Sunday, December 19, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
When I went to Edinburgh I expected to drink pints at haunted pubs, hear bagpipes on my walk to class, and maybe run into J.K. Rowling when I got a latte, but climbing a defunct volcano in the snow wasn't on my agenda. However last week I found myself climbing Edinburgh's most famous tourist attraction, Arthur's Seat.Arthur's Seat looms 823 feet above the city of Edinburgh and when you are all the way on top you can barely contextualize your surroundings because the view is so vast. The origins of Arthur's Seat are a little dubious too. The hill itself was formed by a now extinct volcano about 350 million years ago, so the only thing tumbling down it won't be lava, but probably me. The geological origins of the hill may be evident, but the human interaction with it isn't. There are said to be defensive forts around the hill that date all the way back to the 600s and potentially carry a connotation to King Arthur (maybe the inspiration for its name?). An even bigger mystery are the seventeen coffins found in the 19th century that are either ascribed to a pagan ritual or the victims of Edinburgh's infamous bodysnatchers, Burke and Hare. All I know for certain is the vista is awesome in all sense of the word.
With its imposing gaze over the city, Arthur's Seat has been a guilt-trip for me all semester. It was the thing to do during Freshers Week, but between setting up bank accounts and catching a cold I didn't really have the energy to hike up a mountain too. Soon enough the weather got cold and I was convinced I wouldn't know its grandeur until the spring. However after a plan to go sledding (or sledging as they call it in Britain) with friends went awry, I found us walking toward to Holyrood Park and knew my fate was set. It was time to meet the mountain.So I climbed Arthur's Seat. Although climbing may be the wrong word because the path was so slippery from the recent blizzards that I practically crawled up and had terrifying visions of accidentally downhill skiing if I made one false step (yes, maybe we picked the wrong season for this). I may not have had the right shoes on, but I had the right attitude and somehow found myself at the summit an hour later.
[The treacherous climb. One of the rare moments I wasn't on my butt.]
The view was stunning, but there was still more peril to be faced, the wind! We decided to slide down the other half of the mountain after we could no longer feel our faces at the top. The way down was a lot easier especially knowing we had a cup of hot cocoa in our future.
[At the Summit, wind-tousled hair and all]
With that cup of cocoa in hand I could finally start to feel my fingers again and a sense of satisfaction of having made it up a hill I normally would've strapped on skis for. Arthur's Seat is one of the rare tourist activities that's actually worth it! I look forward to taking a few more hikes in my future, but hopefully when the snow has melted.