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March 28, 2005

EDINBURGH

I must apologize for the time itís taken me to update this blog, it has been too many days as I have been so kindly reminded by my friend's Phyllis and Linda! I have not been in one place long enough to find the time to do a proper entry as I have traveled many thousands of miles and have been in many cities and a couple of countries since the last update.

Where did I leave off? Oh yes, leaving London for Scotland.

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I decided to spend some time in Scotland because it is one of my favorite countries in the world. I may get some flak from a Brit or two calling Scotland a country as it technically is not a sovereign nation despite many wars and attempts by itís citizens to free itself from British rule. Actually, Scotland has some degree of independence with its own Parliament and certainly an attitude of being separate and different than the folks down south in England. There are many cultural differences between the Scots and the Brits and the people in the north try very hard to maintain their separate identity.

It is a point of pride in being a Scotsman (or Scotswoman?). I was given some advice by an English guy that if you are unsure if someone is English or Scottish always err on asking him if he is Scottish. If you ask a Scotsman if he is English heíll get mad at you (especially in a pub) and take the misunderstanding as an insult but if you ask an Englishman if he is Scottish he will only kindly correct you and not take offence.

To get to Scotland I decided to take the train. The trip from the Kings Cross station in London to Edinburgh is supposed to take about 4 Ĺ hours. However, they were performing some maintenance on the track in Northern England and we had to take a bus from Darlington to Newcastle, which delayed the trip by a couple of hours. No big deal as the scenery and the train (and bus) were great. I mentioned previously how much I enjoy train travel. It is generally a comfortable and stress-free way to travel and to sit by a window and watch the countryside go by is quite enjoyable. The English and Scottish countryside is so beautiful, full of rolling hills, small towns and pastureland. There was plenty of green (especially in Scotland) even during the winter.

I alighted at Waverly Station in Edinburgh on a cold, crispy and sunny Sunday afternoon. I had a hotel reservation nearby and some vague directions on how to get there so I put my backpack on and headed out onto the street. I had been to Edinburgh only once previously for only an evening so I didnít know the town very well. I did know that the Edinburgh Castle dominated the skyline and saw it immediately as I left the station.

Here are some pictures of the city of Edinburgh and the outlying areas:
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A quick note on wearing a backpacking in cities: I have spent quite a bit of time walking through cities, towns and villages with my backpack on my back going from guesthouse to guesthouse or to various forms of transportation or just being lost and trying to get from place to place. In most places no one gave me a second look, as it may not be common to see backpackers it certainly is not unusual. The place I got the most stares and funny looks was in Hong Kong. The Chinese usually mind their own business and never really stare or gawk at others unless they see something very unusual. I guess a guy wearing a 25-pound backpack walking through the crowded streets of Hong Kong qualifies as unusual. It was very amusing to me coming out of Southeast Asia to be such an object of curiosity when there were so many other strange things happening around me. London and Scotland have a large backpacking culture and I spent a bit of time hoofing it around in London, Edinburgh and St. Andrews and no one really gave me a second look.

I only stayed in Edinburgh for 2 days and nights, which was enough time to see and experience the Old City section. Edinburgh is the second largest city in Scotland (behind Glasgow) and there is so much more to see than I actually experienced. It is a beautiful and ancient city with much history and great people. It sits on the Firth of Forth and the North Sea on the eastern side of Scotland. Edinburgh was the site of many ancient battles with England as well as with various invaders from mainland Europe. It was also the seat of the Scottish government on and off for hundreds of years (and is the current site of the Scottish Parliament called Holyrod).

The city is dominated by the Edinburgh castle, which is on a hill overlooking the entire city and cannot be missed. This castle was built over a thousand years ago and has undergone many changes, periods of destruction and restorations over the years. It is great for me to see structures this old in the western world and compare them to those I saw in Asia of similar or older vintage, particularly those I saw in Angkor Wat. This castle is well preserved mostly restored using modern techniques and has been well taken care of and never abandoned over all the years. The Tower of London and its restoration and use as a tourist attraction is another example of the east versus west method of old temples, ruins and castles and their use as tourist attractions.

