This past weekend I took the train up north to finally see some more of Great Britain. I made some friends earlier this semester up at St. Andrews so I decided to go visit them. I am part Scottish so I was really excited to finally go see some of my native homeland, and I wasn't dissapointed. Scotland is beautiful and interesting and I hope I have a chance to return when I have more time. (which would be...when?)
First I took the train to Edinburgh, one of Scotland's bigger cities, and met up with my friend Susan. She is an Emory friend who happened to be visiting her Scottish relatives for Thanksgiving. I was so excited to see her and have her show me the sites of Edinburgh! I really lucked out that afternoon, it was brilliantly sunny, although very cold (my entire trip could probably be summed up as very, very, cold). It was friday and the city was just putting up it's christmas lights, there was this cute little carnival going on downtown outside the train station. This is a picture of the carnival in front of the very large and gothic monument to Sir Walter Scott.
I was only in Edinburgh for an afternoon, not nearly enough. We had lunch (while I caught up on all the Emory news) poked around a street fair and then went up the Edinburgh castle. It is a hulking mass high on the hill, huge and dominating. We did a whirlwind tour, climbing to the top for the view, peeking into the church and the WWI memorial and stopping briefly to hear a knight speak on scottish fighting techniques (basically act tough and kick everyone's butt). It was a pretty impressive castle, reminded me a bit of Dover Castle. It get's dark even earlier there then here, the sun started to set aroung three! We did a little but of shopping on Princes Street, the high street and then hugged our goodbyes. She hopped on the bus back to her grandparents and I was off to St. Andrews.
I was very excited to see St. Andrews after hearing all about it from Jason and others. It is one of the oldest universities in the UK and home of the first golf course ever! It is a very cute little town, very very small. The entire town consists of about three streets. Still it is very much a college town, it has the highest concentration of pubs of anywhere in the UK! I could tell that they party hard there, I think they have to if only to keep warm! I was able to sample some Scottish pubs (quite similar to English ones) and some Scottish whiskey of course. Fun stuff.
Aside from the bars and the golfing, St. Andrews is known for the great castle and cathedral ruins. As you should know by now I love old things, especially cemetaries and ruins, so this was right up my alley. The castle is from the thirteenth century and only small parts remain. I didn't pay to go inside, I walked around the outside and took pictures. I think most of what was there could be seen from the outside anyways. I especially loved the cathedral ruins dating from the tenth to the sixteenth century. It was once Scotland's largest building, now there are only a few pieces left standing. They are perched on this cliff overlooking the North Sea. It was windy and near dusk when I went which made it very, very chilly but the view, the sea and the sky were spectacular. There is a large cemetary all around where the cathedral once was so I spent some time waundering around in there as well. The ruins were beautiful against the dusky sky, it was all very romantic to see. And I took a lot a lot of pictures, I am becoming a picture taking addict.
The one thing I will probably remember most about Scotland was how incredibly nice the people were. I don't mean my friends at St. Andrews (although they are very nice and fun) but the actual Scottish people. They were all so friendly, especially compared to the English! I ran into some trouble on my way back home and I don't know what I would have done without their help. Basically I needed to take a bus and two seperate trains to get home. The bus dropped me off at the train station at Leuchars (the closest station to St. Andrews) at which point I discovered that the station was actually closed for the day due to construction! There was a bus taking passengers to the next station but I missed it by about 30 seconds, the next one wouldn't be there until 1:30. I needed to take that train to get into Edinburgh to take my second train home at 2 pm, there was no way I could wait that long. I happened to meet another student from St. Andrews who had missed the bus and we tried to figure out what to do. Suddenly a man approached us, I think he may have been a professor and asked if we needed help. When we told him what had happened he offered to drive us himself to the next train station so we could catch the train! He had just gotten his wife onto the bus and felt bad for us being stranded there. It was so incredibly nice of him I was totally taken aback. And thanks to him I was able to actually make it home thank goodness. I am definatly a fan of the scottish. I snapped this picture out the window of the train as we were leaving Scotland. What a beautiful welcoming place it was.
My mother is flying in tomorrow morning, how exciting! We will do some sightseeing and other fun things but then it's really going to be time to really work hard- only three weeks to go!