6/26 The Grand Finale

I woke up this morning saddened because this was to be my last day in Scotland. I wished there was some way I could stay, but unfortunately it was almost time to go back to my “real life.” There were a few more places I wanted to see in Edinburgh, so today was to be the last chance to see them, for now…

Down the Royal Mile close to the Holyrood end, were two museums that Bre and I had noticed when we were on the Mercat Ghost Tour next to the Canongate Graveyard a few days earlier. We noticed they were both free, so I showed them to Chelsea for her project, and we went to go check them out and do some filming.

Before that we grabbed a bite to eat. I had a sandwich and this little bird started hanging out with us. I gave the bird some crumbs and it eventually helped me out with a good portion of the sandwich. I then said goodbye to my new little friend and we headed into the Museum of Edinburgh (birds weren’t allowed so it had to stay outside).

When we first walked inside we saw a sign that said that photography was only allowed with permission, and a form had to be signed. Because this was going to be part of a documentary Chelsea was posting on the Internet, the curator said that he would have to get permission from some higher ups, but couldn’t get in touch with them at that moment because they were in a meeting. He was very helpful and kept trying to get in touch with them while we were there, even though Chelsea told him not to worry about it and we could just shoot from outside, because he looked to be extremely busy preparing for an event and kept telling us he was trying as we walked through.

Inside the museum they had several old artifacts from the city. It really puts into perspective how young the US is when you see items much much older, from a city that was bustling before America was “discovered,” though I don’t see how one can claim to “discover” somewhere when people are already there (maybe “built cities upon” would be a better term), but I won’t get into that right now.

There were several models and old maps of Edinburgh, which was interesting to see how much, and how little, parts of Edinburgh have changed over the years. There we also collections of silver, old water pipes, and items police used back in the day. An extremely interesting area was the area where Greyfriars Bobby’s collar and water dish were displayed.

After touring the museum we went across the street to another museum called The People’s Story. This museum was very interesting, and showed how people lived and worked in Edinburgh throughout history. Once again though, no pictures allowed inside.

It was neat to see how many steps and how much hard work it took to do jobs we take for granted today, because we have machines doing all the work. They focused on several of these professions such as: construction workers, book binders, whiskey distillers and brewers, seamstresses, shipyard workers, policemen, firemen, traders, etc… Many of these jobs were long hours, such as the baker, who worked about 20 hours a day.

A funny thing was that the mannequins looked so real that it was hard to tell the difference between the mannequins and real people. I got startled at one point because these two people were standing very still looking at one of the displays, and I thought they were part of the display until they moved. Chelsea was joking about how awkward it would be if she were making fun of one of the mannequins, to find out it was a person.

There were also displays talking about the living conditions of the poor, which I had already learned much about at Mary King’s Close and the South Bridge Vaults.

One of the rooms talked about modern times, and what the city does for fun. An interesting thing I read at the display talking about culture in the pubs, is that historically the pubs in Edinburgh have been male dominated. This was the exact thing I observed (to the extreme) that I talked about previously, so it makes me wonder where the women go in Edinburgh… There seemed to be more girls in the pubs in Portree on Skye, and it was a tiny town.

After walking through The People’s Story, I filmed Chelsea for her segments on the two museums, and then we headed over to the Secret Garden, which a lady at the Museum of Edinburgh told us about earlier. The Secret Garden was down Dunbars Close, which you couldn’t see it from the street. It was truly a “secret,” until a newspaper in Edinburgh wrote a story about it and it was donated by the Mushroom Trust to the City of Edinburgh in 1977. There were so many people there it wasn’t much of a “secret” anymore. We filmed another segment there and took a few more pictures.

After that, we did some shopping until the shops closed at 6 and I bought a Poland football jersey for my dad, since he is from Poland. We then decided to go hike up Arthur’s Seat since neither of us had done it yet so we headed back to the dorms.

At the dorms we ran into Jennifer who was on the way to Pizza Express to meet the rest of the group, which I knew was going on but never heard the time. She said there was a group hiking up Arthur’s Seat to watch the sunrise later on that night, which sounded like a fine plan, so we headed over to Pizza Express with her to meet up with the group.

