I'm Olivia. I'm a perpetually hungry redheaded girl from New York. I eat, sleep and breathe Korean pop music. I speak French and am studying Korean language and business in school. This fall, I'm setting forth on an exciting and terrifying (seriously I'm so nervous I might pee) solo journey across Europe. Hopefully this experience is full of bright, fun, and exciting as well as ridiculously stupid experiences that I can share with you!
SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED since I last wrote. I wouldn't have left it so long but I went on a 3 day tour and didn't have my laptop. Get prepared everybody, I've got a lot to say...
I ended my last entry with my dramatically delayed flight to Edinburgh. I've been here a week already, and this is probably one of my favorite places I've been so far (Scotland, I mean, not just Edinburgh.)
The first hostel I stayed at was really, really small. The staff were nice but the bathrooms were grimy and since there was only one small kitchen for everyone to eat and hang out in, it's safe to say I was very sick of everyone, very quickly. I also don't need to mention (but I will anyway) THE FACT THAT NO MATTER WHAT SETTING, THE TOASTER WOULD BLACKEN MY TOAST.
Anyway, my first day in Edinburgh I walked around the Princes Street Gardens. The Gardens actually used to be a lake, the Noor Loch, into which they would throw accused witches to see if they'd sink or float. They filled in the lake because it was filthy and was stinking up the whole town. That cess pool of a lake sure made for some fantastic gardens! I'd really like to go back, but I don't think I'll have time.
That's Edinburgh Castle in the background. You could see the Old Town from the Gardens as well.
The hostel I was staying at was right near the National Gallery and the Scott Monument. I didn't go up into the Monument because I thought that to climb 200 plus steps, 4 pounds was a little too steep (hehe, tower humor.) But one place I was absolutely making a pilgrimage to was a café called Mum's. Lonely Planet said you absolutely had to go there, and I can't not listen to Lonely Planet. It was about a mile from my hostel, and I took some photos on the way.
I got to Mum's at around 11, a little early for lunch, but I was pretty hungry. Mum's is famous for Scottish comfort food (haggis, sausages, neeps, tatties, and the like.) I was torn between sausages and mash and haggis. I hadn't tried haggis before and wasn't sure if I should order a whole plate, so I opted for the sausages and mash. Each day there are different kinds of homemade sausages, along with maybe a dozen types of potatoes to choose from, from mustard to leek and bacon, along with chipotle cheese and horseradish. I chose steak and kidney sausages with plain and simple potatoes. The waitress also gave me a small plate of haggis to try. I have to tell you guys something.
Haggis. Is. Wonderful. I'm telling you right now , you need to man up and get past the fact that it's left over parts of the sheep. It is probably one of the more delicious things I've had on this trip.
Anyway, sausages and mash.
The café was right near Greyfriar's Kirkyard. The cemetery is said to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland. Even in the daytime it was damn creepy. I actually went here again a couple more times as part of different tours, but I'll talk about those later.
Also I saw the life-size statue of a terrier named Bobby. The story goes that there was a night watchman in the cemetery and he got a dog for self-defense (how much good a terrier would do, I'm not so sure.) The man died, and the dog would come every day to sit on his grave. I heard another version of this story on the ghost tour I took later that night: that it's complete bullshit. The reason the dog was coming into the graveyward everyday was to dig up bones, and the night watchmen never actually existed. Eventually the story got so popular that they searched back in their records for someone with the same name as the watchmen and put up a fake stone. Because the dog was desecrating sacred ground by chewing the bones, he was actually put on trial and put in little doggy shackles (this may not be true either.) Nobody wanted to convict him, so they made him a freeman and gave him a key to the city. Either story could be true, that's why history is so interesting!
After that I went into St. Giles' Cathedral. The blue ceiling was so beautiful, and there was some kind of flute performance going on while I was in there.
After that I walked back across the bridge and took a picture with a bagpipe player :3 He asked me what my favorite song was...and guessing he probably didn't know any songs by SHINee, I told him I wasn't so up on bagpipe tunes. I think if I could sum up Scotland in one photo, it might be this one.
