Our time left abroad is quickly dwindling. It feels like we just got to Scotland, and already, we only have one day left there. But we’ve gotten to visit some great cultural highlights in our time here. On Saturday, after our early flight, we took our first walk around the city of Edinburgh. Beautiful Gothic architecture pervades the city. Nearly every street is lined with picturesque buildings. The city has a specific vintage yet timeless feel that differentiates it from the other cities we’ve visited on this trip. London is a modern global city with strong heritage, Dublin is a vibrant town, full of national pride, with a social and artistic flourish, Cardiff is the packed center of a quiet seaside province, Belfast is a city in recovery from recent conflict. Edinburgh, meanwhile, is something else entirely: busy, yet somehow calm; gloomy, but in a beautiful way; and, as I said, vintage, yet timeless. Needless to say, I’ve really enjoyed this city so far.
On Sunday, we visited the Scottish National Museum and Edinburgh Castle. I spent most of my time at the museum navigating the extensive section on Scottish history, looking to learn more about this nation. I found out about its history, and how it came to merge with England under one government.
Edinburgh Castle was a cool opportunity to visit an intact castle that is nevertheless very old. Since the castle is nearly completely intact, it gave you a good sense of what it must have been like for those who lived and worked there hundreds of years ago. We even got a chance to see the crown jewels of Scotland.
On Monday morning, we spoke to video game designer and journalist Brian Baglow. We learned about the history of video games, and how they are so popular these days, since smartphones act as portable gaming devices.
Edinburgh is also notable as the city the author J.K. Rowling was living in when she started writing the Harry Potter series. Rowling was originally English, but Hogwarts itself was supposed to be located in Scotland, though it served students from the UK and Ireland. It was cool for me to make that geographical connection to the books; now that I have visited the UK, I have a much better idea of their setting.
We also visited a cemetery that inspired J.K. Rowling while she was writing the Harry Potter series. Cemeteries are pretty creepy, but we were interested in this one because you could clearly see where Rowling got some of the names she used in her famous book series. The most obvious example was a grave for “Thomas Riddell”. Rowling changed the spelling to “Riddle,” and used this as Lord Voldemort’s real name. The other names we saw in the graveyard were not complete names like that one; often, Rowling combined a first or last name we saw with another one she thought of.
Since being here, I have noticed a few things that Scotland is known for: golf, whisky, and tartans. We got to investigate the third of these during our Monday afternoon visit to Kinloch Anderson, the company that makes tartans for celebrities including the Queen of England. (Tartans are woven plaid patterns used for kilts, coats, and scarves, among other clothing items. The patterns are specific to whoever they are designed for.)
In all, visiting Scotland has been another rewarding experience. I’ve even gotten an update on the money situation: in Scotland, like in Northern Ireland there are also a couple banks with the power to issue their own currency. According to my research, this currency often isn’t accepted across the UK, with Bank of England currency (the only currency I saw in London or Cardiff) being the most commonly accepted kind.