Wednesday, June 27, 2012

tSH goes to Scotland: Edinburgh

So being a noob to Finn culture, when my friends told me a few months ago that no one stayed in Helsinki for midsummer, I took them at their word...and booked a trip to Scotland to visit my friend, British A. What they failed to further explain is that people didn't stay in Helsinki proper, not that people didn't stay in Finland. Apparently the tradition is to leave the city and go to the country to celebrate midsummer, not actually flee the country in rapturous vacation mode. Whoops. Oh well. Guess I'll have to do better next year.

So while my friends were having fun bbqing on the beach for the one spectacular day of weather we've had this year (it was like 23 degrees C/something like 77 degrees F), I was in Scotland. Edinburgh, to be exact. Where it was rainy, misty, and 15 degrees C/63 degrees F. Bugger.

But all be not lost! Because Scotland was just as beautiful as it presumptuously tells everyone it will be. And I enjoyed all of it. Because it was gorgeous. And I had a personal tour guide who had been to every part of where we were going. Sweet.

So, back to Edinburgh (oddly pronounced, "Ed-in-burr-oh"...not "Ed-in-bur-gg"...which is what you'd expect...sigh). 

What do you do when you're in Edinburgh? You see the castle, of course! And the castle, we saw. 

There were many hilarious things to behold there. Such as:

1. The Spectacular Views

(This is a board of what you should have been able to see)

(This is what you could actually see, given the typical Scottish weather)

Although the fog rolled in just as we got there (it was a clear and beautifully sunny day as we were walking there, completely atypical of any Scottish summer day), it was actually still relatively pleasant. Not warm, by any means, but not raining the entire time, so not unpleasant. People still had their umbrellas out, and lots of people (tourists) were wearing the silly Edinburgh Castle ponchos that one could buy at the gift shop (I resisted the urge), but it was actually not that bad. I didn't feel the need, and if I was fine with being at that level of damp (absolutely loving dryness to its extreme), then I think most people should have been fine with it.

2. Various Royals That Look Like Jesus

There was actually quite a good rundown of the history of Scotland and its various royals and comings and goings. Not knowing a lot about Scottish history I tried to take a good deal of it in, but alas, there was too much. British A schooled me along the way, scolding me for not knowing this various famous (well, famous for Scotland) person or that, but generally speaking, I did what I could.

Many royals from back in the day, I noticed, looked a lot like Jesus. And had absolutely hysterical names. Sure being known as, "The Strong" or some other prestigious name was just dandy, but would a king ever really want to be known as "The Maiden"? Just seemed sort of odd.

3. The Family Jewels

I'm sure many come to Edinburgh Castle specifically to see the Crown Jewels. Or at least my kid girl self would try to convince others that that was the case. I was still delighted to see them, even as an older person. 

Generally speaking the crown jewels were buried and refound many times over the course of history. Some person or another would want to take them for their own to try to crush the current monarchy so they would be smuggled out and hidden somewhere safe only to be forgotten for around 100 years and rediscovered, safely where they were thought to be sometime later. This happened several times. The part that always made me laugh about this was that they were always where people thought they would be - just that no one bothered to look there. Like there were rumors that they were in such and such place, legends even, but no one bothered to look, so they remained safely buried there until some court order demanded they be unearthed. And so they were.

Naturally pictures were not allowed anywhere near the real jewels themselves, but I'll tell you another tidbit that tickled my fancy. When they unearthed the jewels for the final time (i.e. the time that we have now taken them into protective custody and displayed them), they discovered an item with them that they cannot explain the existence of - something they named The Wand. They have absolutely no idea what it was used for and there is no record of it anywhere. It is just a mysteriously beautiful object that was apparently thrown in with the rest, and therefore is now on display with the others. See description here:

Hilarious in my life. In my mind it was likely some play thing a royal had made for their child which was then insisted upon (by the child, of course) being taken with. Makes sense to me. Since it's not pictured anywhere it obviously wasn't part of the royal collection in the general sense, so...not much explanation. Anyway, feel free to make up your own story. History is great for that.

4. Whisky, whisky, whisky

Naturally no Scottish castle would be complete without a whisky tasting, or five. There was indeed a whisky store on the premises of the castle. And it did indeed give out free tastings of whisky.

Btw my tour guide informed me of something I didn't know, and which I will now pass on to you: whisky, as it is spelled here, is the officious form of whisky made in Scotland under certain regulations. Anything made elsewhere (such as in the States, etc), must be labeled as "whiskey" to declare itself as being not official whisky. It's the difference between champagne from France and sparkling wine, from everywhere else. Learn something new everyday.

Anyway, the tastings that were being given out at Edinburgh Castle, as it were, were neither of these two. They were whisky liquors. And man were they tasty. One was like Baileys, but made with real cream, and another was well...liquor. Sweet, syrupy, and delicious. I was seriously tempted to buy...but somehow failed to do so.

They also sold whisky-related products there, naturally. Even whisky-flavored tea!

Just in case you need to hide that suspicious breath at work...or whatever. (No, I swears it's my whisky-flavored tea that smells that way! Not me!). Right right...

5. Prisons...lots of prisons

A lot of the castle was made up of prisons. Lots of prisons. Museums of prisons, memorials of prisons, models of prisons. Or at least it seemed that way. Realistically there were probably two exhibits on prisons. Apparently they held prisoners of war from several different countries there at various times. Most of them died. I suppose that was probably par for the course though, back then. To my untrained eye it just looked like a big slumber party with hammocks:

They had a lot of recordings of voice actors saying various quotes from passages written at the time and my one comment to that is: please hire voice actors from the countries they are supposed to be from. The one from the States was clearly still from the UK. Hilarious, sure, but not so convincing. Surely you could have picked up a tourist off the street who would have been willing to do it just for the sake of awesomeness!

There were other halls and museums that we did go into, but I'll not go into further detail about them. 

Bottomline: Edinburgh Castle, pretty dec!

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