A Scottish Jaunt

Alone in Kyoto – Air


The first view of anything below was when the clouds cleared briefly to reveal the grey and choppy waters of the North Sea far below. Small waves crowned by foam marked the surface of the huge stretch of water. I remember feeling a curious mixture of awe and fear. Awe at seeing so much water all the way to the horizon, unmarked by mankind. Fear for the sudden silly scenarios that invaded my mind. What if the engines of the plane failed and we plunged into the water below? What were the chances of survival? You get the picture.

The first thing I noticed about Edinburgh was the smell. The city had an all pervasive metallic smell of urine. Was something wrong with my nose? Was it because of the incessant rain washing the streets? Who knows? And yeah, the rain. It was a rainy, grey and blustery Edinburgh, with winds reaching perhaps 30-50 kmph, that I walked into. Yes, the famous Scottish weather was welcoming me in all its irritating splendor. My umbrella was broken by the wind within the first 30 minutes. I was battered and assaulted by the shrieking wind and the pin pricks of a million rain drops. Welcome to Scotland indeed!

Fortunately, the weather cleared the next day but the fierce wind remained making my assault on Salisbury Crags in the afternoon a futile one. Cameras and camera bag were flying in opposite directions and three feet to the right a 200 foot drop into oblivion. Added to this pleasant mixture a rising wave of intense acrophobia. Heart beat raced to dangerous levels, feet locked up from the knees below and morbid visions of me flying off the edge and smashing on the rocks far below filled my eyes. I decided to turn back which turned out to be a very wise decision with hindsight as the rain started soon after. The descent was worse than the climb and more dangerous as the wind was now blowing from behind and upsetting my balance.

What a glorious view though from where I decided to go back! The blue-grey waters of the Firth of Forth in the distance and ships sailing through it out to the North Sea. The beautiful old town of the city to my left gently rose and peaked at the castle, while to my right, on the meadow next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, far below, some kind of an international cross country race was on. The distant buildings on the coast of Fife flashed golden in the late afternoon sun on the opposite coast. And behind me, desolate wilderness, bang in the middle of a modern metropolis. A part of me regretted that I could not travel to the actual wild and desolate places of the Scottish Highlands in the north. So I drank in this primer of what the rest of the country offered. My cameras clicked and clacked. And in the middle of so many thoughts, I was somehow reminded of a scene that transpired the day before at the hostel while the formalities of check in were being completed.

There were two men next to me drinking a pint of beer and teasing the girl behind the counter. They were a little drunk. It was 11:30 am. Suddenly, the younger one of them turned to me, put his arm around my shoulder, smiled and mock whispered, much to the embarrassment of the receptionist,

“Don’t look at her man, close your eyes; she will take your heart without you knowing it. You will fall for her and take her away from me.”