Scotland’s wonderful. We left on Friday night at 10:30PM on a ‘coach’, as they call it. A bus, really. We would’ve gone by rail, except that because of the recent flooding, trains weren’t available to Scotland. The coach was far too uncomfortable to sleep, until exhaustion overcame me at around 2AM. We reached Edinburgh at 7AM. (Incidentally, it’s pronounced Edinburough, though if you heard a Scot say it, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s ‘Edinbarra’)

The cold there is to be felt to be believed. The forecast said 3 degrees, but it could well have been sub-zero. We stood shivering at the bus stop, waiting for the next bus that would take us to the hostel where we’d booked dorms. The place was called “The Edinburgh House Hostel”. So we knocked at 1, Craiglockhart Terrace, and a lady opens it.

“Excuse me, is this the Edinburgh House Hostel?”

Stares a while. “No, this isn’t exactly a hostel. Wait a minute.”

So we wait a minute. A man in underwear appears. “Come in, come in.”

“Excuse me, is this the Edinburgh House Hostel?”

“Uh, well, um, yeah, kindof. Would you like a room?” He had just been woken up, and wasn’t at his brightest.

“We already have a reservation. We would be staying one night.”

“Ah, very fine. That would be 15 pounds, then.”

“But we already booked this place for 12 pounds!”

After that, the conversation degenerated to chaos, and we finally sorted it out. A guy called John, who lives in Canada, and probably owns the place, had confirmed the booking for us over e-mail. The guy in underwear (Tom) didn’t know about it. Anyway, he said “Here’s your room. Here’s the bathroom. Here’s the kitchen. Good night!” and went back to sleep.

An Australian girl called Kim, who stays in the same house, said it was just their house, which they had let out during a festival season, and were now using it as a boarding house of sorts. You could tell. It looked like a normal house, except with bunkers.

Scottish bus drivers are crazy. They insist on having us give the EXACT change, failing which you cannot get on a bus. No cards, nothing. After having struggled with that a bit, we managed to get to Princes Street, the main street in Edinburgh. Edinburgh has these hop-on hop-off tour buses that go around the city giving commentary. You can get on and off at any point. Our first stop was at Edinburgh Castle, where we met William.

William (not his real name, I’m sure) had painted half his face blue, had long hair, and was dressed in armour. He even had a sword. If none of this sounds familiar, you haven’t seen Braveheart. (Incidentally, our tour guide tells us that William Wallace is supposed to have been 6’7″. ) He was collecting donations for children with leukemia, and we donated liberally in exchange for a snap with him. We gave the inside of the castle a skip. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. We went, instead, to a weaving exhibition, which showed the history of the Scottish kilt. The Scottish dress is basically a skirt of sort (the kilt), and a cloth you tie to the shoulder. It started as a blanket that you wore when you moved around, but became a fashion item later. These things cost over 500 pounds today. We also got snaps of ourselves in these kilts at the exhibition.

Our next stop was Arthur’s Seat, which is a hill that has a great view of Edinburgh. Being the great athlete that I am, I could climb up about 30m before I was panting. We did manage to get close to the top, though. The lovely thing about the UK (perhaps all of Europe) is that the colours are so bright that, even when people dress in greys and browns, the scenery is splendid.

It was dark by 4:30PM. The evening was spent window shopping, and in my case, eating anything that I could find. Good, as it turned out that I had to skip dinner. The neighbourhood pub told us at 7:05PM that they served dinner only up to 7PM. Strange country!