24 Hours in Scotland? Challenge Accepted!

The sun initially began to light the Scottish countryside at the same time that my first ever experience on Ryan Air landed on the runway at Edinburgh Airport. This glimmer of light had twinges of both hope and anticipation, resulting from the high praises that I had received in relation to the Scottish capital city. 

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Out of all of the cities across the great European continent, it was Edinburgh that got more complements and much more praise than pretty much any other city. For years, my lone experiences or portrayals of Scotland, and Edinburgh specifically, were really nothing more than a Mel Gibson 'Braveheart' fairy tale. Fantasy thoughts of rolling hills, bagpipes, mysterious lakes, stone castles....the list goes on and on. Edinburgh itself was a bit of a mystery to me, so I was intrigued to learn about what makes this city so special, even for a little under 24 hours. 

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There's no question: Edinburgh is a traditional city. It's central area for many visitors and tourists is its Old City district, specifically the Royal Mile stretch of mostly cobblestone roads that make its way from Hollyrood Palace (Her Majesty's home when visiting Scotland) up the hill to UNESCO's Edinburgh Castle, a stronghold for the Scottish military. This district has changed little from how it was centuries ago, decorated almost entirely in cobblestone, with splashes of newer, colored buildings that highlight and emphasize the older structures. Throughout this districts are one of its more distinctive features: the number of crosses, entries, passes, courts, wynds, etc. that matriculate and connect the roads surrounding the mile. These tiny little pedestrian paths make the Old City like a giant, old-fashioned maze, sparking the curious travel bug in everyone. Many just lead to dead ends at people's flats or shops, but it's still intriguing simply exploring the many hidden corners to find out what lies around the next bend in the path. 

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If Scotland is known for anything, it is the natural beauty that spans nationwide. Edinburgh is a city that fits with this kind of mold. It's not over-the-top and not filled with a modern set of buildings which take away from the historic significance. Its numerable parks and green spaces (not to mention the giant park just on the other side of Hollyrood, which is home to the massive Arthur's seat---->BEST CITY VIEW IN SCOTLAND, for sure) provide a more livable atmosphere, as well as a chance for visitors to see the people up and out, even if it is the middle of November in Northern Europe. 

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24 hours in Edinburgh may be just the right amount of time for someone coming to visit the Scottish capital, since the big attraction of this part of the world is the Highlands and the natural scenery of almost every part of the Northern British territory. It's a great jumping-off point, but I say that tongue-in-cheekish, since this is indeed a city that is worth visiting among the higlights of Europe. It has hints of modernity, yet is deeply entrenched in its historic roots. It has expanded diversity-wise, but still holds true to its tradition and heritage (exhibit A: when I visited Edinburgh castle, there was a special 21 gun salute for Prince Charles's birthday...aka they shot off 3 canons 7 times each, along with a traditional military band and bagpipes). On a continent. where many of the major cities are revamping their image and becoming way more modern than what might be necessary, Edinburgh remains in pretty much the same condition it was many years ago. This has a distinct and certain appeal to visiting, which can be understandable when everyone and your mom continue to rave about a small city in the north of the United Kingdom. 

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 -- Robby Veronesi, WSA Intern Fall 2013, DIS, Copenhagen


Mallory Dirks, Simpson College

Happy Backpackers

I chose to do this rather than book my own trip in Rome - I wanted to experience one organized/sight-seeing trip rather than a relaxing vacation like many of my others had been. Two friends and I signed up for WSA Rome and don't regret a thing. We met wonderful people, were led by an awesome tour guide Rhianne, and got to see everything I wanted to see in Rome. Plus eat all the best food. There is an optional dinner on the last night that we didn't do right away, but we ended up going to it, and it was SO worth the 20 euro. I made memories and friends, and got to see a beautiful, historic city thanks to WSA!!

Mallory Dirks, Simpson College ~ University of Roehampton, London, Fall 2015

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