Wednesday, 5 December 2012

North of the Border - A Photographic Diary...By Saul Wilks

Edinburgh stands as one of the true magical cities that not only the UK has to offer, but the world as a whole, and let us make no mistake about this. The peaceful serenity it offers in abundance, coupled with the sheer beauty of the surrounding landscapes and indeed it's hearty mix of traditional and historic overtones makes it a special place indeed.

Originally said to have been built on seven hills to liken itself to Rome, Edinburgh offers a rare list of unique qualities unlike any other place that can be found on our domestic shores and this weekend just passed it played out as the back drop to an awe inspiring weekend spent with my girlfriend.

Having been to Edinburgh previously, I knew the sorts of wonders that the city holds, but even I, a veteran visitor to the city on a number of occasions, couldn't help but sit in complete enthralment as our taxi snaked its way from the airport through the edges of the city, taking in the grand Georgian architecture of the new town while navigating the hills and finally descending into the old town, which was to be our home for the next few days.

Having secured a flat at the basin of Victoria Street, looking out across the history steeped Grassmarket and up at the castle, I couldn't help but think how extraordinarily beautiful the scenes in front of me were, almost certainly recalling Sir Walter Scott's inspirations and virtuosic works of romantic gesture.

Gifted with a warming winter sun that pierced the cold Scottish air, making for a most delicious mix of cold streets with offerings of sharded light caressing through the many cracks and spires of Edinburgh's old town, I sincerely couldn't have asked for more, making me fall in love with this delicate city all over again.

Being somewhat of an eager scholar of the histories, Edinburgh is certainly the right place to exercise such interests, so it was with no surprise that we visited Mary King's Close, a piece of historical heritage buried beneath the modern area of the Royal Mile. This whole area once housed the 'common' folk of the capital, a scheming hive of plague infested warrens and true inner-city poverty dating back to the 17th century. It is said that the sheer height of the buildings that once stood here would have been in comparison to that of the modern Manhattan skyline, due to the number of levels and dwellers that came to settle here.

During the great Plague, a huge portion of the inhabitants that lived in the area succumbed to the disease and the feeling and atmosphere when visiting these places is certainly evident.

When the time had come for a rejuvenation in the capital cities living quarters and indeed its appearance, the whole area was filled in or, in this case, used as the foundations to build on top of, resulting in a number of original streets and buildings to become frozen in time beneath the current city and with it, the distant echo of the people that lived, worked, loved and died here - it's a very humbling experience, if not an interesting one.

Having paced the streets and mingled with the ghosts of Edinburgh's past we eased our way back into times present by making our way out onto the streets once again, stopping off at random will for warming soups and the odd alcoholic beverage. As the day's light ebbed away, a fine twilight made a thin veil over the darkening streets, allowing a show of regal silhouettes to take stage against the evening rush and induce a feeling of utter fervour, no doubt as tangible as the crisp Scottish air that cleansed the mind so vividly.

Sampling traditional fayre is an absolute given, not just when it comes to amenities such as food, so we paid visits to many a tweed shop, of which there are many, before making our way back to our homely abode.

Edinburgh offers a wonderful array of culinary offerings to suit curious pallets, so it was in the Grain house that we come to spend our Friday night, eating some of the best food I've had the pleasure of tasting this whole year. With appetites satisfied, making our way out into the cold but flavoursome scented air and back down into the old town, the Christmas lighting ignited the first real feelings of festive enchantment I've had and so the night was spent in such cheery ways with much wine and cheese being heartily consumed.

With the birth of Saturday morning came another glorious day and an exploration to the opposite side of the city, the retail and commercial hub of the capital, which I've pretty much outlined in the Goodstead post previous.

With Christmas markets aplenty, the scented aromas of international and the more traditional treats blanketed the surrounding areas, ensuring a healthy appetite was never quite sated and so a day of eating, drinking and merriment was played out, all in the shadow of Edinburgh's most obvious landmark, the castle, always looking down graciously on it's cities proceedings.

I'm unsure if it was the crystal air or the fact that we had walked almost everywhere that made the mind and legs lethargic, if either, but it certainly attributed to the most relaxing yet homeliest of feelings I've had for quite some time.

As the remainder of our time in this enigmatic outpost came to pass, we spent it enjoying the character and charm that Edinburgh holds in infinite amounts and it is these things that surely calls out to those that choose to pass through there, the gluttons of warming hospitality and a feeling of a home from home...

Indeed this elegant and most beautiful city is certainly a magnetic to the romantic minds, and of that I am as guilty as Sir Walter himself.

No comments:

Post a Comment