Visiting Auld Reekie

There’s nothing like coming home from a trip to China and then getting on a plane again just fifteen hours later — whew!  I came back to Singapore last weekend long enough to send my twenty sophomore boys home with their parents, do a load of laundry, repack, and get on a plane headed for Scotland.  This time I was going out on a college visit trip to see three Scottish universities.

The most memorable part of my plane ride over was seeing snow — lots and lots of snow!

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This was in the vicinity of Erzurum, Turkey, over what Wikipedia tells me were the North Anatolian Mountains (just to the southeast of the Black Sea).  It’s been a long time since there was snow in my world, which made this sight particularly exciting.

img_0824After a long pair of plane rides, I arrived in Glasgow at night — and I left just as the morning sun was starting to show on the horizon.  This meant that I saw The University of Glasgow in the dark.  For future reference, it does not make a whole lot of sense to do college visiting on a brisk morning walk at 6:00 am on a Monday.  But I was on a tight schedule for a number of reasons, so I only got the briefest sense of what the school might be like.

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Truth be told, I don’t usually take any pictures of colleges when I’m out on a visit.  At some point, most schools look like most other schools — you’ll find a swanky new gym and a tricked-out new science center, at least one fountain and at least one library (usually with a cafe on the first floor, these days), something built by a Brutalist in the 1960s and something else built out of a lot of glass in 2008.  But schools in Europe offer a whole lot more.  The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583 (that’s well older than Singapore and the US put together), has buildings like this …

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… and doorways like this …

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… and ceilings like this …

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… and turrets like this …

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… so I photographed many more school buildings than usual.

 

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This is what sunrise looked like from my quasi-hotel/quasi-dorm room window:

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The University also gave us a tour of their school of veterinary medicine (where I saw, among other things, a cow uterus dissection).  Sadly, I was not allowed to take photographs of the patients, or this page would be filled horse and dog shots, but I did get to take pictures of their practice mammals.

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Edinburgh’s nickname is “the Auld Reekie,” purportedly because it used to be terribly smoggy and smelly. Now it feels clean and fairly tidy — it’s a small city, by modern standards (just 500,000 people) — and the predominant impression is one of lots of grey stone (sometimes accompanied by lots of grey sky).

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But we mostly had blue skies and wind, wind, wind.  On my last morning in town, I climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat (the hill to my right in the photo above) for sunrise. It’s great to have tromping grounds so close to the old city’s center; I was in the hills within minutes of leaving my room. For the first time ever, though, I thought that the wind might blow me off my feet — I was actually nervous about standing on the top (which is why, though you can’t see it in the picture below, I’m crouching down and holding onto the peak marker for dear life).

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But the views over the city were stunning:

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And I did get to see the sunrise (trust me, I’m not usually up for sunrise this often on a voluntary basis — that’s just one of the few perks of jet lag):

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I also found Scotch broom growing in its native habitat — it makes the hills look golden from a distance.

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