Also, in the UK, there's this really evil department store that sells really cute and affordable clothes. I went there and may or may not have bought this coat. (I got my hair done at this point so there it is but )
It is the fluffiest thing I've ever owned. Anyway,
That night I went on a ghost tour of Edinburgh. Edinburgh has probably one of the most violent histories I've ever heard. It wasn't so much a ghost tour as a "Hey! These people died in this horrible disgusting way! Let's discuss it!!" tour. There were some really interesting stories. The surgical college in Edinburgh were given very few bodies to dissect, so graverobbing became a popular pastime as well as the buying and selling of bodies on a sort of black market. Two guys, Burke and Hare, realized they could profit off of this and that instead of waiting for people to die, it would be smarter to just kill people and sell the bodies. What they would do was get people really drunk, hold them face down and force them to vomit os they would drown in it. They did this to tons of people. When they were caught, only Burke was convicted and he was hung and then publicly dissected. I actually saw books made from his skin in the Surgeon's Hall Museum. Another story that was more entertaining than anything else was about Deacon Brody. He was the locksmith and furniture maker for the city, and whenever he would make keys for houses, he would make himself a copy of the key and go ransacking homes at night. He also had 3 seperate families with 3 different women. He stole a valuable piece of silver and volunteered to head the search party. Every house was searched except his. What a clever guy! the thing is, he wasn't poor or anything, he just did all of this for the thrill...crazy. Anyway the tour was os much fun but it rained the whole time. We went to Greyfriar's Kirkyard, an underground vault, and an underground pub that had to close because too many weird things were happening. I got done with that at 12 at night and had to walk back to the hostel alone in the rain :( Also I ate a kebab. Just adding that little bit of info in there.
The next day I woke up really early TO BUY A TICKET TO THE INFINITE CONCERT. Buying concert tickets is always really stressful, and it is made even more stressful when your wifi isn't working, but after 20 minutes of hyperventilating , I got the ticket!! Also it cost me an arm and a leg but who cares about that to be honest.
After that I had my hair appointment. I went to a place called Hot Head, and it was amazing! Chloe, the girl who did my hair, did an amazing job and was so friendly. They also had free coffee and caramels. Yum! It was expensive to get my hair done, but my self esteem was plummeting as the days went on because I felt so ratty, and there's nothing more refreshing than getting your hair done! Cue selfie montage:
If you're ever in Edinburgh and need your hair done, go to this place!
After that I went to the Surgeon's Hall Museum. I saw a lot of deformed skeletons and body parts in jars. It was really cool but there isn't much more I can say about it than that...but here's Burke's skin!!
After that I walked a really long way to this Dim Sum restaurant that (you guessed it) Lonely Planet recommended. I ordered a sample platter that came with 2 each of 4 different kinds of dim sum. They were all really good except one...
WHAT ARE YOU? You look like you have eggs inside, but you taste sweet...I just...I'm going to stop addressing you directly and move on to other things...
I also had some satay beef noodles which were really great on a rainy day.
That night I did a tour of Mary King's Close. Closes are medieval streets in Edinburgh, and this one was covered up to build the City Chamber buildings. Yeah, there's houses and stuff underground but do. not. do this tour. It was a complete waste of money. The tour guide sounded like he was reading from a script and it wasn't all that interesting down there. After that I went to a pub called the Royal Oak and heard some live folk music! I stayed there two hours and then headed back to the hostel.
I decided to switch hostels early because I got really fed up with the people in the hostel I was currently in. Living in close quarters with people is really difficult, and especially difficult if they're annoying. I did meet one really nice girl from Canada who had been there since August. So I lugged my suitcase 2/3 of a mile uphill to my new hostel, and I had no idea why I didn't stay there in the first place. It was such a cool place, and all the staff were really cool and talkative. Anyway after I got settled in my room I did a free walking tour around Edinburgh. These are amazing, too, if you're ever in Europe. The company is called Sandeman's and they have them in tons of different countries! The tour lasted two and a half hours. We went everywhere and I took photos on the way.
(This was right outside my hostel)
This is the Grass Market
Here's more of Greyfriars. JK Rowling sat in the Elephant House Café and had a view of the cemetery everyday. She was extremely poor, as you know, and spent her time in the café creating what would soon be Harry Potter. She obviously spent time walking through the graveyard, as there were some familiar names on the tombstones.
