Friday, September 28, 2012

UK Day 2 - Edinburgh

This morning started out with a few surprises for me.  First, I knew the hotel was providing free breakfast.  I was expecting what happens in every other hotel when they say "free breakfast" - a buffet line with various dishes.  Nope.  Instead, they had a couple young ladies who took orders. That was fun, and I noticed that they had a familiar accent.  I asked, and one was from Romania and the other from Poland.  I gave the Polish girl a surprise when I said "dzien dobry!"

I got out of my hotel a little earlier than I had expected, so I had some more time to explore before reaching the castle.  My hotel is halfway down a hill (Calton hill, specifically), and the main part of the city is up-and-over the hill.  I thought about trying out that journey last night, but it was getting dark and I didn't want to try it.  This morning, however, was a great time to explore.  I started up the hill looking rather silly with my umbrella on this beautiful sunny Scottish morning.

At the crest of the hill, there were great views of the city.  Here are a couple shots to give you an idea.

I also found a monument to Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson.  It looked interesting, so I also took some photos of it.  At the time I didn't realize it, but that monument was going to become more interesting as I reached the castle.

I have to say that I was really tempted to forget about all my pre-booked tickets and just go climb up the massive chunk of rock protruding from Holyrood park.  Not the peak known as Arthur's Seat, but rather the closer, jutting rock that forms a backdrop to the city for anyone looking to the east.  I decided against it on the grounds that I need to run 10k in 2 days.  I also have no idea how long it would take, but I'm guessing at least an hour to get to the base and an hour to get up it.  Here's one of the pictures of this thing.

Instead, I proceeded along my planned route towards Edinburgh Castle.  The castle is really nice and has a lot to explore.  I was a little put off by the £16 entrance fee I pre-booked, but it turned out to be a good deal because once inside they let you in to everything.  This is a contrast to Poland, where Wawel castle is more pay-as-you-go.  I got to see castle defenses, museums on Scottish regiments, prison conditions (some of which housed soldiers from the Revolutionary War), and a wonderful example of medieval cannonry.  For my computer-gaming friends out there, this is the medieval equivalent of the BFG.  My foot is in the picture for perspective to the cannonballs.  Also, it's now raining at this point in my journey, so I feel vindicated for carrying the umbrella in the earlier sunlight.

I should also explain where Nelson's monument comes in to play here. It turns out that ships in Edinburgh's harbor needed a really reliable time signal to set their chronometers.  The chronometers in the castle (on nice, stable ground) could be easily calibrated at noon.  Therefore, at 1PM, the castle fires a shot from a cannon.  (You can't fire it at noon because you're busy setting your watch when you should be shooting the gun.)  That's all fine and dandy, except that sound takes awhile to reach some of the far parts of the harbor.  This delay apparently caused enough of a problem that they needed to institute a fix for it.  The speed of light is faster than the speed of sound, so they set up a visual representation of the time change: on the top of Nelson's monument is a time-ball.  Think of Times Square at New Year's with a lot less pomp and flashy lights.  Each day about 12:55, this stone ball rises to the top of a spire on Nelson's monument.  Then, at 1PM, the same electrical signal that fires the gun tells the ball to fall.  They happen essentially at the same time.  Ships in the harbor can see this easily with a telescope, since it's at the top of a hill, so that's how they can set their chronometers.  Of course, if it's foggy, you just have to adjust for the delay and get on with sailing.  I have some pictures here of the process.  Pardon the post-cannon shot - the blast startled me a bit.

After the castle, I decided to investigate another monument along the Edinburgh skyline.  Having no idea what it was, I went there and found it to be a monument to Sir Walter Scott.  I was thinking it was a church or something because of the gigantic gothic spire protruding from it.  Nope - it's a monument to a writer.  Furthermore, for £3 they'll let you climb the 287 steps to the top in order to take photos.  Anyone who has walked up stairs or the side of a Polish mountain with me knows inclines don't bother me much, so this was a nice little deal!  I have lots of pictures of the city from up top of the monument, but this is one to give an example:

I also love to take straight-down shots from these sorts of places.

Tomorrow it's on to Inverness!


ReadingMama said...

Kellan says very interesting!!

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