As mentioned in yesterdays post, I was very fortunate to spend last Thanksgiving traveling with my wife and her family to Ireland and the U.K. During this trip we spent a couple days in Edinburgh, Scotland, a few more in Dublin, Ireland, and took a day trip up to see Belfast and the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. It was my first time overseas and I really enjoyed being able to experience a different part of the world. For the next week I’ll be sharing daily posts featuring some of the highlights from Edinburgh; with similar features on Dublin and Northern Ireland in the near future.
To be entirely honest, I was pretty much in full-on zombie mode when we arrived in Scotland. I’d made the questionable choice not to sleep the night before Cris and I left Iowa in hopes of doing so during the 15 hour trio of flights that took us across the Atlantic. Of course, it didn’t happen then either. We landed in Dublin, where my sister-in-law Kelly lives, met up with her and Cris’ parents, and spent the first day sightseeing. The idea was to keep ourselves awake in order to acclimate to the six hour time change. Unfortunately the jet lag, likely complicated by the already erratic sleep schedule I maintain from working second shift, hit me pretty hard and somehow I managed a third restless night in a row. This was followed by a 4 a.m. departure to the airport for a quick pre-dawn flight across the Irish Sea. By the time we touched down in Edinburgh I was basically just stumbling along, flashing my passport upon request and doing whatever else I was told.
I do recall eating a greasy egg sandwich from some back alley diner that my wife has been raving about for years (Cris spent time traveling around Europe and lived in Edinburgh for about six months after finishing her undergrad.) From there I just shuffled along with the family procession. There was talk of heading for Calton Hill. That was fine, I didn’t know a thing about Edinburgh so it was all the same to me. It was cold, drizzly, overcast, there were big old buildings and people everywhere, and that was pretty much the view from my malaise. My entire life force was focused on not getting separated from the group, and to keep moving forward until somebody would finally give me the okay to lie down and sleep.
Fortunately this was soon about to change. We made our way to Calton Hill and just when we crested the sky broke as the acropolis came into sight. I snapped from my despondence and scrambled for my camera. The first thing that struck me was the quality of light, and this continued to wow me for our entire two-day stay in Edinburgh. It was late November and so although the days were short the light had an almost continuous golden hour appeal. Combine this with a natural filtering effect from the coastal clouds, gorgeous vistas, beautiful stonework and fascinating history and I was absolutely in heaven! I immediately fell in love with Scotland and wanted to take it all in. Sleep was the furthest thing from my mind.
Calton Hill is a towering prominence in the center of Edinburgh topped with a large public green and several historic structures, including the National Monument and the Nelson Monument (which is the tower in the photo above, and will have it’s own feature post tomorrow.) The National Monument dominates the skyline and is modeled after the Greek Parthenon.
The monument was commissioned as a tribute to Scotish soldiers and sailors who had fallen in the Napoleonic Wars. As you might recall, Napoleon* was the little French dude who was running amok all over Europe in the early 1800’s. A series of battles between the French Empire and allied European forces raged from 1803-1815, when Napoleon met his final defeat at Waterloo. This brought about a four decade long period of relative peace, prosperity, and technological advancement in Europe.
(*Most of you probably already know this, but given the current political and apparent intellectual landscape here in America it’s become evident that many are clueless as to the history and establishing tenants of our own society, let alone world affairs. It’s probably time to just start over from square one…)
Construction began with great fan fair as a six ton foundation stone was laid in August of 1822. However, Edinburgh was quickly expanding and there were many civic projects underway at the time. By 1829 funding had dried up leaving nothing but the finished facade.
The incomplete structure was initially thought to be disgraceful and long referred to as “Edinburgh’s Shame” but over time it gained reverence and became a cherished landmark for the city. There’s been some discussion over the years of finishing the building as it was originally intended, but ultimately the people of Scotland have decided to just leave it like it is.