Perched atop Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, not far from the National Monument is the Nelson Monument, built as a tribute to British Naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson. Nelson led the Royal Fleet to victory over French and Spanish forces during the Battle of Trafalgar, one of the most decisive sea battles of the Napoleonic Wars. He was killed during the conflict, shot by a French musketeer, but would take his place in history as one of the most celebrated figures in Britain’s proud naval lineage.
The monument was built between 1807 and 1816 and is meant to resemble an upturned telescope, a symbol closely associated with Nelson. Atop the tower sits a large time ball that drops each day at one o’clock, originally purposed to allow ships to set their chronometers while viewed from the nearby harbor.
It was kind of bizarre to learn the history of this monument and think, “Huh. It’s not really that old.” On one hand that’s true, especially by Edinburgh standards. From the monument itself you have plain view of Edinburgh Castle and the City’s Old Town area, both with medieval origins. Even neolithic Stone Henge isn’t all that far away. However, start thinking in New World terms and you realize what was going on in America while this construction was taking place. Abraham Lincoln was a toddler. Lewis and Clark had just returned from their expedition. The American flag only had fifteen stars. Meanwhile the fine people of Scotland were over here building a tower; yet another memorial for the latest hero in their long and storied tale.
I guess that’s one of the great things about travel. It tears away the blinders that limit your view of the world as you’ve always known and forces you to consider things from a new perspective. Cultural differences, distance and even time become smaller and you come to appreciate the interconnection of it all.