The rhythmic beat of stomping feet and clapping hands fills the hall. I’m at ceilidh, or a traditional Scottish dance. Ceilidhs have been around for decades, but the experience hasn’t changed a bit. It’s all about dancing the night away, and having an excellent time while doing so. Many of the dances are quite simple, just grab a partner (or two), link arms and swirl as the locals do. Others are significantly more complex. Although I enjoy dancing, watching the more advanced dancers is mesmerizing. Particularly their fancy footwork.
Apart from attending ceilidhs, my second favorite experience in Scotland is Burn’s Night. Burn’s night celebrates the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. He’s particularly famous for his “Address to a Haggis.” Haggis is a sausage like food made with sheep’s heart liver and lungs along with oatmeal and spices. When I first tried haggis with tatties (potatoes) it reminded me of ground beef. Honestly, it’s pretty good. Below is a snippet of Burn’s poem.
Burns writes in Scots:
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The rough translation in English is:
Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.
1. Transportation by Bus or Broom
Okay, so you cannot truly get around Edinburgh by broom (unless you’re on the University Quidditch Team), but transportation in Scotland is incredible. The buses will get you anywhere in Edinburgh and trains run regularly up to the highlands. Taxi’s can be hailed at just about any hour and new trams in the city centre are being tested this month.
2. Not a Wee Town
Scotland may conjuncture up idyllic country sides with grazing sheep; however Edinburgh is an international city. About a third of the student population is international students. I think I’ve eaten more Indian takeout food, than Scottish cooking. In my dorm there are students from all around Western Europe, Asia and North America. The diversity was initially surprising, but I feel it adds a unique atmosphere to the city.
3. Pints of Knowledge
Across campuses in America, public safety officers futilely try to confiscate alcohol. In the University of Edinburgh students can grab a pint at any of the multiple bars on campus. During the recent student presidential election, candidates made promises of one pound shots. They won’t prevent the flu, but you’re sure to forget about that sore throat.
4. Beautiful Grime
Look up and you’ll see the fantastical building of Teviot, the oldest student union center at the University of Edinburgh. Its triangular slopping roof, beautifully constructed towers and Gothic architecture makes one think longingly of Hogwarts.
Look down and you’ll see the city street splattered with gum. Cigarette butts embedded into the cracks of the concrete. Glass bottles broken and shattered across grey sidewalks. Forgotten bus receipts drift around.
Beautiful grime is what happens when ancient and modern collide.