I walked out of Edinburgh Waverly train station and saw a lit-up castle cascading over a hill. This was my welcome to Scotland.
A nearly five hour train ride transported me from London to this beautiful city for my final weekend abroad. The wait was well worth it as I would soon discover.
But first I had a demon to conquer…*cue dramatic music* THE HOSTEL.
Okay, so possibly my “demon” was my own preconceptions about this cheap alternative to a hotel. However, staying in a hostel in Europe is an experience though, right?
The whole concept of a hostel is interesting: (primarily) college kids from all over the world sharing rooms and stories under one roof. My Purdue dorms Shreve and Windsor did not carry the stereotypical dorm vibe of nasty showers, creaky bunk beds, and half-naked people everywhere. This hostel did. I spent my first night in Scotland shivering under a hoodie because I was too grossed out by the scratchy blanket. (Note: by Saturday night/Sunday, I conquered my fears and used the blanket AND showered. Ladies and gentlemen, Alyssa has left the comfort zone.)
Saturday began with an official Scottish breakfast, which was equally as amazing as an English breakfast, but varied in content. The Scottish breakfast also included haggis, a food I would only try once and never eat again just because of what it’s made from.
It was pouring rain, so my flatmates and I asked the hostel people for an indoor recommendation and ended up at a different museum: the Scottish National Gallery. Once the rain cleared, we climbed the Scott Monument, a 287-stair structure with a great view of the city. The fog rolling in made for some ominously wonderful pictures.
After eating a nutella waffle, going to the Elephant House where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, and taking a Disney-like tour of the Scotch Whiskey experience, we walked down the Royal Mile to the very end where the small shops turned into the Holyroodhouse and the Scottish parliament. Nearby was a HUGE hill where people that looked like mere specs of color were climbing to the top. In a “why not” kind of moment, we decided to hike it to get possibly the best view of Edinburgh. My calves were burning and I’d worn the same flats I always wear to my internship, so I was struggling a little bit, but the view at the top of Arthur’s Seat completely mesmerized me. If I could capture pictures with my eyes instead of with my camera, I would share my amazement with you.
I wouldn’t have thought that many locals knew or cared about the 4th of July, but many Scottish people asked how we were celebrating. In honor of the 4th, we went to an American restaurant and ate mac and cheese and burgers.
This day centered around the one thing everyone really wanted to see: Edinburgh Castle. It was the first sight we all saw upon arriving at the city and I would’ve been heartbroken to leave without visiting it. The castle reminded me a lot of the Tower of London in architecture, history, and vibe. We took a walking tour, ate at a cafe overlooking the city, and explored the buildings that were as old as the 1200s.
I bought a miniature model of the castle for my desk at home and then we went on a ghost tour of Edinburgh. A charismatic woman in Victorian attire told us chill-inducing stories of serial killers, torture, and criminals (specifically William Brodie, the friendly guy who stole from hundreds of people and became the inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).
Leaving Scotland was hard, but I really feel like I saw and experienced a lot in one short weekend. Undoubtedly, the highlight was walking down high street, listening to and admiring the bagpipes when all of a sudden, one of the bagpipes BLEW OUT FIRE.
You are my hero, sir.