Friday, October 26, 2012

The Edinburgh difference

This is a historic city. It's a culturally proud city. It's a beautiful city. It's a very very…did I mention very…cold city. This is Edinburgh.

The first time to Edinburgh was a few years back when my dad and I planned a few days away from London on one of our many trips to the capital of the United Kingdom. We walked away from our hotel near Victoria Station with our luggage and a high dream of Scottish wonder.

That's a cheesy way of putting it, but I digress.

Anyway, the first time we went to Edinburgh, my dad and I saw all the sites that were to be seen in a short amount of space. We wandered out of the train station, walked uphill to our hotel, spent quite a bit of time touring the castle at the end of the Royal Mile, saw a ton of touristy things, enjoyed the wet briskness of the city and before we knew it we were on our way out, back to our home base in London once again.

It never fully felt complete.

When I left London for Edinburgh that first time, it didn't feel like a positive sort of escape. It was almost a burden to have to go the long distance just to be away from my favorite city in the world for a few days. Why did we even plan this trip to Scotland? There's no way it could compare to the beautiful comfort of tube stations and my local Sainsbury's.

I'd grown complacent. And now I realize what a sad mistake that was.

This is my first vacation since I've been in London. While I've been on some short term voyages, I have not had the chance to explore much outside my own backyard - and yes, I consider London my own backyard these days. While there are other holidays in the works, it was an interesting concept to start off in Edinburgh. Like a stepping stone of sorts.

Edinburgh is like the child of an English parent and another, much more European, parent. There are hints of the UK strewn throughout the city - there's still a Sainsbury's down the street and there are Boots and Argos everywhere for my convenience. But in addition, it just doesn't feel like any English city I've ever seen. There's a kind of rural beauty to this city.

Walking around town you become aware of this city's place, the beautiful gothic and classical architecture pierces the Scottish natural landscape. Where the hills and mountains end, the castle meets. It all becomes this conglomeration of beauty stacked on top of beauty, placed on top of even more beauty.

It's something I've lost a little in my time in London. While I love the big city atmosphere - and as one of my friend's referred to London in comparison to other European cities, it does feel quite a bit like the New York City of this continent - at times it can feel like there is no longer any such thing as nature. I go to places like Hampstead Heath to be reminded that I'm in a city that has not always been home to dozens of skyscrapers and high rise apartment buildings.

Today while experiencing Edinburgh, we did a bit of what I knew before. Things seemed familiar. Obviously the train station, the Royal Mile, the view of the more natural parts of the city. These were all things that rung bells.

But we did things that I had neglected to experience before. And that is my goal here in Edinburgh. To see what is foreign to me, to make use of what is essentially a foreign land but also so very familiar.

The dichotomous aspects of this city are, for me, what make it so great. Because at the moment I stand in this place of fear that I may not be ready to partake in a European immersion as well as I'd like. But I also wish I could find myself learning more about cultures that are further from my own.

There are so many wonderful things to look forward to.

Not only in the next couple of days - though admittedly there are so many new activities to look forward to in just the weekend that lies ahead - but in the rest of my study abroad experience. Every minute that I spend pretending that I'm not the dumb American that everyone expects me to be is a moment well spent.

I can only be excited for where the high hopes take me in the next few legs of my journey. But for now I'll just strap on my boots and journey through the great unknowns of this city, prepared to take on all the new experiences that traveling affords me.

Regardless of temperature and temperament of this place, having the chance to come back has been wonderful and most especially, different. At this point all I want is to experience all the difference in this world.

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