There I was. On top of the Calton Hill with the entire view of Edinburgh’s urban life and natural landscapes. This Hill was actually originally a volcanic mountain, which is pretty cool to know once you stand on top of it. It was mesmerising and cold. The weather was as expected in Scotland. It didn’t bother me because I had my whole focus on the view. On one side I saw Arthur’s seat and on the other I saw old Greek monuments that captivated my eyes. One of the monuments looked like the Parthenon in Athens. It is called the National monument of Edinburgh. With a blend of old and new and many surprises around its corners, Edinburgh stole my heart right under my nose. But what is actually different here than in the Netherlands where I grew up? What does this city have which I have never seen before? What did I learn from all this?
Let’s start with the most basic of utilities. The shower. The first time I wanted to wash, I saw a strange white box on the wall. It had a power button and two switches that could turn from cold to hot. I felt like a cave woman, trying to work with something I had never seen before. I pressed the power button but the water that came out was too cold. After trying for thirty minutes, I gave up on having hot water. With chattering teeth I washed myself as quickly as possible, trying to sing a bit of Otis Redding’s ‘ Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ to keep me warm in the meantime.
In the aspect of communicating, I realised only then how direct I had become because of my upbringing. Most conversations I experienced were with people that were beating around the bush, trying to stay kind and honest. Being direct as I was lead to interesting chats, that made me realise that being too straight forward was not particularly a good thing. It made my words harder and tougher than I meant them to be. I also was shocked to hear how many racial jokes I made, thinking that it was also socially accepted here. At the beginning once I was conscious of my words, I felt ashamed. Remorseful of the fact that I had become a person I disliked. Many people, especially one friend, helped me along with that. Having made a racial joke they responded with: ‘Not every person is the same. You can’t tar everyone with the same brush.’ A sentence I have said as well, but did not act on. Making racial jokes is easy, but I realised it lead me to become someone I wasn’t and never wanted to become. Travel not to find yourself, but to remember who you’ve been all along. Someone that sees the uniqueness in everyone, and solely judges a person by their words and deeds rather than their nationality.
The other side of the social standard is when you become friends with the Scots. When being a stranger it is true that most beat around the bush when communing. On the other hand, when you’re a friend that’s when the fun really starts. The ‘Fuck off’ and ‘you back already?’ Is the heartfelt directness they give when caring. The ‘Oh aye’s’ that they say when agreeing with each other. Being sarcastic, ironic and using a lot of hyperbole is the normal way of talking with a close friend. If you ever get an opportunity to just sit at a bar and observe people, I recommend you see two Scotsman talking with each other. It is one of the most hilarious and sincere conversations you have ever seen.
The city of Edinburgh, has a special place in my heart because of the crazy people who are always there to help you out making you feel safe, the bars that are filled with drinks I had never seen before and the surrounding landscapes that embrace the city, making it the perfect balance of busy city life and calm and peaceful nature.
How this lead me to Ireland, taking with me love, friendships and adventures from Scotland will be told in the next blog of G’s McTravels.