Freaks, Geeks, Something about a Castle and Enough Scotch for a day or two.

The Wandering Nerd August 14th, 2007

Ah, Edinburgh…either I’ve had some sort of mild stroke or the whole west side smells like cat food; like a freshly opened tin of crazy-cat-lady-20p-can-of cat food. People here say that its the distilleries, but I’ve been around distilleries before, this is cat food smell. As further proof, I present to you the fact that I have not seen a single cat since I’ve been here. They are all wherever that big bastard of a tin of Whiskas is. Quid Est Demonstratum.


Right now I’m sitting in a Haggis Bar waiting on my train. That’s right a Haggis Bar. Yes, I’ve tried Haggis, it’s actually not bad. Sort of like a sausage/hamburger oatmeal. The top bit there is the haggis:

I’ve heard tale of a castle somewhere around here, but damned if I’ve found it. I made that joke to a couple of Edinburgh - ‘Edin-burra’ - natives, apparently some people had asked them, in all seriousness, where the castle is. I suppose I can buy that if you’re looking for the Disney version of a castle, or more Germanic. This castle was clearly intended to be functional, not necessarily pretty. It truly does dominate the area, and makes for pretty easy navigation. Which is helpful, as no Scottish person has ever been able to give clear directions…ever…not a one of them. I thought it was bad in rural America, “yeah, ya’ go on town to where ol’ Davy’s barn used to be and then take a left, then about a mile before the fork in the road, take the right side, when you see Lucy’s pasture (a cow) take a right. If you make it to where the Hutchinson place burned down back in ‘34, you’ve gone too far.” Now while that’s not entirely helpful, it actually does convey meaning when placed in context, and more importantly, it involves directions. You know, helpful little things like ‘left’ and ‘right.’ Here you either get, “yeah, it’s on this little road that’s not on your map, just get to here and then look around for it,” or - and this is kinda’ my favorite - “Och, aye, you keep on going down, and then it’s over two streets, dunna’ know the name of the street lad, but ya’ canna’ a’miss it.” I’ve gotten rather accomplished at keeping the castle within marginal visual contact, simply as a survival mechanism.

Turns out theres a little festival thing going on here too. Of course, by ‘little’ I mean it has taken over the whole city. Sort of displaying my naivety here, but before I left I only vaguely realized there was something going on here. I’d never seen nor heard of anything about the festival, but it truly is a metropolitan wide affair, The Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve caught a few shows here and there, people will wander around and hand you fliers to their one man/one woman/duo/troupe shows, or there are street performers all over the damn place. Some are very clever, some involve sitting in a costume and yelling at people to give you money…I think there is a very thin line between performance and panhandling.

Though juggling three knives is impressive, doing it while standing on the shoulders of your partner is more impressive, and doing it while standing on the shoulders of your partner who is balancing atop a board that is on a cylinder, is very impressive. I shit you not, look at the pics. The one guy also jumped over a guy from the audience who was 6′8″ granted it was more of a leap frog sorta’ thing, but ballsy to attempt, if you like yours.

I also got really enamored with the Sir Walter Scott Memorial. There are a number of shots of it. It’s the big evil spire looking thing. It truly sticks out in the city as an anathema. Most things here are really some shade of granite from ivory to sandstone-ish. This thing is dark and gorgeous.

There’s also nothing quite as refreshing as getting all four bloody damn seasons within a day here. It will go from bright and sunny and warm, to freezing cold and raining within 15 minutes, then it switches to bright and sunny and raining. Then it goes go a shivering wind while the sun is beating down on you so you sweat, but you can’t take the jacket off. No wonder the Scotch was created. Which brings us cleverly to…

The Scotch Experiance, (I totally just owned that sequitor, did you see that?) is to Scotch, what Mecca is to Muslims, only without all of of that kneeling on a rug and mumbling incoherently…well…come to think of it…

I went for the big daddy of the tours, actually learned a number of interesting thing. Scotch, as it is, only matures in the cask, so a seven year old bottle of scotch purchase say 10 years ago, is still just a seven year old bottle of scotch. It’s not like wine or a port or sherry. I also discovered Laphroaig Cask Strength. It will knock you down, rifle through your pockets looking for change, and kick you solidly in the chest. Then it will pull you to your feet and you will thank it for it’s kindness, it’s that good. Cask strength merely refers to the alcohol content, i.e. regular Laphroaig is 40% by volume, cask strength is 55%. Now, technically, the extra alcohol should mellow the taste - it numbs your tastebuds more quickly. In practice it doesn’t matter. The peaty flavor is more pronounced. It’s like drinking a goodly sized campfire. Mmmm… I also found the storefront of Royal Mile Whiskies, just for you Larry. :) The guy working it was from Brooklyn, go figure.

For any Ian Rankin/Rebus fans, I found - after considerable effort, see the second paragraph - The Oxford Bar and had a Deuchars IPA. When a beer advertises itself as ‘instantly quaffable,’ I’m totally there. I’m getting more and more into beers. Never thought I would but it’s a horizon expanding trip on purpose. I still can’t bring myself to try a Guinness outside of Ireland though.

and there’s nothin’ sure in this world
and there’s nothin’ pure in this world
look for something left in this world
start again
-billy idol

3 Responses to “Freaks, Geeks, Something about a Castle and Enough Scotch for a day or two.”

  1. Hoshion 15 Aug 2007 at 12:10 pm

    Love the composition of the pub shot in the entry. Nice hat. ;)
    It looks like a crazy time around Edin-burra lately. A little added excitement might be a welcome addition, I would think. It would almost certainly beat haggis.
    “Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but after all, the Scotchman would shake his head and say, ‘Where’s your haggis?’ and the Fijan would sigh and say, ‘Where’s your missionary?’”
    Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) 1835-1910

  2. Picidaeon 15 Aug 2007 at 9:09 pm

    /Wave…heya Naj! I’m so excited for you and all of the amazing places you have been and will be traveling. I’m still jealous though (especially with the whole visiting Edinburgh’s castle). Anyhoo…I’m definately missing you around on WoW and I’m going to be holding that 400g for u (i spent 30g or so of it but i have it all back now!) for WHEN you return. ^^ Wishful thinking , eh? As always, safe travels!


  3. The Wandering Nerdon 16 Aug 2007 at 2:28 pm


    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘composition.’ I was exhausted, dangerously sober and starving. I just snapped it as I do on most of these shots. I’m just shocked and awed by how everyone is responding to the photos. Trying to make them more interesting that your normal holiday snaps - *wink wink nudge nudge* - so I’m glad it’s working.

    I’m carrying my camera around now when I’m going out at nights so hopefully I’ll be able to capture some images of the local fauna as well. I’ve just really not been going out that much though. Newcastle was supposed to be this ‘crazy nightlife’ town but it was really pretty tame. Did see a fight though, more about that in a post soon.

    You got your passport yet? Wanna’ start sorting out when we’re gonna’ roll eastern europe?


    /wave It’s a blast so far. This is where the history comes from! Don’t worry about the gold. My account has been shut off, though the scurrilous bastards are attempting to get me to give over my account just for Fudd. Glad to see /how/ I’m missed. :)

    Anyway, gotta’ pint and a lamb shank to finish.



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