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Page 320: A Brief Exploration of Gloomy Glasgow and Vibrant Edinburgh

/ Friday, September 16, 2016 /

One shirt and one sweater underneath my coat, and I still shivered. It was 3 AM in Carlisle, a city in UK where bus passengers who wanted to continue the trip to Glasgow had to transit. Traveling with bus wasn’t my first choice. I’d booked a flight to Glasgow but then I missed it, and it’s too expensive to buy a new ticket. So I decided to take a bus from Victoria Coach Station, London (ticket price: GBP39). After 8 hours on the road, the driver told me to wait at some tiny shelter with nothing to protect me from cold wind. I was pretty surprised, because I thought the shelter would be more..decent. Haha. “That..shelter? Ah, lovely” I told that middle aged man with a chagrined smile on my face. Thank God I wasn’t alone. There were 3 women with their kids who also waited for the next bus. They shivered too. So it’s not because I was such a tropical baby.

It was my first time visiting UK so of course, Scotland was on the list. But with only 3 days to spend, I had to forget the idea to see Loch Ness, a place where nessy legend was born. As a cryptozoology enthusiast, it was quite a bummer. Nevertheless, the excitement to visit Glasgow and Edinburgh wiped that frown off my face.

The bus to Glasgow came sooner than I thought. I hopped on the bus and slept until it arrived at Buchanan Bus Station at 5 AM. The first thing that I did was trying to find a charging station. I kinda hated myself for not bringing a power bank for this trip, because unlike in Indonesia where you can easily find outlets in public space, plug the cord and charge your phone for free, in UK you have to pay GBP1.5 for 30 minutes of charging.

Glasgow in the morning. So many biiirrdsss
As soon as my phone got back to life, I asked my friend to pick me up. We had coffee and talked for almost two hours before headed to her apartment. On the way, she told me a little bit of this and that about Glasgow and Scotland. Like the origin of the name Scotland, “skotos” which means “darkness”, or that Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn (a fact that amuses me since it’s one of my favorite mythological creatures).

To me, Glasgow was like a slow burn. At first, I saw it as just cold and gloomy, but the next day, i realized there's something beautiful about the gloomy atmosphere in this city - the light brown bricks they used for their buildings and the cloudy sky are enticing. If you’re an arts enthusiast, it’s not hard to find places where you can feed your artsy fartsy side in Glasgow. But during my trip, I only visited 3 places; Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow School of Art and Lighthouse. CCA reminds me of Dia.Lo.Gue, an art space where you can find interesting exhibition, artshop, and a cafĂ©. Glasgow School of Art has a regular exhibition of students called “Degree Show” that you can see for free. I love the souvenirs that you can get there. Well..it depends on the artists I think, maybe it’s just my luck that some of them provided nice postcards that “frame-able”. The third place, Lighthouse also has a space to hold an exhibition. When i went there, they had this nice architecture exhibition.

I always think it won’t feel like traveling if you don’t try the local cuisine of the place you visit. For Scotland, it means Haggis, deep-fried mars bars and Shortbread, at least. Haggis is a savory pudding containing pork or sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock. If you don’t eat pork, you can try the kosher version of it – it exists, trust me. I didn’t try the deep-fried mars bars, but I wasn’t that curious either. I was more curious about this ice cream store in Edinburgh that my friend had been telling about, Mary’s Milk Bar, which I will tell you later. Shortbread fits with coffee or tea, because it’s not that sweet. Not a huge fan of it, but it was okay.

There’s a franchise in UK where you can find cute things for your house called Tiger. Gosh, if only I didn’t have maximum checked baggage weight (and more money to spend, haha) I would’ve bought so many things. I didn’t take the picture of the Glasgow branch I visited, but I bought a set of espresso glasses there. Another nice spot to chill in Glasgow was near River Clyde where people can sit on the green grass where sometimes seagull will join you. Haha. My friend said that seagulls here are like stray cats in Jakarta, they will come to you just to check whether you have food to share or not.

I visited Edinburgh on the second day. My friend and I took the bus from Buchanan bus station and we only had to pay £3.5 per person for round trip, because they had sale or something. You can buy the tickets online and sometimes they give discount. So make sure to check the website one or two days before your trip. Edinburgh was so different from Glasgow, more people and vibrant. The first destination was Edinburgh Castle, one of the famous tourist attractions in that Scotland’s capitol. When we went there, they were building some kind of extended stadium for a festival, we assumed, since Edinburgh is famous with its festivals. The ticket to enter the castle was expensive, £16.50 for adult (16-59 years) and £9.90 for child (5-15years), so I decided to just take pictures in front of it. Haha.

After that, my friend took me to get around the city. We saw street performers here and there, most of them are street musicians carrying bagpipe and wearing Scottish traditional dress – kilt included. We also found a man dressed like Mel Gibson in Braveheart in front of The Scotch Whisky Experience, a 25 year old place where visitors can buy whisky at the shop, take a whisky tasting tour and or whisky school. Our next destination was Mary’s Milk Bar! Yeay! Finally! Located in Grassmarket area, this small place offers more than just delicious gelato (Italian word for ice cream). They also have floats and chocolate bars, but the star of this place is course the ice cream. The price for one scoop was £2, £3 for 2 scoops, and £4 for three. I chose salted caramel, raspberry, and dark chocolate. OMG they’re absolutely amazing! With the perfect level of sweetness and texture, they melted in my mouth in a very delightful way. I like the vintage decoration too, it plays old music and is filled with vintage furniture and has a 60-year-old milkshake machine that’s still in perfect working order. The owner, Mary Hillard, who was there too during our visit, also looked like a girl that came out from a vintage photo. I hated myself not to take picture or having a conversation with her. I googled her and found out that she’s a trained chocolatier and an ex-student of Gelato University in Anzola dell’Emilia, near Bologna, Italy. Gelato University! Didn’t know that they have a university to master the art of gelato making!

We continued our journey by visiting Scottish National Gallery and had dinner at this nice spanish restaurant nearby. After that we went to Elephant House, the restaurant where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter books. Like Edinburgh Castle, we didn’t get in, just took photos in front of it *insert innocent grin here*. We also visited Greyfriars Kirkyard by accident. I was attracted by a statue of Greyfriar Bobby, a dog who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for supposedly spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872. Near the statue, there was a cemetery and a church inside, so I was curious and asked my friend to explore a little bit. There I found out a flyer, saying that it’s one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world and they even have a regular tour to show visitors famous spots where poltergeist activities often take place around the graveyard. I told my friend that Indonesia has potential market for this kind of tour since we’re superstitious and have so many places that are believed to be haunted. We just need a better marketing strategy, hehe. We didn’t stay long because it’s 10 PM already and the summer sky has started to turn dark, so yeah, it was creepy. Haha.

We then went to some restaurant who served many variants of beer and coffee before taking the bus that took us back to Glasgow. And that’s the end of our journey. The next day I flew back to London, hoping someday I can go back to explore Highlands and Aberdeen.
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