Sunday, September 24, 2006

When will I see your like again?

The title comes from the song "Flower of Scotland" which I have heard played on the bagpipes around town at least twice every day since I got here. So it's been stuck in my head often.

Correction from my last post: Edinburgh's New Town was built starting around 1780, not in the 1600's. They had to drain the loch at the base of the castle rock and then build the bridges across that sunken area later on.

What follows are my assorted thoughts on Edinburgh and Scotland. I'm including some links to photos of what I'm talking about since I haven't found an internet place where I can hook up my camera yet.

It is really hilly around the Old Town. My hips and upper legs have been aching slightly just from walking around ever since I got here. Then I went and climbed up Arthur's Seat, a 800-some-foot inactive volcano that is east of the Old Town, part of the park that surrounds Holyrood Palace (the royal residence in the city). After that, my hips have been *really* aching. I imagine I'm getting in better shape from it. The rocks at the top of Arthur's Seat were very dark and slippy, so I assume that they're volcanic since I've never seen any before.

A neat aspect of the streets in the Old Town is that they're frequently linked to other streets through alleys called "closes", although the closes don't always cut all the way through a block. Every close has a name posted on it, as does every set of stairs. Closes generally have stairs owing to the hilly nature of the town, but they are closed in by buildings on the sides and sometimes overhead. Some of the closes are quite narrow - the width of a narrow hall - whereas others are much wider with restaurant and store fronts along them, as well as residences. The close that forms one side of the hostel that I'm staying at is called "Fleshmarket Close" which to me conjures up images of prostitutes lining up along it at night. I don't know if that was how it got its name - perhaps butchers once sold their wares along it.

People in town seem to get drunk earlier in the evening than do folks back home. By 8 or 9pm I have seen hordes of drunk people stumbling about the streets talking loudly. I think this earliness may have to do with the bars generally closing earlier than at home, with the exception of some night clubs. In Charlottetown people would usually only be starting their drinking at 8 or 9 pm and would be doing it at home to save money before heading to the bars at 11-12pm. It seems here that folks here don't do the drinking-at-home-thing first.

Girls in town have been wearing huge winter scarves the past few days. Yesterday it was fairly sunny and about 18 degrees I'd guess. Today it's rainy so it feels a bit chillier, but I was fine outside with a small t-shirt, a sweater, and a light rainjacket. I guess the girls are wearing the scarves for style, not warmth, but they must be cooking under them. If I were to wear a scarf for style at this time of year, it's be a thin, light one like you see on girls in Canada. I wouldn't wear one of the bulky scarves the Edinburgh girls are wearing unless it was freezing or below.

I've now adapted to trafic being on the opposite side of the road, enough that I always look right first when crossing the street. However, I still can't help but instinctively look left immediately after that as I start to cross the street. Cars with only one person in them still look bizarre to me though, because it appears as though the car is driving itself with a person in the passenger seat.

In my head I am often hearing my thoughts in some sort of Scottish-like accent. I've been immediately correcting it in my head to sound like my own accent. I don't want to end up sounding like one fella from Canada that I met (who's been over here for over a year) that alternately sounds sort of Scottish or sort of Australian or sort of Canadian. I'm allowing myself to use words like "mobile phone" instead of "cell phone" or "biscuits" instead of cookies, but I'm trying to limit that to when I talk to locals.

And I think I'm now figured out how to make the £-sign quickly by hand. It was stumping me a bit at first. It's so fancy compared to the $-sign.

Currency here is issued by actual banks, not like by the Bank of Canada which is a bank that you can't have an account at. I've seen Scottish bills that have been issued by Clydesdale Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland. It's RBS where I've set up my account, so they're "normal" banks.

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