It was good to meet up with everyone at our final dinner, but at the same time it was sad because I really wished this class would just go on forever, but all good things must come to an end at some point. The food there was a bit pricey, and I have been trying to stay away from pizza (I used to work at a few pizza places for about 6 years and gained a bunch of weight in the process), so after hanging out there for a bit, Chelsea, Bre, and I left and I got a sandwich at Subway.

We then went to the Royal Oak again to say goodbye to our friends we had met there, and low and behold, I stumbled on another little nugget of folklore I hadn’t even expected after reading the sign outside. Evidently, the cellars under the Royal Oak are a part of the underground “Old Town” that the Burke and Hare, and other bodysnatchers, used when transporting bodies, and people have seen ghostly apparitions down there.

When I asked the bartender about it, she said she hates to go down in the cellars because of strange sounds and seeing strange movements. I asked her if I could check it out, but she said she couldn’t let me because she would get in trouble with the owner. An old man sitting at the bar said these happenings have been going on for years and years (and he was pretty old and looked like he had been there for years and years).

I can tell the Royal Oak is a tight-knit crowd and everyone knows everyone. Usually in a bar where everyone is so close like this, it takes awhile to be accepted into the “in crowd” and they keep to themselves, but this is not the case at the Royal Oak. Everyone is very jolly and friendly, and anyone can join in the jam sessions at any time, and they do. In fact, this is also a popular haunt for famous folk singers to come jam after their concerts, with one example being Eddie Reader, who many in our class have become accustom to for her Robert Burns album. The Royal Oak is kind of like a “Cheers” with folk singers, in the sense that “everybody knows your name.”

Well… almost everybody knows your name. The Irish guy that we met the night before, who Bre had met earlier in the trip, had no clue who Chelsea and I even were, even though both of us had long conversations with him the night before. I personally had several conversations with him throughout the night about Ireland, Poland, and America the night before, and he even asked me and the girls if we wanted to come party at his house afterwards, though we declined, so it was mind-blowing that he had no clue who we were.

The absent-minded Irish guy then started playing the guitar very badly and some people left. The bartender joked that he should start playing when it is closing time to get people out. There were some very cute girls in there from Washington (still no Scottish lasses), and another lady from somewhere in the US, so some of the locals thought it was funny that there were so many Americans in there, and we were actually outnumbering the Scots (it was still early).

After that I headed over to the campus pub and met up with a bunch of girls from the group, and then we headed over to the Crags. Jennifer’s birthday was at midnight, so we celebrated at the stroke of midnight (Happy 22nd!) and I had a grand time hanging out with the girls, some of whom this could be the last time since they live so far away from me. I will miss all of them, and hope to hang out with them again in the future. That wasn’t the first thing that happened at the Crags though…

The first thing that happened was I got there before everyone else, and had a conversation with a Crag’s bartender (whom I spoke with a few times previously) about my grand idea for my book. He told me about the seanachaidh, the Gaelic word for “storyteller.” It was awesome because I had included that in my pre-departure essay, had no idea how it was pronounced, and thought that they were part of a past Gaelic tradition long gone.

This, however, is not the case, according to the Crags bartender. He said the seanachaidh especially congregate on Burns Nights (Robert Burns’ worldwide birthday celebration), and tell stories throughout the night, particularly Burns’ supernatural tale of a drunken encounter with witches, “Tam O’ Shanter.” He said they also tell other Scottish folktales as well. He also said that Scotland has a strong tradition of storytellers because the Scots have always loved oral storytelling.

Hence, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the ghost tales, the fairytales, the legends, all the stories that have been passed down from mouth to mouth for centuries, the people of Scotland have created this rich background for themselves through storytelling. During the conversation with the Crags bartender, I could see in my mind my book starting to take shape, more solidly than it ever had before. I could now go home feeling like I had accomplished, in part, what I had set out to uncover, and with being reunited with a computer again at home, I now had somewhat of a solid blueprint for my book.

After leaving the Crags I went back to my room to do some more packing. I was still planning on going on the Arthur’s Seat sunrise walk with the girls but eventually sleep took hold, and also we would have to leave at 3 a.m. to get there for the 4:30 a.m. sunrise and it was raining hard. I was imagining how awful the next day would be with the long journey back to America with no sleep, so I decided to rest and ready myself for my sad departure the next day…

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