Scottish Castle and Graveyard
I have had the opportunity to tool around in some beautiful European cities and until now I would say I would rate them for beauty and interest—Paris, Leningrad, Barcelona, Florence, with Amsterdam, Venice and Warsaw also on the list. But Edinburgh just became number two behind Paris. It is a beautiful city with a funkiness that is hard to describe. Like you’re walking around in a Harry Potter scene or a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which is based on a real person here) Both authors grew up here by the way. There are these gothic buildings everywhere with creepy black spires, even on public schools. And the city is just full of cobblestone little narrow “closes” which pass as streets on 3 different levels.
The original city was the Royal Mile which starts out with the castle that is on a huge 4 story volcanic rock and then runs, cobblestone street, with shops on each side much like the wizard shopping area in Harry Potter for a mile down the hill to the Holyrood Palace where Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles etc still stay in when they are here. There are these little 4 foot closes that run off of that street with historical names like John Adams, John Knox, etc. lived in apartments off them. There originally were water or cow pastures along each side so huge stone arched bridges were built to get down to the main land on each side. With as many as 9 to 12 arches to span the distance. Over time the water was drained and tenements developed under these bridges with buildings being built here and there so much that it is impossible to see the arches of the bridges any more. The city is literally on different levels so when you try to follow a 2D map, you think I will go here and turn right on this street but that street turns out to be 50 feet below you! And half are one way. After walking around for 5 days I finally have the gist of how to at least make my way across but driving would have been twice as hard. And people drive on the left side of the street here so forget it. We walked or took cabs.
It’s easy to see how J.K. Rowling who grew up here came up with the atmosphere for Harry Potter. It feels like the novels here. (The buses look like theirs too. They just dont fly.)
4,000 Accused Witches Died Here
But it all is great fun and Scottish people are very jolly. The food is great and the history is amazing. We have been staying and eating in 700 year old establishments all week. The place is full of stories of creepy things like tenements bricked off during the plague and people left to die inside, or the lake next to the castle used to dunk women to prove they were witches—over 4000 of them! And then there were the 2 serial killers who ran an inn on one of the closes and smothered 18 guests to sell their body parts for cash. Several Stevenson stories are based on real people here. The ancient cemetery has a watchtower in it to watch that the bodies were not stolen by gravediggers. Then there are all the royal stories of people killing each other like Mary Queen of Scots having her husband kill her lover in her rooms (we saw the blood stain on the floor at the palace today) and then her husband mysteriously dying etc.
The Royal Museum displays the quillotine that was used on over 400 people, etc, etc.
Every corner is full of pictures and history of the different kings or the Catholic/Protestant struggles that were played out a great deal here. We also spent a lot of time studying kilts and colors. I actually got a kilt in the historical colors of my region.
Our hosts were very gracious and took us out to dinner at some lovely places at St. Andrews, the home of golf on the coast, and in Edinburgh, traditional haggis and steak or little villages. A musician friend drove us all over for two days. Today we visited Roslyn Chapel which was displayed in the movie The Da Vinci Code and is Totally mystical much more than even shown in the movie. There is a spot within the chapel where two ley lines of geographical/spiritual importance cross and when you stand there you feel this electticity in our head, hard to describe—something is happening there. I tried it 5 times with the same feeling in the same place above my forehead. Different from a holy feeling like we had at Mary’s house in Ephesus—like some kind of physical feeling. And there are over a thousand elaborate carvings everywhere with all sorts of references to the Knights Templar and all of that mystery. The land is owned by the St. Clair family (name said to be perhaps the descendants of Christ). They won’t allow the excavation of the tombs below the building which by radar have been shown to hold the bodies of at least 20 knights in armor and who knows what else.
There are carvings of aloe vera, corn and other plants only known to grow in America but the carvings were done in the early 1400’s. The explanation being that the Knights of Templar visited Indians in America before Columbus? Lots of fun stuff. We bought a ton of books to read so more on that later.
Scottish Dogs for Obama!
We also visited the Royal Palace today and across the street is the Parliament of Scotland, a new building. We couldn’t understand this modern building and the excitement of our hosts over it until we stopped in and realized that Scotland was not allowed to have its own parliament until 1998 so this is tremendously exciting to the locals. That lack of political understanding was a bit embarrassing when you see how much people here are aware of our news. The press here is so great and every paper is front page on Obama and their excitement over him. We have been wearing our Obama buttons and everyone comments—there is such excitement and even working folks expressed to us that they stayed up all night to watch the results and hear Obama’s speech. That is how involved with our election the folks over here are. I collected front pages with amazing headlines and huge pictures of Obama in 7 languages.
Well, I need to get back to bed. More adventures later…..
Larry & Jacqueline Long