A Scottish Breakfast

Lost in Edinburgh

I left my hotel to explore the city at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning. I encounter few pedestrians in the streets of Edinburgh. The shops are closed, and a steady stream of empty buses and trams pass during my walk in to town.

With a map in my pocket and a recommendation for a hearty, Scottish breakfast, I walk from Haymarket towards Edinburgh Castle. A kaleidoscope of restaurants and small shops illuminate my path through the gray city streets. Upscale bistros and cafes swarm around the usual High Street flare–chipper and kebab joints as well as off-license shops. Gaudy souvenir shops of questionable quality announce my approach to the Castle. The Old Town is quaint, but I recall Fontaine’s descriptions and I wonder whether the bric-a-brac and curiosity stores of his time are the same ones I encounter.

[Der] einzige Schmuck [von Old-Toolbooth] waren die Buden und Kramläden (»Krames« genannt), die zerfallen und bettelhaft, aber doch heiter und farbenbunt den alten Griesegram umlagerten. Er selber stand inmitten derselben da, grau und verräuchert, aus kleinen vergitterten Fenstern trübselig in die Welt blickend.

Theodor Fontane, Jenseit des Tweed

My deliberations are interrupted by a sign outside a welcoming Nicholson’s pub. The sign introduces Greyfriars Kirk and its famous canine keeper, Bobby, a Skye terrier, who continued to guard his master’s grave until his own death 14 years later.

Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby

I enter the churchyard for a quick peek. The green, rolling hills of the cemetery are a welcome refuge. I scamper around looking for a clear view of the Castle. Instead, I find solemn comfort underneath the obscuring branches of the Kirk’s hardwood trees. My grumbling stomach reminds me of my true purpose. I leave the churchyard as others arrive for Sunday service.

Looking for the Castle Through the Trees of the Kirk

Looking for the Castle Through the Trees of the Kirk

The restaurant I want to try is a few minutes from the church grounds. Mums is a small local cafe like many I’ve frequented in the US. When I enter, the waitress shakes and shimmies to 1980’s music. A handful of customers enjoy the show. Her fun, warm greeting immediately brights up my cold, gray day.

A Perfect Scottish Breakfast

A Perfect Scottish Breakfast

The waitress takes my order, and my freshly cooked Scottish breakfast arrives in no time. Cooked mushrooms, tomatoes, and other traditional items are piled to perfection on the plate. The exquisite taste of the vegetarian sausage and haggis leave nothing to be desired. My meal was perfect. I had consumed enough calories to continue walking so I depart with a full belly and the squeal of hair metal music ringing in my head.

Monument to Sir Walter Scott

Monument to Sir Walter Scott

Following in Fontaine’s footsteps, I start in the direction of Holyrood Palace only to double back and walk to the Castle. The bright signs of the bars and clubs on High Street distract my attention from the historical architecture of the buildings. I can picture throngs of tourists as well as stag and hen parties spilling out in to the streets in summer. My imagination overtakes the early morning reality of a Sunday morning in January.

Ich habe schon in einem früheren Kapitel hervorgehoben, wie das Straßenleben Alt-Edinburgs etwas Südländisches hat. Man geht nicht vor die Tore, um sich im Freien, im Grünen zu vergnügen, man schlendert nur zwischen Canongate und Edinburg-Castle auf und ab, gesellt sich zu dieser oder jener Gruppe, lauscht einen Augenblick, spricht auch wohl und schreitet zur nächsten Ecke weiter, um dort ein ähnliches Treiben vorzufinden wie das, was man soeben verlassen hat. Die Gin-Shops und Whisky-Läden (übrigens von ziemlich dürftigem Aussehen und nicht zu vergleichen mit ähnlichen Etablissements in London) laden überall zum Eintritt ein, und die Temperanzprediger, die sich allabendlich vor einem auf und ab gehenden Publikum, das die Stummelpfeife im Munde und die Hände in den Hosentaschen hat, hören lassen, scheinen mir nicht in der Lage, den verführerischen Eckläden eine erhebliche Konkurrenz zu machen.

Theodor Fontane, Jenseit des Tweed

I assume Edinburgh is be a destination like Prague, Krakow, or Berlin that rely on a steady influx of visitors. In the last ten years, EasyJet and other discount airlines have turned European cities into a single, common area where fun is efficient and standardized. Each city has similar bars and patrons. The locales are rarely unique nor do they express any local charm. National armies no longer enforce peace in Europe. Mass tourism and its tax revenue now binds European cities together. Cities are no longer unique travel destinations, places with their own culture and history to explore; rather, cities have become indistinguishable party locations that package the same product for a homogeneous European traveler. An American hamburger joint in Berlin or a German bakery in Edinburgh were once a rare find. Today, entrepreneurs in the global economy implant restaurants and bars in every cities like dentists replacing worn teeth with new, artificial crowns. Historic enclaves like London’s Chinatown or Kreuzberg SO36 in Berlin are no longer robust, thriving communities. Profit seeking landlords have pushed out residents and local mainstays to replace them with a franchise or a corporate subsidiary that can afford higher rents.

Whisky to Go

Whisky to Go

By the time I reach the end of Castlehill road, I need a break from my own thoughts. I briefly stop at The Scotch Whisky Experience to take a picture before I cross the grand esplanade in front of the Castle.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

I enter the main gate of the Castle and discover that I can purchase entry to Edinburg’s unique history for a mere 17 Scottish pounds. The price of admission is too expensive for me so I enjoy a cloudy view of the city for free and continue my walk towards the Princess Street Gardens and the Castle grounds below. My unobstructed view of the Castle is my reward for a long walk through the city.

Edinburgh Castle from the Princes Street Gardens

Edinburgh Castle from the Princes Street Gardens

I am tired from my walk and my first, proper visit to Edinburg. I look forward to my return in a few days.

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