I firmly believe that every city in the world has a distinct personality. New York is a businesswoman in her mid-30’s running around with a comically large cup of coffee and a pair of stilettos. London an elderly man in a tweed coat with an odd love for punk music and fast cars. Paris is an older woman sitting in a café wearing an oversized hat, sipping espresso and reading Proust. But Edinburgh – the city I’ve been fortunate enough to call my home for a week now – has the rare honour of not so easily fitting into one simple character description. At times it is young, vibrant, warm and welcoming, other times it is ancient, complex and overwhelming.
I was introduced to the former in my first few days when, while wandering aimlessly through the streets with a vision blurred by jet-lag and exhaustion, I was immersed in the smells of delicious Scottish food wafting out of pubs and fresh grass from the many parks around the city. I was also surrounded by a constant symphony of cars speeding by and snippets of strangers’ conversations in countless different accents. Everything about the city seemed to welcome me in, whether it was the kindness of all the people I met (I have never been called “love” so many times in my life), the unseasonably warm weather, or the seemingly constant hum of bagpipes playing in the distance. Scotland’s famous energy and hospitality were on full display every time my friends and I went to a pub (which I soon discovered was an almost daily ritual in Edinburgh). That famed Scottish friendly energy was especially apparent at the Big Ceilidh I went to a few days ago, where my friends and I stumbled our way through traditional Scottish dances until our feet were sore (but that may have had more to do with the constant stepping on toes rather than the dancing). Despite the lack of space in the overcrowded, overheated room everyone seemed to have a great time dancing with complete strangers (always a couple beats out of time) and fooling ourselves into thinking we were Scottish for a few hours.
At other times, however, Edinburgh takes on a completely different personality. This week I went on a few tours – a historical tour of the city, and tours of Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace – and as I walked through those ancient buildings I was overwhelmed by the immense history that permeates everything in this city. Touring through buildings that are older than my home country, places that bore witness to some of the most dramatic events in British history, was such a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. The dusty, cobbled roads seem to almost buzz with the stories of the millions of people who have walked these same streets centuries before. Edinburgh is also wonderfully complex, with such an eclectic culture and cityscape – although I can’t say I’m too fond of the complexity in its urban planning, all of these levels and ever-changing street names have turned short trips into day-long excursions (but that’s a story for another day).
Edinburgh is a city so steeped in history and yet budding with new life at every corner. It is at once overwhelmingly grand and comfortingly quaint. I have no way of knowing what this year holds in store for me but after just one week I am already so excited thinking about all of the people I’ll meet, sights I’ll see, and (mis)adventures I’ll have. Hopefully this is the beginning of a grand new adventure… stay tuned!