30 December 2008

Round Two: Edinburgh

In ten days time, I will be leaving for study abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. As Edinburgh is not nearly as well-known as Oxford, I feel that a bit of background on both the city and the University is in order.

Edinburgh: Known as the Athens of the North, it is the capital of Scotland and the seventh largest city in the UK, boasting a population of 468,000 (making it over twice the size of Oxford). Incidentally, a large number of people mispronounce the city's name, calling it 'Edin-burg', 'Edin-borough', or 'Edin-bur'. It is actually pronounced 'Edin-burra'. (If you do not believe me, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media:En-uk-edinburgh.ogg and click the sound file.) The city itself is split into two sections: Old Town and New Town. The Old Town, where the university is located and where I will be living, was the original city and still contains many of the medieval buildings that formed Scotland's early capital. The center of the Old Town is the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is essentially that, one mile of road linking Edinburgh Castle (the ancient seat of the Scottish kings) and Holyrood Palace (where the kings moved when they decided the Castle was too drafty). The New Town is more recent and boasts Georgian architecture.

The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1582 and is internationally renowned. (As you can see, I simply will not settle for second-rate institutions when I study abroad.) It currently ranks within the world's top 25 universities and notable alumni include Gordon Brown (the current prime minister), Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Darwin, and assorted others whom I do not particularly feel like mentioning at this moment.

For the benefit of those who are likely to be reading this at the present moment and worrying(aka my mum), I've drawn up a helpful map to set your mind at ease.
Unfortunately, the picture has come up a bit fuzzy, but no matter. An explanation of the various sites:
1. Edinburgh Castle: The centerpiece of Edinburgh and the most well-known site. It sits on top of an ancient volcano (which, do not fear, is entirely dormant). St. Margaret's Chapel, located within the castle complex, is the oldest building in Edinburgh, dating from the early 12th century.
2. New Town: For an explanation, see above. It is here that I will do all of my shopping, as IKEA and the mall are located within the New Town.
3. Train: One needs to get around somehow. Unfortunately, train tickets in the UK are very expensive. However, the bus going to the airport picks up from the airport, so it serves as a good departure reference point.
4. Old Town: For an explanation, see above. It is in the Old Town that I will likely spend most of my time, as I find it more preferential than the New Town.
5. Holyrood Palace: Originally founded as a monastery in the early 12th century, it has been used as the primary residence of the Kings of Scotland since the 15th century.
6. Arthur's Seat: The main peak in a group of hills (the Salisbury Crags) in the city center, some claim that the name 'Arthur's Seat' is linked to the legendary King Arthur. It provides absolutely stunning views of the city (as I remember from the last time I was in Edinburgh) and I am resolved to run/climb to the top at least once a week. After all, what is the use of having such an excellent vantage point if one does not make use of it.
7. George Square: The center of the University of Edinburgh, all of my classes are located within this complex.
8. The Meadows: One of the largest parks in Edinburgh (after Holyrood Park), I will be living less than two minutes walk from it. While it doesn't promise the scenic views that Christ Church meadow did (and how my heart longs to run in such a location again!), I predict that I will become quite familiar with it by the end of my first week. I can run to my heart's content and home is only a few blocks away.
9. 102 Warrender Park Road: I will be living in flat 7, room 2. Apparently, I have four other flat-mates whom I will meet sometime on January 10th or 11th. As to who they are or where they are from, I have absolutely no clue. I suppose that is part of the experience. Anyways, the accommodation is self-catered, meaning that I am going to have to cook everything for myself. I forsee a lot of salads, chicken, curry, pasta, and rice in my near future.

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