Week 2: Exploring my Roots

This weekend, four of my closest friends from the program and I traveled from our home in Cambridge to Edinburgh, Scotland. I was particularly excited about this because my ancestors from my maternal grandmother’s side immigrated to the United States from Scotland. Before going on the trip, my grandmother actually told me that he was originally from Glasgow and his family was known for a famous brew that is found all over Scotland–NOW I’m ready to go dive into some culture.

A cottage on Calton Hill that is said to have been the inspiration for Hagrid’s Hut in the world-famous book series, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

My favorite thing about Scotland was visiting the castle and walking through the streets. The city of Edinburgh was built on a volcano which naturally makes all of the streets extremely steep. Also, all of the buildings were built very tall (for the time) and extremely close together! A lot of the sidewalks are actually built into stair cases and tunnels that weave between buildings; it was so fascinating. My calves were definitely feeling the burn after the walks this weekend, but it was all worth it.

Victoria Street–also known as the inspiration for Diagon Alley

The castle seemed like a miniature village inside–there were so many parts to it! The sections I found most interesting was the Royal Palace and the prison chambers. The Royal Palace is where the crown, jewels, and the Stone of Destiny is kept. I highly recommend looking up the history of the Stone of Destiny–it has a long line of tensions between Britain and Scotland, but also a very funny story about some university students in the 1950s getting into a lot of trouble for the sake of their pride for their country and its stone. I wish we were allowed pictures in the palace, but it was forbidden.

The castle had a prison that was rebuilt to resemble the barracks from the 1700s and then others to resemble the 1800s modifications. To be quite honest, I was expecting much worse. We found it interesting that each of the prisoners was assigned to their own surgeon for medical assistance. Also, the rooms from the 1800s were single-bed rooms. The prisons were so talents–they used left over bones from their food to carve into “ivory” decorations that they could sell or trade. I am not saying any of this was luxurious by any means, but I was expecting slightly worse…

The castle was by far, one of the most unique things I have ever seen in my life. It was often hard to remember that all the stories we were soaking in actually happened right where I was standing. For example, it’s crazy to think that I was walking right next to the sight of the gallows where thousands of people were hung to their death and now it is simply a cement circle in the middle of a park protected by metal gates. Or that, when walking through Greyfriar’s Kirk, I was walking on top of HUNDREDS of thousands of people, some of who’s names have been used in some very famous books. All in all, the history of Edinburgh can be gruesome at some times, but all of the dark parts of their history has shaped them to the country they are today.

This may be my favorite picture from the entire weekend. If you look closely, you will see there is a beam of light shining directly on me. This beam of light was in every single picture I took. To me, someone who is very spiritual in this way, believes that it was one of two things: 1. one of the ghosts from the ghost tour we went on the night prior had come out to play or 2. my great great (maybe another generation? I’m not sure.) grandfather, Richard Tennent, was saying, “Welcome to our beautiful country.” Which ever it is, I feel extremely blessed to have been able to visit Edinburgh and soak up all of its history. 🙂

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