Here are some pictures of the Edinburgh Castle:
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Personally, I liked the ruins and temples in Asia more so than in England/Scotland as they seemed more authentic and less fabricated. In the west, the governments take many more precautions with visitors so many of the old places and relics must be restored in order to make them safe to see and visit (imagine the liability should someone get hurt) while in Asia the ruins and ancient places can be very unsafe places to walk around and the utmost care must be taken or you could really hurt yourself and there would be no one to sue if you got hurt (Asian countries believe in personal responsibility Ė if you get hurt, too bad for you, you should have been more careful or not been there in the first place. Deal with it but donít come to us looking for a settlement). The other factor, of course, is money. Western governments generally have the funds to restore ancient places while Asian counties do not.

The two days I spent in Edinburgh were spent exploring the Old City section of town. The weather was nicer than it had been in London with clear, blue skies, no rain but cold (temperatures in the 30ís and low 40ís). The Royal Mile is a street leading to the castle and is quite famous in a historical sense. All the buildings are made of stone, the street is cobblestone and is has a nice, ancient feel to it. There are cathedrals and shops and pubs lining the way. The commercialism is a pain in the butt but it is not obtrusive and is to be expected in an area that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists a year.

Here are a few pictures of some sites along the Royal Mile:
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As during my days in London I enjoyed seeing the sites of Edinburgh without the multitudes of tourists that visit in the warmer months. I was there on a Monday and Tuesday and there were not many other travelers or tourists about.

Here are a few pictures of some sites around Edinburgh and cityscapes. There are so many beautiful sites in this city that it is fun to try to capture a few on film. I think I got a few good pictures.
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The other main reason I only spent two days in Edinburgh is that the weatherman said that the temperatures in Scotland would get into the 40ís and 50ís soon and I got the itch to go golfing! I was so close to St. Andrews and have such a love for that place that I just had to get there as soon as possible!!

Oh, one thing to remember if you ever go to Scotland (and the rest of the U.K. too) is to not believe the weather forecasts (even more so than in your local area). The weather is so variable, volatile and quick changing here that it just seems silly to try and predict what it will do in any localized area and it seems that most people disregard the weather people and come up with their own forecasts based on looking outside, walking about, sniffing the air or feelings in their joints and bodies Ė all just as effective in predicting weather as the satellites and atmospheric gauges and expertise used by professional forecasters.

This picture reminded me of my friend Mark Hemmerle and his love of whiskys. There are many opportunities to taste different whiskys and take tours of various distillerys in Scotland. I haven't really developed a taste of love of whisky but that didn't stop me from a wee dram every now and then in order to keep the chill off!
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When I saw this bar in Edinburgh I immediately thought of my younger brother Matt Michie. I have no idea what "Seek Ye the Salmon of Knowledge" means but it must mean something to someone. Matt is an avid fisherman.
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That's all for this entry. Next will chronicle my golfing adventures during my 11 wonderful days and nights in St. Andrews, the Home of Golf!!

Posted by Jeff on March 28, 2005 12:06 PM
Category: Scotland
Comments

Jeff - The pictures are great but it does look a little chilly! Has to be a huge different than Asia!

The whiskey tour looks like a GREAT thing to make time for!

Have a great time in St. Andrews! By the time you get back, it may actually be warm enough to golf here! I know a few people have been already but it is a little frigid!

Have fun and be safe!!

Ynez

Posted by: ynez on March 29, 2005 01:49 PM

Glad to have another entry from you! Ah! Thank you so much for the pictures of Edinburgh - I would love to go there. I especially enjoyed seeing the snowcapped mountains in the distance!! I think the golf weather is better this week in RS than what you had at St. Andrews. Not sure how The Links compares though..........
Keep the entries coming- your public is waiting!
Take care my friend-
Linda

Posted by: Linda Perin on March 29, 2005 10:22 PM

I went out for the 1st time yesterday, I shot about a 77 but the problem is I only played 9!!!!! Oh well it is going to be 75 out today so I will go try again. Take care my man.

Posted by: Jason on March 30, 2005 10:00 AM

England just "looks" wet and Cold Jeff. So glad to "hear" you again!
Stay cool!

Posted by: Phyllis and Doug on March 30, 2005 01:12 PM

Nice pictures. Seems like your having a lot of fun. St. Andrews will be nice to play golf. Hittem straight and not often. You don't want to shot a 77 for 9 holes like Jason did.

Keep the stories coming and keep safe.

Posted by: Steve J on April 2, 2005 10:28 PM

You're mistaken; I'm not Scottish, I'm English!

Hmmm, I prefer when I'm mistaken for Australian or South African...

Anxiously awaiting the next Blog!

Posted by: Patrick on April 7, 2005 10:25 AM
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