I’ve reached the end of my Edinburgh road, and what a beautiful road it’s been. Wandering through cobblestone neighborhoods without destination on day four, I remember feeling grateful for the three days I still had to weave in and out of the many layers of this enchanting city. Seven seconds later, I panicked. I only had three days left to weave in and out of the this city. And I was nowhere near ready to go. Somewhere between Broughton and Dean Village, I had decided I never wanted to leave.
As if it weren’t awesome enough that Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn, after sleeping seven nights draped in Edinburgh’s warm embrace, I’m convinced unicorns actually exist, and they are born right here. No other animal, mythical or not, could accurately represent this country, particularly this city. This place is magical. In Celtic mythology, the Unicorn of Scotland symbolized innocence and purity, healing powers, joy and life itself. And this is exactly what I see, everywhere I look. Innocence, purity, healing powers, joy, life, all of it. It’s in the air, in the people, hovering over ancient architecture, cartwheeling down the streets, napping in Princes Park, skipping up Arthur’s Seat, floating in the Water of Leith, swimming in the whisky. Cities don’t usually grab me in this way, or in any way, really. But Edinburgh is such a perfect combination of all things good, when she wrapped her ancient arms around me, I asked her to never let go.
The city is a layer of tunnels, bridges, staircases and streets, closes and wynds, each littered with character, a complete personality. No matter how many steps my feet took, Edinburgh Castle, Salisbury Crags and a few familiar steeples were always comfortably striking in the distance, each neighborhood offering a unique perspective of these historical treasures. I couldn’t grab a cup of coffee or a pint without a 15 minute conversation, going much beyond the usual pleasantries, from details of my journey, to the pub owner I had to visit in the Highlands, oh and just wait until you hear the Glaswegian accent, to the huge vote coming up in September, where Scotland decides whether or not they should become independent from the UK. I couldn’t order a dram of whisky without knowing the entire life story of the drops I was about to enjoy. I couldn’t pass a park without the magnificent trees and lush green grass beckoning me to come, relax, take a nap. Every corner I turned begged me to continue, every hidden tunnel invited me to explore, every narrow staircase dared me to climb.
Each day, I wandered the streets aimlessly, listening to the city whispering in my ear, telling me where to go. It was impossible to get lost, because I found no matter where I was, it was exactly where I wanted to be. Hand in hand, I walked with Edinburgh, miles in every direction, and never did I think, where am I? The only thought I can recall, because it escaped my mouth as words more than once: I’m glad I’m here.
If you listen to internet chatter, only a few days are needed to “take in” Edinburgh (!?!) I realize this is all just opinion. But I don’t actually think any amount of time is enough time to “take in” Edinburgh. It’s not that the main tourist attractions aren’t a part of this city, they are, but they’re just the beauteous fringe. Once you get over the initial awe of seeing massive castles from the financial district, take in the view from Arthur’s Seat, stroll down the Royal Mile, stare at the Palace of Holyrood, trot down Princes Street, or do whatever else people come to Edinburgh to do; once you check off your list, only then will the real Edinburgh slowly start to unveil herself. Only then can you start to hear the heart and see the soul of this magical land steeped in myths, feel the beat of that unstoppable pulse as she wraps her arms around you.
And on the off-chance unicorns are real, they most definitely live here.