Tuesday, May 20, 2008


We passed the University of Edinburgh shortly after dinner and I prodded the group to pause a moment to explore. There was only one building and it was seemingly deserted. The campus has buildings strewn all over Edinburgh and we happened to stumble upon Old College. We walked inside the quad and passed countless locked doors, closed windows and then the library. I wanted to see inside so I ran up the stairs and opened up the large door only to find a small foyer with a security guard. I asked if visitors were allowed in the library and he nodded yes as he got up out of his chair and walked around to let us in.

Old College. University of Edinburgh.

The guard acted much more like a tour guide and was obviously proud of U of E. We struck gold. He told us a bit of history, pointed out a few famous professors and let us in the library after turning on the lights and unlocking the door. It was set up for testing and I thought I had been transported to Hogwarts and was about to start my O.W.L.S. before the hour was up. It was an incredible room and really put the ol' testing center to shame. At the end of every row of shelves was a bust of an outstanding alumni or professor among whom I recognized Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Jameson. The shelves were enclosed with gold gates locking the old books away from grubby fingers and inattentive hands. The molding was exquisite rivaled only by the ceiling . . . If I got to take exams in a room like that I might be more partial to studying. After I got over my Hogwarts daydream another soon ensued in which I was whizzing about on those tall ladders attached to the top row of shelves and singing about my favorite book. You know, like she does in the movie.

He was anxious to show us the other rooms downstairs so we followed him through the halls lined with stately portraits and pictures of alumni (two famous of note: Gordon Brown and J.K. Rowling). The lower rooms were filled with work by Sir Henry Raeburn. I loved this portrait the most.

After getting a personal tour of the library in the Old College we stayed and chatted with the gem-of-a-security-guard about Scotland and politics particularly. We asked him how he felt about the proposed succession from the United Kingdom and he replied with a chuckle and said, "Well I'm a Scottish Nationalist so I want Independence!" It was an incredible experience standing there getting a real look at how people live and taking a closer inspection at the ramifications of proposed independence.

I realized yet again that people are why I love traveling. Yes the sights are beautiful and learning is amazing when it's so much a part of your daily routine, but the people, the human connection and the glimpses of another's way of life is what makes me yearn to step on foreign soil as often as circumstances permit.

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