There and Back Again

After a week comprising more hysterical tantrums than a backstage smackdown at a Miss World contest, I at last presented my paper and had all fears laid to rest. It was good. More so, it was great.

But really, Edinburgh stole the show in the attention grabbing department.

I love Edinburgh. Though I studied in Aberdeen and came to love the roaring gales, bone-freezing winters and tempestuous North Sea grumblings at the end of our road, Edinburgh still extracts a gasp once I emerge from the depth of Waverley Station.

Yet while the visit wasn’t 100% satisfying, I must first share the good points.

The conference was fascinating, with particularly worthy papers covering the subjects of Christians in Palestine, the notion of Liberation theory and Christian Zionism, and architecture in Ottoman Syria and Lebanon. Much was learnt and many inspirations spawned.

The weather was distinctly un-Scottish, with the sun beaming down for three whole days on Arthur’s Seat, and not an umbrella cocked in anticipation of a raindrop. The accommodation was suitably gothic and the breakfasts wonderfully robust and artery clogging.

The down sides were the food and the bus tour. On both days we eschewed traditional Scottish cuisine – no haggis in sight – and visited Lebanese and Sudanese eateries, both of which proved very disappointing.

The hummus was weak, the salad almost translucent and the falafel virtually unrecognisable. At times like these I think of Amman and almost weep with appetite…

The bus tour was…peculiar. Short, wind-swept and accompanied by the strangest narrations, one emerged from the tour chilled both inside and out.

As the jaunty Scots narrator recounted a collection of anecdotes that nearly always ended in “and then s/he/they were hung/stoned/set aflame/strangled/died” a rotund and boisterous explosion of jolly bagpipeness would erupt, utterly at odds with the horrors just recounted.

As we lurched around the narrow grey streets, one couldn’t help but draw comparisons with the alternative castle tour – a veritable gem and one that I highly recommend – and grimace, both at the story and our mistaken tour of choice.

Ordinarily, this would be enough to send me homewards with not so much as a backward glance to the city, but Edinburgh is no ordinary city. Despite the foibles, it remains stunning, both visually and culturally.

Even the dire journey, inevitably plagued by toddlers screaming, overcrowded and heated cabins and raucous children, failed to dampen my spirits. If one has only a limited time in Scotland, I cannot recommend Edinburgh enough.

Here are a few images from the weekend:

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This entry was posted on September 15, 2007 by in Culture, Europe, Pop culture and tagged , , , , , , .
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