Friday, March 25, 2011

Haggis in Edinburgh

Heya!  It's been a while since I've posted, but the past couple weeks have been very busy.  After a long week at the office (and a long day stuck at the immigration bureau this morning) I finally have some time for an update.

First of all, Edinburgh was AMAZING!!!  I truly loved the city - it's very gothic and harry-potter-esque (i think parts of the movie were actually filmed here).  Despite the snow on the first day, i still made sure to get out, attempted to climb the steep hill up to the castle, listened to street performers, and filled my belly with some scottish haggis: a dish containing sheep's 'pluck' (heartliver and lungs), minced with onionoatmealsuetspices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.

How they come up with these recipes, i'm afraid to ask, but surprisingly it was quite delicious!! Especially if you mix it up with your scrambled eggs for breakfast.  mmmmmmm.  Sorry to all you vegetarians out there!

Edinburgh's quite a small city, so very easy to navigate.  Everything centers around the castle, and the city is split into old town (gothic architecture, cobblestones) and new town (fashion district, businesses).  You can easily get from one side of the city to the other in a 15-20 minute walk.

Here's the castle:

looking out from inside the castle entrance

Perhaps the funniest part of the trip was the fact that the first thought that came to my mind when i got on the bus to get from the airport to my hotel, was how much the bus driver sounded like Fat Bastard from Austin Powers!!!  (keep in mind it was pretty late when i got in).  And it only got better from there - because soon I discovered that every man sounded like him!  I know I know, it's completely politically incorrect, but c'mon - it was funny.  :)  At least they didn't look like him!  Although I think if I stayed there any longer I'd probably start to get a wee bit rounder - the food is so rich and heavy.  Everyone at work told me to try the deep fried Mars bars - maybe next time.

Mary King's Close was a really interesting tour.  Believe it or not, there's actually an entire city beneath Edinburgh - it's how the city was initially constructed, with 5-6 or so levels below ground before the above ground parts were built.  The poorest of the poor lived at the bottom with no light (and with rats and all the raw sewage that got poured out of windows at 7am and 7pm).  Four families would live in a room that's about the size of my bedroom.  There were entire underground markets and everything.  During the plague, those unfortunate enough to catch it would be stuck down there and not allowed to leave - and no one would be allowed to get within 6 meters of them because there was such a fear of it spreading..  Lots of hauntings down there too from murders and all the people (and children) who died of the plague.  The entire city's haunted as far as I could tell!  Seemed like everywhere you look some gravedigger/haunted cave/ghost tour is advertised.  

You might ask why the people lived in such cramped quarters and didn't spread out further into the country.  At the time it just wasn't safe to stray from the city center because the Scottish were at war with the English, and there was no protection outside the city boundaries.  So people really had no choice but to live cramped on top of each other.  Now the underground tunnels, or "closes," are really just traveled by tour groups - no homes or businesses down there anymore. 

On a lighter note, here's a Scottish street performer:

Hearing this music everywhere while taking a stroll down the old cobblestone part of town up to the castle just makes you feel like you're living in another century - it's brilliant!!  Here's some pics of the streets in the old part of town.

Count on me to find the one thai restaurant around.  Had a nice lunch here.

My second night in the city I went on a literary pub tour - in hopes of meeting some new faces to share a pint with, as well as maybe learn a thing or two.  Well....I got 2 out of 3.  You are correct if you guessed the friends and pints.  This tour was hilarious because I could hardly understand a word the actors said during the entire thing! (I did pick up "slainte" which is scottish for cheers). Coincidentally I was not alone - I met some fellow Americans and a Swiss couple who also confided to me that they couldn't understand what the heck the guides were saying.  Granted, the Swiss couple was there to learn/practice English.  I think the irony lies in the fact that this was a "literary" pub tour.  As a followup - I'm trying to brush up on my Scottish by reading an Irvine Welsh book.  I have to actually read the words out loud in order to understand what he's writing.  You know what I mean if you've read any I.W.

Here's some pics from a local kilt shop - buy any kilt get a jacket FREE!  Better stock up!

Check out the legs on these fellas!

My last day in the city there happened to be a wedding at my hotel - I was right outside just at the perfect time to watch this:

So beautiful!  I know I've said I really want to get married on a sandy beach...but maybe we could throw a bagpipe player in there too?  

Here's some more pictures of the city...

At the Scotch Whisky Experience you can try 300 different types of Scotch whisky!  I took a pass on this one...

The weekend went by way to quickly, but it was a great getaway and hopefully I can get back there sometime in the future. And despite the difficulty I had with the accent, the friendliness and warmth of the people really made for a wonderful trip.  I highly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance!

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