Edinburgh: Past & Present Collide

The first time I touched down in Edinburgh, Scotland, I knew I was home.

That sounds a bit romantic, like something you would see Cameron Diaz say in “The Holiday”, but even now, more than two years later, I still know it to be true.

Traveling to the UK is one of those things that everyone talks about, everyone wants to do. Especially for those of us who grew across the pond in the good ol’ USA. But usually, when you speak to someone about a trip to the UK, the first (and often only thing) that is every discussed is London, and all the sights and sounds to be seen in the sprawling, ancient metropolis.

But London is nothing once you’ve been to Edinburgh.

Sure, London has incredible history, iconic sites, dazzling scenery. But, it also has dirty streets, unfriendly people and ungodly prices pints.

Not Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a beautiful, equally ancient city, located in the east of Scotland, nestled right along the stunning Firth of Forth. This city is riddled with history, currently even holding the title of “The Most Haunted City in the World”, but I digress.

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The stunning views from Arthur’s Seat, located in the East of the city.

There is a life about this city that is nearly impossible to describe to someone that has never stepped foot in this opulent city of past and present.

From the moment you begin to walk the ancient cobble-stoned streets of the city, you know there is something special happening. There is a life about the city, an aura, that buzzes with a simple comfort and odd tranquility. As the sun sets, golden across the imposing rise of the North Bridge, lighting up the Princes Street Gardens, your breath is struck from you, and your very soul seems moved by the stunning and impossible beauty that washes over you.

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The sunset lights up The Bridges as another international festival draws to a close.

In this city, some of the greatest minds in the world lived, breathed, loved, lost, died. They sat together in the tiny pubs that dotted the winding closes and, putting pen to paper, came up with ideas and philosophies that completely changed the face of the Western World, and led to some of the very progresses that we hold so dear today.

From James V to David Hume, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Sean Connery, this city is awash in the monumentalism of the minds and persons that have called this place home, that have taken from it the inspiration that drove them into greatness.

It is not hard to see that this is a city that has risen from the very collision of past and present. Newly faced buildings, sun glinting off their steel, glass and titanium surfaces, line up neatly with the crooked, towering buildings that have marked that spot for the last half millennia. Walking into the ornate lobby of an impeccably appointed Georgian hotel, you are confronted with shining, modern decor.

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Past and future collide at Waverly and Princes Street Gardens. 

This is symptomatic of one of the most beautiful things about Edinburgh. It embodies, entirely, the very thought and values of Scotland. This is a land that has a history, a long, proud, bloody history. These are a people who are known for their stalwart attitudes and beautifully stubborn pride. A people who look towards the future, but hold a dear appreciation of the past that rises up all around them. The inside of this country might change, the people too, but outward, they carry still that old-world grace and dignity that gives them a tradition, a culture, a justified sense of great pride.

Any Scot will happily list off a countless list of the great minds that called this city home. They will tell you, jubilantly, about all the inventors, scientists, artists, poets, authors and thinkers that have bloomed up, from the stone and gold streets that wrap and wind across the city. They will enthrall you with tales of the plague, and show you all the little hidden places where some of the greatest events in European history took place.

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There’s no filter needed. Princes Street Gardens in the summer sun.

But Edinburgh is not a city that is shackled by this history.

Edinburgh is a city that is always eagerly looking forward, thinking outside of the box as their society hurtles forward in time. They hold some of the liberalist mentality of any culture in Europe. Here, it doesn’t matter if you are black or white, gay or straight. The people of Edinburgh are a hearty and realistic people who, after centuries of religious war, persecution and torturous imperialism, have come to the core truth that so many societies have forgotten: we are all just people who are doing our best to get through this daunting life journey.

This city is marked by this distinct “live and let die” attitude that is held by so many of the wonderful citizens of Edinburgh. If you arrive in the city, a tourist with a sense of appreciation for the world and an open mind, you will be given a warm welcome. You will make fast friends, and have some of the best conversations you will ever have. This is a country that values those who are open in mind and warm in speech. Here, you will be acclaimed more for your “banter” than your newest name brand bag or fancy car.

It’s also important to remember that this is a truly international city, indeed. Walking down any street in Edinburgh, you will see people of all faiths, nationalities and languages living and conversing in peace and warmth. There is no mistrust, no hatred among the living. This is a city that opens it arms to those who will give to her the only thing she craves, love.

It is not hard to sit in the shimmering, golden light of sunset and profess my love of this city. Even now, more than two years since I first set eyes on this ravishing city, I am struck to very core of my soul at the beauty of its parks and cobbled streets. When I watch the sun alight across the top of Arthur’s seat, wrapping the world in gold, blinding you with its exquisite magnificence, I am stuck wordless. As I wonder down Prince’s Street (which I, admittedly, don’t do enough), I am rendered a delighted child as I stare up at the immense and intimidating of the castle, bathed in blue and violet light.

This city is home.

Here, you can be who you want to be, and chase the fulfillment of your dreams, comfortable and confident in your own skin. You will discover something in yourself, something that is so often and easily lost in the silent, soul-crumbling hustle and bustle of the “rat race” life.

Stunning sights. Ancient history. Art. Culture. Music. Nightlife. Progress. Beauty.

These are only some of the things that make Edinburgh great.

But you’ll never know until you visit.

 

To learn more about visiting Edinburgh, and to plan your trip, visit:

www.VisitScotland.com

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