Saturday, August 18, 2012

Edinburgh Day 1

There are hills! And cliffs! And bridges everywhere that you don't realise are bridges until you go to the edge and look down - they just seem like normal streets. And there are lots and lots of pointy buildings, you know, with spires and intricate stonework. There's a medieval building just down the road from me that they've built onto in glass, and I really like the clash of the old and the new.

I've probably said this before, but it's strange walking around places that you've heard about but never been to. Sometimes you don't connect where you are until afterwards, and other times you feel you're following in the footsteps of a character or a writer or a king. Street names jump out at you, and you realise that this is it, this is the street where that happened, or in the case of London, one of the actual train stations on the Monopoly board. In Edinburgh, for me, it's been the Royal Mile and Fleshmarket (I've walked through that alley twice today). I've read about Edinburgh in books, and now here it is.

Things I approve of: I can see the sea from the road outside my hostel. Aforementioned pointy bits on buildings. Cobbled streets. Bridges. Tartan, everywhere (the seats on the buses are tartan. Actually, I'm not sure I approve of this...). Bagpipes (they're meant to be here! This is the home of bagpipes!). Cliffs and hills. I'm going to walk some tomorrow, if my itinerary lets me.

I got to my hostel at about a quarter to three, settled in and checked what I'd booked for myself tonight. I'd made the bookings about three months ago, and I couldn't quite remember what I'd booked myself and just how much I have to go and see. The thick wad of tickets should have given me a clue, I guess, but I forgot that I'd booked not one but two things for tonight. And I had to find the Hub by five o'clock, wherever that was.

The Hub turned out to be just down the road from the Castle, and there I enjoyed a lecture about the Classical world's influence on modernity. The lecturer pointed out that classical-style buildings were originally built for a Mediterranean climate, and are actually quite out of place in colder cities. He also talked about the perception that the Classical world was perfect, and the way that it is idealised to contrast against the 'ugly' modern world. Very interesting, especially a bit about how Classical learning and thought has been slowly moving away from the direct influence it had in the Renaissance, to the more removed, subtle influence it has today.

I walked back through Fleshmarket and got a jacket potato filled with vegan haggis for dinner (this is another thing I approve of. I can have 'haggis' without having to think about sheep stomachs). My next stop was a dance production called 'And then, a Thousand Years of Peace' which I absolutely loved. The dancing was incredibly dynamic and emotive, with lots of repetition and percussive movement. The music was strange and rhythmic and built in intensity. Chains fell in silver darts from the ceiling, and there was a long scene in which first the women, and then the men, wrapped themselves in plastic and I was a bit worried about their access to oxygen.

I was trying guess the themes as I watched: love and war, control and relinquishing it, following orders, free will, compromising yourself in the name of your country (they used flags as costumes in a few scenes). At the end the flags were washed and wrung out onto the floor, and then two sheep were brought in! Actual sheep, that baa'd!

It was awesome.


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