The Covenanter's Prison is also in the cemetery. Covenanters were fighting against the Church of England and were persecuted for their beliefs. These cells had no roof, and had ridiculous rules. If you made noise in your sleep, the person you were locked up with would be killed, so you would have to live with the guilt of that person's death. Some people even drowned when it rained because they didn't want to risk a wrong movement and the deaths of their comrades.
Here's the Elephant House!
I took more pictures around the Old Town.
I met a girl on the tour and after it was over we went to a restaurant where I had more haggis! I had a full plate this time.
In Scotland, there's a beverage called Iron Brew. It's a sort of soft drink that contains a mild pain-reliever and is used as a hangover cure. It. is. disgusting. Not to mention it's radioactively orange. It really tasted like fizzy cough syrup...I don't advise drinking this...
After the haggis, we had deep fried Mars Bars (what a great day for calories, I know.) It was so mushy and delicious/slightly disgusting, but I regret nothing.
After that I decided to go to the Elephant House for a Cappucino. What's funny is that they charged 2 pounds for the wifi, and I was able to pick it up from the pastry shop next door...hehehe.
The next morning I left for my 3 day tour of Loch Ness and Skye! In the hostel reception, I met a girl from Taiwan named Yi-Han who was also going on the tour. We started talking immediately and sat together on the bus. Our tour guide was a man named Duncan wearing a kilt. He was hilarious, and about as stereotypically Scottish as you could be. He brought whisky for people on the bus and had just picked a whole bag of apples that morning. On the bus was a group of Indians, a Chinese family, a Slovenian girl, and a girl from South Korea. We stopped at Forth Bridge, which was a huge and slightly over-fortified bridge connecting Edinburgh and Fife. It was really cool!
We then went to a place called The Hermitage where there was a river and waterfalls. There, we started talking to Jiwon, the girl from South Korea. At that moment we became pretty much inseperable for the rest of our time in Scotland. I was so happy to meet both of them and we did so many things together! The greatest thing about traveling is the people you meet, and we're going to try to meet each other again a couple times before I go home, and when I go to Korea to study I will see Jiwon and now I have a reason to go to Taipei and see Yi-Han! I'm so happy, but anyway I'm getting off topic.
We stopped in a small village called Pilotchry for lunch. We had smoked salmon baguettes and then went to a bakery and each bought desserts and then shared them .
Then we went into a store that sold wool products and tartan patterned clothing. So much plaid....so much...
We stopped at Culloden battlefield, but more importantly, THERE WERE HAIRY COWS THERE.
I could explain the significance of this battlefield as well as the entire history of the Jacobite rebellion but honestly, if you want to know just go look it up on Wikipedia.
Beautiful place for a massacre, don't you think?
We stopped here and I actually don't remember what this is..
I took a selfie here, too.
We also quickly stopped at a whisky distillery and they had samples.
After that, we went to Loch Ness! Guess who was the only brave member of the tour (apart from the guide) to go in the water??
I look happy, but I was pretty much dying of hypothermia.
Yi-Han got this great picture of me too!
There was a guy there who made a living carving little tiny figurines of Nessie. I wish I had bought one, they were adorable!
Our hostel was in Inverness, and we went to a Spanish tapas restaurant for dinner. Spanish food is too salty..
The next day we went to Skye. One of our first stops was a castle called Eilean Donan. It was so beautiful!! We paid to go inside and had about an hour in there to look around.
I took this from the bridge. Also I bought a wool scarf at the castle. That's the one touristy thing I wanted to buy in Scotland (other than a stuffed cow maybe)
We stopped at more mountains, and some of these I took from the bus.
We stopped in Port Righ for lunch and had fish and chips while sitting in the harbor. We all had stomach aches after that.
After that we went to a place called Kilt rock, where the rocks look like the pleats in a kilt. Some of us took turns trying on a traditional Scottish kilt. Yi-Han and Jiwon both did, but I didn't.
After Kilt Rock, we went to a place called Fairy Glen, and climbed up to the top of the castle ruins. We almost fell a couple of times.
We stayed in a village whose name I'm going to butcher and went to a pub for dinner. I had a salad and did some laundry. I'm going to finish my Scottish experience tomorrow because I feel like I've overwhelmed you all a little with how much I've written. I get to see my family tomorrow!