Stepping outside after dropping my dirty and travel-worn bags, I noticed the cobblestones, the old building fronts, the charm that draws you in immediately without the need for double decker bus tours or guided walks following a man holding a yellow umbrella. Edinburgh is a city that makes you yearn not to be a tourist. All I wanted to do was find some grad student pub or old bookstore, sit in a wee corner of a medieval building or on a less-crowded city sidewalk, and soak the old and the new in through my skin and eyes. Edinburgh isn't stuck in the past. It seems the residents are in sync with 21st century life while loving the saturation of rich culture and history that surrounds them in this city. She reminded me of Florence, not in style or appearance but through the tangible beauty of sitting amidst the memories of diverse and exciting centuries.
I had the added pleasure of having a friend in town, a pal named Mary from my high school and college days who had lived in Edinburgh for about two years altogether. She had a passion for the Scottish and especially the fantastic culture to be found down each cobbly street. And Mary took me straight to the ambiance I was thirsting for: a bar by the local university, filled with young minds and cheap, local draft.
Within about 60 minutes of landing in Scotland, I fell for the country. It could be the quarter of my ancestry screaming out for its Scottish roots, but I don't think you have to be a Scotsman by blood to realize the joys of the plaid land. When every building speaks of a bygone era and every local seems to reek of humor, you feel satisfied with your destination...and to think I hadn't even laid eyes on the Highlands yet!
I highly doubt Edinburgh in the off-season lacks the vigor of its summer days, but we came at the absolute best time of year. August brings the Fringe, the world's largest arts festival, which means the city doubles in size, every nook is filled with artisan wares, and the energy of Edinburgh reaches all-time highs causing anyone to feel inspired and want to grab a mic or a paint brush. I felt the own artist in me jumping around inside, hoping to express something amidst a sea of purging souls. Part of me now feels there's no other place on Earth to be in August than here.
I think my friend, as well as the fabulous Rachel Rudwall, had it figured out: Edinburgh is a great place to study abroad. And if I'm lucky, I'll return to truly experience the grandeur of the Fringe Festival in August, as well as spend some quality one-on-one time with a city that now makes my top ten list: Edinburgh.