So you’re from the United States, aye?!
I’m now as comfortable with my identity as an Indian from Portland as much as an Indian from Bangalore. Being a touristy town, I’m invariably asked where I’m from and the automatic answer that’s been coming out is The United States. I can’t even go back there currently, yet my heart and soul is at peace with my concocted dual citizenship.
I sit in The Elephant House as I write this, the birthplace of Harry Potter. It’s cheesy, I know. Very few people are either reading or writing; they’re here for the tourist value (as I am) and are having either a quick bite or a long chat. Including a table of Indians .. Lol, what are the odds?! 🙂 I wonder if anyone (including me) would recognize Rowling if she came by.
I have to admit, it was not love at first sight with Edinburgh. There were no giant monuments – the kind that take my breath away. This city, instead, looked like it forgot that the medieval period was over. Or like someone just dipped it in a giant vat of molten medieval grey and brown and pulled it out. Fresh, dripping, and stuck in the 17th century. But it’s day four now, and the city is starting to grow on me. As I wander the southern streets, I can see the dirt, the grime, the locals and I breathe easier that this medieval-ness is NOT a show. It’s really what the city is. And now I can only marvel at how beautifully things have been preserved.
At first, everything seemed like a miniature version of the London monuments – the castle, the cathedral, the galleries. I know it’s not fair, this is one of the pitfalls in the business of wanting to see new sights and it takes immense skill and learning to stop comparing. Choosing London as my first European stop a while ago was something I like to term innocence lost – dreaming and yearning to see something is sometimes more awesome than actually seeing it, because once you’ve seen it, you’ve lost the innocence of your imagination. But anyway, back to Edinburgh. It’s day four and I have started to see the uniqueness, appreciate the story of the Scots and understand where they are coming from – the shadow of the British.
One Scot who held his own was Sir Walter Scott – immortalized today in the Scott Monument (and bank notes :p). The medieval architecture of old town softly transitioned into Georgian style in the new town as it tiptoed around this massive Gothic structure. Looking up, the black building hung like lace suspended from above, with stone statues cradled magically in its nooks and crannies. A marble tribute to Sir Scott sat majestically below, immune to the whipping winds that threatened to crumple this delicate monument. Ever a sucker for sky scraper views, I headed up two hundred and eighty-seven steps to three levels of 360 degree views. Hello, Mr. Wind. Got something to say to me? Don’t scream it in my ear, ok? Oh well, he probably can’t even hear that request. But the haunting strains from piper on the street below overrode whatever the wind had to scream, all the way to the top-level, crystal clear. The city lay at my feet as I held onto the railing (imagining grotesquely what might happen if I got swept off); a city caught in a time warp, a city torn between tourists and resident students, a city fantastically holding its own after years of torment. I blew it a silent kiss with one hand, the other still gripping the railing, and I smiled through my tightly wound scarf. Here’s to you, Edinburgh. Thank you for teaching me that big is not always better.
Note: Reference to lace plagarized with pride from Rick Steves.