Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Edinburgh the gloomy

Continuing my travels up North, I also visited Edinburgh, the Scottish capital where I have not set my feet yet.  During the visit itself I started to dimly recollect talking about the city, its history, and sights, in our English classes in high school, long time ago.  A very interesting city indeed that generously provided for a surprisingly rich visit despite the unpredictable uncontrollably rainy weather and limited time available for sightseeing.  One has to be warned directly and honestly - visiting Edinburgh without rain is possibly impossible in summer.  But it has some ways to keep the tourist happy - such as numerous museums, shops, or coffee houses (such as this one, the Elephant House, where for instance Harry Porter was born among other novels, scribblings, and journal entries by the tea, coffee, and elephant lovers).  At the first sight, it appears a gloomy city indeed:

Greyfriars Churchyard

One of the sights I did have a chance to visit was the Holyroodhouse, the Edinburgh residence of the Queen. Rich in history, it was home to many Kings and Queens, most memorable probably being Mary Stuart, that saw her lover killed in one of the rooms here by her husband (yes, many gloomy stories in Edinburgh)...

Inside court of the Holyroodhouse
Outside the palace, actually alongside behind it, lie the ruins of the abandoned abbey that inspired Mendelssohn's Scottish symphony among others.  Roofless and open to the sky, defenseless in Scottish weather, the walls still proudly stand, a symbol to both the permanence, and impermanence of things.  It also made me think of the speech by Deirdre McCloskey I heard just a couple of days before about the Victorian travel writer and skeptic Alexander Kinglake, who suggested that every church should bear on its front door a large sign, "Important If True..."

Romantic remains of Holyrood Abbey

Although the rain managed to spoil several of the walks in the city during the two days I spent there, the compensation came in the most ephemeral form - the clouds.  Incredible clouds, almost as if painted by Constable himself kept changing, moving in, moving out, all day long. Although often bringing the rain with them, they kept the sky so beautiful, so curiously different at every moment, that it became a delight for me trying to spot the blue quadrant somewhere in the middle of the stormy surroundings.

Clouds over Edinburgh

Oh, and not to forget Bobby.  As Copenhagen has its Little Mermaid as a symbol, Edinburgh has Bobby.  He is the celebrated dog that spent 14 years mourning on the tomb of his master, John Gray, in the 19th century.  I heard that story in some context before, it was funny to come across the statue of the hero in Edinburgh:

To finish with art, the National Gallery impressed me with this portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnar, by the talented American John Sargent that kept me standing there, apparently it made his fame in the UK, and I am not surprised.  It left more impression on me than Rafael (he could not paint hands, could he?), Titian, or Gainsborough downstairs (maybe Botticelli's Virgin adoring the child also left an impression).


Bobby Mc Quiet said...

Thanks for your enriching explanation!

I saw only pubs and clubs...and tried to scratch the castle green-grey (and wet) walls across a great hangover...

Definitively the same place sawn trough different sights...

uasunflower said...

very touristy sights indeed, but what French would call "insolite" in a way, i liked it - pubs and clubs have to be checked the next time!