Edinburgh, more like edinburrrrr

Scotland, or, the start of cold. In my travels through England, the weather was a heatwave induced perfect. Wales, mostly perfect. Scotland: I don't think I saw blue in the sky once. And when it rains, it isn't actually all that warm. It's pretty much got that San Francisco summer chill. By which I mean surprise frostbite or a light jacket.

So we decided to check out Edinburgh. Spoiler: there's a castle in the middle of the city! It's really quite hard to avoid. But why would you want to?

Castle rock; party rock.

At night, the castle is lit up with a haunting blue glow. Hope you like ghost castles. I know I do!


Really, you can see the castle from everywhere in the city. Here's another view:

But really it's the frame you should care about.

Really, the important part of that picture is the window frame. Why? I'm glad you asked. This window happens to be the window in The Elephant House, which is a cafe. It's a view that's cited as an inspiration point for the famous literature that was composed in that very cafe. What literature? Oh, I don't know, a little obscure book and second book something to do with a boy wizard.

Elephants: not present in Harry Potter.
The cafe sticks to its elephantine roots, and doesn't make a big deal of it. Except for the bathrooms. They're pretty moving, covered with graffiti of thank you notes from readers to Rowling. And I hear there's something about "wands at the ready" in the men's room by the urinal. I did not investigate.

And just outside of the cafe is a graveyard with a lot of very familiar names.

He Who Should Not be Named.
This gravestone needs to get with the program.
Though the above is currently the most photographed grave in Edinburgh, it is a city with many really remarkable gravestones. There was a massive plague, so the graphic designers of the gravestone age tried to warn graverobbers and necrophiles that to mess with the graves would land you in your own grave right quick.

Plaguing stones:

Or it commemorates a dancing skeleton.
Maggie Dickson?

Or, more simply:

Yo, ho! A Pirate's Death for Me?

But really. Absolutely the most important thing to do in Edinburgh is to go on one of the free walking tours. Our guide knew his shit, and could bring the stories of the city to life. Plague stories, medieval punishment stories, Maggie Dickson the undead celebrity stories, and the history of the castle. It was a three hour stroll of entertainment and history. In a good way.

To keep it relevant, the guide demanded a volunteer when we got to the medieval punishment block. One of my fine traveling companions shoved me forward, so I stumbled up to the punishment octagon to learn the tragic story of my hypothetical medieval life.

I made appropriately sad faces while the guide narrated the medieval justice that would result after my husband died in the military and I was caught stealing bread to feed my three starving children. Without trial or jury, the shopkeepers would have arranged to nail my ear to the punishment octagon, and I would have to stand there for a day without a babysitter, food, water, bathroom breaks, or any food for my starving children. If I couldn't hack it, and tore myself away from the block, I would be marked forever as a thief. There would be shunning, and poor medieval thief would have no recourse but to turn tricks at the docks and face a guaranteed death by syphilis after two years.

Oh dear!
Now all the punishment octagon is used for is royal pronouncements, which are proclaimed exactly three days after the news is released from London. On the bright side, the several-days gap will prevent the town criers from being duped by fake celebrity deaths on Twitter. 

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