I’m absolute rubbish at starting these things, so I’ll just start by telling you that I’ve only been in Scotland for four days and I’m already starting to pick up some of the slang. Like absolute rubbish.
The first two and a half days here were spent in Edinburgh, at an inn in the middle of Old Town and right by the Royal Mile. So, you know, basically a lot of really old and really beautiful buildings. Every building there looked like it could be a museum or a church, and most of them ended up being convenience stores.
Speaking of buildings that aren’t what you’d expect, we ended up wandering into this little church that had been converted into a market inside, with open stalls and people selling jewelry, clothes, kilts (of course), and other homemade and thrift goods.
Well, I say little:
Here’s a shot of the inside:
We also did a bunch of other things – we walked around a cemetery (according to the program director, it had been closed for renovations for a while because the gravestones had been falling onto people)
We went to the National Museum of Scotland and learned a bit about the country’s history or rather, we were supposed to, but we were all so dead from jet lag that I don’t think any of us absorbed any information other than that Mary Queen of Scots was kind of badass.
By far one of the coolest things we did was take a ghost tour of the city and the underground tunnels at night. It was at ten o’clock at night and the sun sets at around 3:50-4:00 (and doesn’t rise until almost 9:00!), so it was about as dark as it was going to get. Our guide took us around the city a little and told us about some of the history – the creepier history, of course. Prisons and executions, mostly.
Then he took us underground to the tunnels that run under a lot of the streets in Edinburgh. The tunnels, he said, had been used as prisons and torture chambers, until the government abandoned them and the poor moved in. It was cold, dark, wet, and criminals lurked in every corner. So a prime place for ghosts.
I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as scared in my life as I was under those tunnels. Our tour guide was amazing – the stories he told us about the stuff that happened down there and the ghosts people had seen were enough to make me constantly turn my head over my shoulder. He didn’t even use any jump scares (well, once) or props or anything – just his stories and the atmosphere of the cramped, damp stone corridors and rooms with their minimal light and stale air was enough to scare me.
My mind started playing tricks on me, too (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself). One of the rooms (dungeons would be a more accurate description) we entered had little alcoves in the far left and right corners. I’m sure it was just the uneven tones of the stones, but it I could have sworn I saw a face in the alcove opposite me. I refused to look directly at it, though, so who knows.
Another room we entered was supposedly the darkest of the rooms. The guide had us all gather in a circle and put his hand over his flashlight beam so only a little light got through. The weak beam illuminated the faces of the few people standing next to the guide – but there was one point where it seemed to skip a couple people before reaching one more person. In that spot it almost looked as if there was the outline of a person’s head and shoulders – standing directly in front of me, of course. Also, the guide told us that was supposed to be the coldest room in the place, but when we left one of the other people on the tour was sweating, and said he’d been so warm he’d felt like he was going to pass out.
There were a few other things that happened, like creepy disembodied (and very faint) whistling, but in the interest of not making this post too long I’ll stop there for now.
On Wednesday, we boarded a bus for Glasgow! Initially, we didn’t get to see much of the city because by the time we’d dropped everyone off at their accommodations it was dark out (again, sun sets before 4:00), but we did a lot more walking today and got a better sense of the city. From what I’ve seen so far, I can say this: Glasgow kind of reminds me of a much smaller, slightly older (and by slightly I mean the university was built in the late 1400s so…) and much quieter New York City. On second thought, that doesn’t sound much like New York City at all.
It is more modern than Edinburgh, though, so maybe that’s where I’m drawing the comparison from. A good bit of the city was destroyed in World War II, so there are a few newer areas. The west end, where I’m living, has this interesting mix of old and new – the buildings are built in the same olden style as Edinburgh, but there are also modern storefronts everywhere. I’ve really only seen the areas around my route to campus from my apartment, which is about a 25-30 minute walk (the farthest away of most of us, not like I specifically put “close to campus” as a preference on my housing sheet or anything, but it’s fine :p ), so I can’t say much about the city yet. I’m looking forward to exploring more!
This post is getting to be really long, so I’ll just say like two more things and be done.
- The University put on a ceilidh (“kay-lee” – Scottish celebration and dance) for the incoming international students tonight, and it was so much fun! They had some people playing traditional Scottish folk music and teaching us some different traditional dances. The dances are great because you don’t have to be a good dancer at all – you just have to be able to skip around in time to the beat. Sounds simple, but the routines are actually kind of complicated and also really really good cardio. I think I’m covered for the rest of the month.
- I’m going to make a post about Scottish culture later, but for now let me just say this: dogs in restaurants seems to be a thing here. We went to a restaurant in Edinburgh and there was a dog sitting next to a booth with its owners. And the two pubs we went to today (the first one didn’t have food, so, oops) both had people with dogs just chilling at their feet. I wholeheartedly support this and think restaurants in the US should follow suit immediately.
Here are a few more pictures:
University of Glasgow: