Posts tagged ‘scottish national monument’

Edinburgh Impressions Part 2(June 2012)

– Modern Culture

Well some things don’t change.  A city full of reverence and fear of the outside world, depressing treatment of the lower class in the putrid slums, superstition and a heavy handed English rule forced many Scots to down their ‘Scotch Whisky’ by the bottle.

But what of the people today? What has this created in modern terms?

Where do people go, what jobs do they do and what do they do in their downtime?

All the harsh situations of the dark ages helped to breed a strong people, stubborn and harsh in the face of danger, but also with the ability to laugh.

The Scottish sense of dark humour has prevailed over the centuries in rather poignant fashion.  ‘a wee graveyard shop’ is the sign that adorns a small souvenir stall inside one of the many inner city graveyards.

The casual approach to death and the ability to laugh at it was most likely a survival technique of yesteryear, now it’s one of the many things that mark the vast differences, culturally between the Scots and other people of the United kingdom.

But how much do the Scots actually drink?

Well there are around 600 pubs in Edinburgh, a city of only half a million people, so if that’s any indicator then probably a fair amount.

But quantity is not so much the issue, but perhaps mood and motive can be a sign of the people.

Spending a winter in Edinburgh can be a cold and miserable experience. The city is located near the ocean, freezing gale force winds can knock you off your feet.  Sunrise to sunset can be a matter of six or seven hours.  And if the clouds are aplenty, then actual sunlight can be desperately sparse.

It’s no coincidence that rates of depression and suicide shoot up drastically in the winter.  The wonderfully ornate and functional ‘North Bridge’ built in the 18th Century to connect the ‘old’ and ‘new’ towns is sadly very functional for this purpose at this time of year.

The local papers have stopped publishing the ‘events’ in recent years.  The less you talk about these things, the less they inspire others, or at least that’s the hope.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.  After a few harsh months of winter and snow, the sun of Spring begins to emerge, anywhere from March to May you see some promising signs.  The right flowers in bloom, the sun beginning to fight its way through the mist a wee bit earlier in the morning and retreating, battered after a long days battle just a little latter into the afternoon.

With sunshine comes new behaviour.  We as humans seem as linked to the sun as the plants and animals around us which we claim superiority over.  A sunny warm day (any temperature in double digits) has people flocking to the parks, barbeques in tow, maybe a few beers and a relaxed expression on their face.

‘Water of Leith’ 10 minutes from the city centre

It is a truly rare thing to have so much nature in the heart of a city.  Not just green parks either, or even the wondrous Botanic gardens .  Calton hill, adorned with Greek style temples and now defunct observatories gives a stellar view of the city in front, the ocean behind and Arthur’s seat, the long extinct volcano towering up over the buildings bellow.



Arthur’s seat stands over 300m above sea level , is only ten to fifteen minutes walk from the city centre, and takes a fit person only twenty minutes to climb.  Yet it gives you a truly stunning view of the city below, towers down over the aforementioned Calton Hill and clearly shows the hills rolling off over the horizon away from the city.


View from Calton Hill, Edinburgh Castle centre furthest from camera

So that is what the city has to offer for relaxation and nature, but what do people do to support their leisure time.

Well Edinburgh is like any city in that it has a wide variety of jobs on offer, things that keep a city ticking over, from tradesmen to council workers, emergency services, schools hospitals etc.  But the main industry that keeps the city forever changing and gives it an organic feel beyond what the aforementioned nature does, is hospitality.

As eluded to earlier, hundreds of pubs and restaurants are scattered right throughout the city and offer ample hours of work to any with the personality or skills to match (hopefully both).  The Spanish and Polish workers often take the kitchen porter jobs, with native English speakers taking front of house operations.

But what do the Scots do for work? Well they tend not to be in the city centre as much as people from countries just mentioned, but they do take on more of the skilled jobs in town which as a tourist you wouldn’t see.

The other answer is that they don’t… work that is.  Scotland has the lowest unemployment rate in the UK, yet the most amount of available Jobs.  Hmmm, having a quick think on that fact will make you draw one striking conclusion.  The Scots don’t like to work.  Well obviously a lot of them do, but there is a genuine issue with youth unemployment, coupled with an obsession with drugs and alcohol that is worrying for the government and society as a whole.

Going out any given night in the city and you will see without doubt, at least a few groups of Scottish youth staggering around causing a nuisance.

‘Big deal, every culture around the world has that problem’, comes the retort. True, most do, but it’s the way they cause the nuisance which is more than troubling.  Hurling abuse as well as empty beer cans isn’t uncommon, and heaven help you if you are English.  After all it’s YOUR fault that Scotland has all its woes.

What woes exactly I can’t quite see, the country isn’t falling apart by any measure, they are incorporated into the UK’s National Health Service (free universal health care), their education is better than in England.  Why so angry?

As with most anger (especially that which is thrown around at three am), it’s not entirely rational and the anger towards the English in particular is no doubt largely linked to the years of harsh rule from many generations ago.

But again, the city is working and is a very beautiful part of the world and many Scots will say so.  Many more than the ‘three Am, damn English, why are you looking at me, by the way do you have a spare smoke?’ folk on the street.


Just to point out my lack of professionalism, here is another belated thought.

Edinburgh- Sophisticated or not?

To answer I give you some photos of the magnificant National Gallery and a brand new display of British 2012 athletes.

You can find this wonderful gallery on the main street of Edinburgh!

The city has a similar display of Science and Technology photos in a park 5minutes from where this photo was taken, and within 10minutes walk you will find two museums, 2 other art galleries, and possibly the most inclusive, impressive (AND FREE!) National Museum you may ever come across.

So the answer is an easy and obvious yes, and the people of Edinburgh value it, as most of these sights are free or very cheap.

That speaks volumes about a people.


Edinburgh Impressions Part 1 (June 2012)

An Introduction

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, a rare green gem amongst European capitals.  A city that captures the imagination, and dazzles with beautiful monuments, medieval architecture, and stunning samples of the natural wonders that Scotland has to offer.


EDINBURGH CASTLE overlooking the city.

People started to congregate there in the Bronze age, but it didn’t become a city of note until the 16th century and boomed during the European Renaissance.

During the 18th Century the city became known as the Athens of the North due to the Greco-Roman style architecture in addition to the rise of the Scottish intellectual society which was leading Europe in many ways at the time.

These times have been commemorated on Calton Hill where the National monument was built and left unfinished in 1829.


FROM TOP National Monument on Calton HIll

BOTTOM Hollyrood Palace.

Taken from ‘Arthur’s seat’

The city started out rather small as most medieval cities do, and was secured by defensive walls around three sides.  This caused the city to go up rather than out and makes it seem almost unnecessarily ‘tall’ even today.

So why were there only walls around three sides? Well the fourth side was protected by a medieval, gravity operated, state of the art, sewage system.

That is, the waste was thrown out of every window, rains would wash it down the hill, and a big lake of rather rancid stench would form a barrier to keep invading forces out, and also the scared masses in.

In 1766 a competition was run to see who could design a solution to the now rampant problem of overcrowding.  The result is what is now referred to as ‘New town’ and resulted in the giant lake of poo being drained, eventually to be replaced by the current train station and for the giant ‘North Bridge’ being built over the top.

This enabled the city to expand and conditions to improve drastically.

Insert compensation joke here. Monuments of one of several Graveyards.

The result is a city of contrast from the old to the very old, and a mix of modern with the endeavour to not upset the look and feel of the city.  Nature has been preserved as well as any place in the modern world resulting in a city with a wonderful kaleidoscope rarely seen throughout the world.

Fast Facts:

Founded in: has had human settlement since the Bronze age

Became British in: 1603 when King James VI succeeded to the English thrown uniting the two kingdoms

Population: approx. 500 000

Number of pubs: over 600