July 16, 2014

Eurotrip: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” -Maya Angelou

Two countries and five cities in and I can confidently say I’m getting this whole solo traveling thing down. I’ve learned a few lessons (some the hard way) and discovered a few tips and tricks along the way. I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do to avoid headaches and maximize my time and fun in each city. I’ve also come to accept that downtime doing nothing is needed and it’s okay to take it. Perhaps this is what made Edinburgh, Scotland so amazing, or perhaps it’s just impossible to have a bad experience in such an awesomely beautiful city. Either way, I had a hell of a time in Scotland.

I arrived by train and immediately headed toward my hostel fascinated by everything around me the entire walk there. I could tell already this city was going to be something special. It is Scotland after all.

The first item on my agenda was finding some food and a place to watch the World Cup soccer game. A young boy by the name of Steven was sitting in my hostel room when I checked in and mentioned he was going to watch the game at the hostel bar upstairs. I headed up with him where we joined another table of travelers. The bar area of this hostel was quite cool. They had ping pong, pool, WiFi booths, and even a piano (:  After the game was over, I played piano for a bit and then just went to my room to crash. I slept terribly though and ended up still awake at 4:30am. It was a miserable night of sleep. One girl kept making strange sighing noises. Another man kept talking and laughing in his sleep (in Spanish). I could hear Scottish bagpipes playing through the window (which at first I thought was so cool). And there was zero airflow in the room which made it hot and sticky. Not to mention a few travelers came back from the bars at half past 2. So let’s just say the whole next day was pretty much shot trying to catch up on sleep. It actually worked out okay though because it rained all day anyway. Since so much of my exploring is outdoors, I was happy to be inside.

Late afternoon, Steven and I went for a late lunch (or early dinner, whatever you want to call it) at a really great and locally famous restaurant called Frankenstein’s. There I ordered the traditional Scottish dish called haggis, neeps, and tatties. It’s sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs) served with rutabaga and mashed potatoes. It was surprisingly delicious.

When we got back to the hostel, a few more people had checked in so we sat and chatted with them for a while. They were such an interesting group because they were all from different backgrounds, countries, and cultures. This made the conversion flow quite easily with so many questions being fired off. It wasn’t long before we were all making plans for the evening. The hostel puts on a pub crawl every night for all the guests to help them mingle and experience the nightlife, so the group in our room decided to join. We hit up a few pubs, a bar, and a night club before calling it a night. Prior to heading back though, I went on a hunt for some late-night food, specifically a Dunbar kabob which England left me craving more of! Some women walking down the street pointed me to a great place called Che’s where I had my fill while walking back. I slept a bit better than I did the night before but still not great.

The next morning was sunny and warm, so we took advantage of the free walking tour provided by our hostel. It was a great way to explore the city and learn the history, and the price was right! After the tour, my new friend, Jared, and I went to check out Edinburgh Castle. We toured the castle inside and out for almost two hours. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was quite a sight, and the fact that it was built in the 12th century made it all the more remarkable. With the day over, we went back to the hostel to catch the others for dinner. I decided to take them all to Che’s where I had been the night before. After we ate, the others went to do a ghost tour, but I was cashed from a long day of walking, so I went back to the hostel and did some reading before bed. I also still had to line up my flight for the next day to Dublin. Jared, Dan Tan, and Ewin mentioned hiking Arthur’s Seat the next morning, so I decided to book a later flight and join them. I’m glad I did.

The hike up the 825 feet mountain was over an hour long. We once again lucked out with weather and only got drizzled on for about ten minutes. We stopped half way and ate sandwiches we picked up earlier at a local supermarket. We celebrated when finally reached the top, tired and sore. The views were the best I’ve seen yet. Wow. Scotland looked like everything I’d seen in the movies from up there. I didn’t want to climb back down. I could look at scenery like that forever. The hike back went much quicker, and we even found ruins of an old church on the way since we took a different path down.

Now I sit at the Edinburgh airport feeling exhausted yet energized at the same time. I can’t help but laugh at all the silly moments I shared with the cluster of strangers I now call friends. Those guys were a bunch of goofballs and were definitely the highlight of my time there. I’m excited to find out what’s in store for me in Dublin, but I can’t imagine it will top my time in Scotland. Ireland’s going to have a lot to live to up.