A tale of two Christmacities: the festive season in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Hi there, and welcome back!

Classes have ended and the next step now is exams. I may be writing this blog post to postpone my revisions, but I prefer telling myself it’s a therapeutic means of coping with insomnia and the buzzing thoughts that come with the realisation that a semester of classes is already over. There’s the stress of exams, obviously, but what is most painful is thinking of all the people you’ve met who are only here for a semester, and will therefore fly home soon; those with whom you’ve created fantastic memories, and those you wish you’d known better, or sooner.

Since you last heard from me, I’ve met an MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament), an adventurer, and some mice. I’ve run and wandered some more, in and out of Edinburgh. With the cold and dark helping, I’ve stopped complaining about how early it was for Christmas to be in full swing and just gone for it. Let me take you through that early Christmas tale, then.

Late autumn sunset over the Pentlands. The muddy cross-country races are always worth the views.

Part I. The University of Opportunities

That one is not really Christmassy, but if you consider the opportunities offered by the University of Edinburgh as gifts, it will fit in the theme nicely. In which other university could you find yourself seated in the magnificent Playfair Library, listening to MSP Michael Russell speak about Scotland and the European Union, or in a theatre listening to adventurer Will Copestake relate how he kayaked around Scotland and climbed all of its Munros – mountains higher than 3 000 feet or 914m – in about a year and on his own? In the space of a week, the University of Edinburgh can provide you with the best first-hand information on current issues, and keep you inspired in your thirst for adventure. This is why you chose to study abroad, right? So that your understanding of the world could be sharpened, and your mind broadened. You’re in the right place here.

Part II. When the cat’s away to the Christmas markets, the mice will play in your kitchen.

Edinburgh is an old city with old buildings, and I bet there are more mice than inhabitants here. When it gets cold outside, they will try to find food and shelter in your home (the mice, that is, not the inhabitants). You might find yourself running away from a tiny creature which will be as afraid of you, if not more. You’ll learn not to be scared anymore as chasing mice will become a daily business, and you might even end up finding them cute.

Part III. Feeling Christmassy in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Even though it gets dark early now, wandering in the city centre is still a pleasure thanks to the atmosphere cast by the Christmas lights and markets.

Tonight was the University Christmas Carol Service at St Giles Cathedral. Even though I’m not at all religious, I decided to go because I think Christmas carols are a significant element in British culture. The queue to get in confirmed my assertion; in fact, we didn’t even manage to get in, the doors closed just when we were about to enter the cathedral! Thankfully, the service was transmitted on screens in front of the cathedral, so we were able to listen anyway. Our toes were freezing, but the atmosphere with people singing along with the harmonious choir and organ was warm.

Last Sunday, I followed some friends to Glasgow on a last minute, unplanned expedition which turned out to be a hilarious day of discovering the city by randomly walking everywhere, with numerous stops at the various Christmas markets. Friends, sunshine and mulled wine is an outstanding combination that I would highly recommend.

December is only beginning, so naturally the tale can’t be over. My brain is telling me to stop procrastinating, though.

See you later,