This winter, I decided I needed to test myself against some harsher weather than London offers, and took a trip to Scotland. After a five-day long bus tour in the Scottish highlands, I spent an incredible weekend in Edinburgh, a city that now rivals London in my affections.
On Friday, after my bus tour ended, I went out and bought myself a vegan pie, and then I… slept. That is all I felt up to. But, I made up for it on Saturday, when I got up bright and early to start seeing the city. I went on a walking tour, led by an Australian named David, who told us about the history of the city from its geological formations to its bodysnatchers and finally its role in inspiring the Harry Potter series.
Some of David’s stories that stand out in particular are those of Greyfriars Bobby and the aforementioned bodysnatchers. Greyfriars Bobby is a little dog who was the loyal friend of a member of the night watch in Edinburgh. After the man died, Bobby stayed by his grave until he too died years later, eventually attracting the attention of first the monks who took care of the cemetery, and then the local community. He even got a girlfriend.
The bodysnatchers, or graverobbers, were a phenomenon that arose when the medical community in Scotland started getting wealthy and needed more dead bodies to cut open, leading to considerable sums paid for corpses. People started digging up graves to sell, causing family members to place cages over their loved ones’ bodies for several months until they were too decayed to be valuable.
Edinburgh in general is a beautiful city, built tall and narrow due to old tax laws and sporting a weird mix of Egyptian, Greek, and Victorian architecture. There are plenty of old cathedrals, cobbled streets, and picturesque views, and on top of that, the city has its own castle (not too unusual in Scotland). My favorite part, though, was outside of what would normally be considered the city, on top of Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano rising above the city in Holyrood Park. I hiked to the top and managed to see the sunset at the late hour of 4 in the afternoon, which was incredibly gorgeous and made me go a little photo-happy.
Saturday night, after my day of doing nothing but walking, I took another walk, this time to learn about the dark side of Edinburgh. I was told true stories about the city’s gruesome past, most notably the story of Burke and Hare, who took bodysnatching to the next level by becoming serial killers in order to produce bodies to sell. They mostly preyed on tourists. I also learned about the ‘human lasagna’ of graveyards, which is when bodies get layered as conditions get cramped. And I took a long, dark trip down the steep steps of Jacob’s Ladder, a pathway to either heaven or hell depending on your point of view.
This story ends how it began, with me being exhausted and going to bed at about 9 o’ clock, like the true party animal that I am.