In Which I Discover What’s Wrong With the World

I sat down on the bench in front of Canongate Kirk to scour the phone for information about the church standing behind me. It wasn’t yet time for my scheduled visit to the castle, so I still had some time to pass. The church seemed to be closed, but perhaps, I wondered, perhaps the cemetery would be interesting.

And then the older gentleman next to me started talking.

It seems to me that the Scots have a reputation for being curmudgeonly, and this man was quite animated in this regard. With his thick Scottish accent I could barely understand what he was saying, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I tried not to let on, just agreeing periodically. At times, he would gesture to the church, then the street above us, and every once in a while he made movements as if injecting something into his vein. The only consistent words that I could parse were, “You go up there and look down the street, you’ll see all the drunks and the addicts. Aye. That’s what’s wrong with the world today.”

And because I couldn’t understand him, I just had to listen, blinking and nodding at intervals. I couldn’t find a polite segue from which to manufacture an excuse for escape as he continued to gesticulate and grouse. I considered offering up “you’re right – I should go check out the drunks and the addicts right now,” but something seemed wrong with that statement.

Eventually he tired of our conversation and left me sitting alone on the bench with my thoughts. The cemetery was quite nice, by the way.

The Royal Mile takes its name from the two buildings that mark its upper and lower terminal endpoint. At the bottom is Holyrood Palace, which is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Usually there are tours, but, given the Queen’s passing, these have been canceled until later in the week. So instead I stood outside the gate gazing longingly at the palace inside.

At the upper end is the Edinbugh Castle, standing on Castle Rock, which has been occupied in some manner since the iron age. It was formerly a royal castle, then became a military barracks, and currently is a museum.

I explored the structure for a time, climbing the staircases and gazing out past the battlements.

The weight of this place is heavy, built of ponderous stone that holds in the cold and insulates from the heat of summer, if it ever truly gets hot here.

They have the Scottish crown jewels here, as well as the Stone of Destiny (which is to be returned briefly to London soon for the Coronation of King Charles). I wasn’t allowed to take photos of these things.

After some more time bouncing around the castle, I stopped for another Scotch Whisky Tasting. Because, this is Scotland, after all.

Finally, the waning hours of my afternoon today were spent on a tour of the Real Mary Kings Close, which is described as a creepy tour of underground Edinburgh. This is a terrible description. In reality Mary King had a home on a close (remember, an alley) that has since been sealed over. This tour takes visitors into that alley and the surrounding closed-off homes and businesses. I honestly found it historically interesting, and well worth the time.

After this, I returned to the hostel and began my packing, While I moved things in and out of my few bags, I spoke with some of my roommates at the hostel. One is a city planner from Oregon and the other a realtor from Germany. We had a good conversation, getting to know one another. It made me feel a little less old – as though actual adults really do stay at hostels, and this was a welcome feeling.

And then my packing was done, and afterward dinner was eaten. Before bed, I paused to look once more out the skylight. Tomorrow I head out on the next leg of this journey. My time in Edinburgh has been far too short, and there is much more of this town left for another journey. Perhaps someday I will visit again, with more time to spare.

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