfortunately they were all closely surrounded by newer, less attractive buildings, making a decent photo opportunity nearly impossible in most cases. The Edinburgh Castle was perched at the top of a huge hill that greatly added to it’s enormity and intimidation factor. The valley below, which used to be a gigantic moat was now a sprawling, green park.

Every bar and restaurant in Edinburgh was inundated with Fringe revilers. Finding a open chair took ages and often involved walking way off the beaten path of the Fringe area. Part of the entertainment value of scouring the pub district came from the Edinburghers healthy sense of humor about naming their pubs. I started a digital picture collection of hilariously named bars (pictured) as we searched for a place to eat that wasn’t already teeming with drunks.

On the morning of my first full day in Edinburgh, I made a b-line for the Castle. The thing was so huge and magnificent that it demanded a visit. The Castle did not disappoint. Parts of the thing were made back when they made castles out of nothing but giant blocks of stone. The walls were so think you could have had a rave in one room and an infant nursery in the next, without worrying about noise problems. The Castle is actually made up of several buildings making it seem more like a small town than a castle. Then the entire thing is surrounded by giant walls and ramparts. Back when the valley functioned as a moat, the Castle must have seemed awesomely impenetrable, though that didn’t stop one army after another from trying to seize it. Every information plaque around the Castle makes mention of one siege or another by several different foes, going on for years at a time. Continually defeating one attack after another, the Scottish would note all of the weaknesses that were exposed during assault and built yet more sections onto the castle to make it even more solid. The utter magnitude of putting together a structure that titanic five, six or seven hundred years ago made my brain stall and do back flips in the effort to wrap my mind around the undertaking. Back when the first settlers were tying together straw huts in the States these guys were putting together a fricking stone fortress the size of an airport.

There's the Castle, way up at the top.

After the Castle was out of the way, the rest of my time in Edinburgh was centered around the numerous, free Fringe shows and drinking all the cider I could handle.

Sadly, I was forced to leave Edinburgh long before I was ready. My itinerary did not have any room for adjustments and a room was waiting for me in Glasgow.

Go to Glasgow

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