Saturday, June 16, 2012

Castle. Check. Dungeon. Check. Scary Monster. Check.

I don't know about you, but I have gotten extraordinary good at fitting the maximum amount of stuff possible into a small, Ryanair-sized travel bag. Shower shoes? Check. Towel? Too bulky, you don't get to come! Lotion? Nah, I'll be smelly. Jeans? I only need one pair for the whole week. Let's just hope they don't rip...oh wait. Yeah that happened.  

In Germany, in the middle of May, the university gives us a "reading week"... sort of reminiscent of spring break, except the professors are supposed to give us extra work. Ha. I used the opportunity to cross off a bunch of things, including "travel by myself somewhere." I went to Edinburgh, Scotland for two days alone, before I met up with my friends in Ireland. It was really an awesome experience, something I think everyone should try in their lifetime. I set my own pace, had lots of time to think, wonder, ponder, and just soak up the beauty of life. Scotland was the perfect place for that. Serene, wildly beautiful, and overall, just a breath-taker.

Edinburgh was one of the most unique cities I've visited. It really had it's own living, breathing atmosphere. Part of me knew that I was in a modern working city, but I couldn't help but imagine the past around every corner. Greystone buildings with tons of chimneys, old churches, winding closes, tunnels, bridges, narrow stairs, etc.  

But I did get to learn about Edinburgh's dark past and apart from seeing a torture museum, I got to go inside the old vaults built under the city where the poor lived. It was SO creepy. Can you imagine 30+ people living/sleeping in this lightless hell (below)? It was awful. Not to mention all the ghost stories our guide provided. Fun stuff, let me tell you. :( 

**Note to self: Never, EVER, EVER go on a nighttime Ghost Tour when you're traveling by your lonesome. That's gotta be one of my dumbest ideas ever. 

 Warning: brief history lesson!! Back in the day, they required an entrance tax consisiting of £2 (a year's wages). So basically, people would enter the city, only to find out there were no jobs available. It was crowded, smoky, and dirty. The glitch was, in order to leave,  you had to pay another £2, which most people didn't have or expect! So crime rained rampant, due to the fact that it was illegal to sleep in the streets. People did whatever they had to in order to make some dough. And to make it better, the age for full prosecution of criminal activity was only 8 years old. Sad, right? Regardless, the city is so neat. Twisting, turning alleys, closes, and everything is built in, on, under, or around something else! See what I mean? 


The castle was really neat. Just perched on top of an outcropping of jagged volcanic rock. It was pretty intimidating, and you could see it from just about anywhere in the city. 

I did a walking tour of the city, hiked up a giant hill to get a breath-taking view, and did a day-trip to the Highlands and Loch Ness. The highlands were probably the most beautiful, magical, surreal place I've ever visited. It didn't help that the entire trip was enclosed in a weird misty fog that covered the peaks of the mountains and made everything feel like a dream. I think really the only way to describe it is in pictures. So here ya go! 

Sandwich with HAGGIS! go me! 

That's the queen's Scottish palace ^

I hiked to the top of Arthur's Seat

LOOK! It's Nessie!!!

Ireland is next, friends! Then Belgium, Berlin, and Barcelona! I've got a lot of blogging to do!! :) Stay tuned! 

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