Posts Tagged 'Edinburgh'

International Hostels Serve Up Halloween Fun

Halloween brings out the freaks and geeks in all of us. This doesn’t change when we travel or study abroad. Staying in a hostel? Great! Hostels love celebrations, especially Halloween. Balmers Hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland decks its lobby with ghoulish treats and competitions, while hostels in France cover themselves in spider webs and flying witches. Don’t forget the drink specials. You can travel to the ends of the earth and still enjoy your favorite holiday treats.

Aboriginal Hostel– Budapest, Hungary

Terror Leaves its Mark on Budapest

Terror Leaves its Mark on Budapest

A great find in downtown Budapest, Aboriginal Hostel offers free WIFI, laundry, breakfast, and entertainment. Go cave diving or get recommendations for other incredible adventures. Just for Halloween, try some homemade Turkish “Witches Brew,” tasty cookies, and plenty of drinks to keep the energy flowing. Spend a night out with your roommates on the city’s popular Andrassy Avenue. Don’t miss the House of Terror.  Located in the former headquarters of the Nazi and Communist secret police, the museum showcases the grim history of the two governments with photos and relics from former labor camp prisoners. Creepy.

Generator Hostel– London, England or Berlin, Germany

London’s largest hostel, Generator, celebrates Halloween like no other. Enjoy cheap beds, cheap drinks and plenty of fun. Spend fright night at the hostel bar. Dress in your favorite costume and receive free drinks at the bar-turned-haunted mansion. Listen to popular DJs and dance until the wee hours. It’s not for the faint of heart.

If you’re headed to Eastern Europe, hit up the Generator Hostel in Berlin. Share a stein or two as you celebrate Halloween. Don’t miss the Superhero party on October 30th or the ghoulish midnight happy hour on Halloween night. The bar will rock both nights with famous karaoke and live DJs.

The Globetrotter Inn– Edinburgh, Scotland

A Little Halloween Fun

Get Caught up in the Web of Excitement

From its haunted houses to countless dark alleys, Edinburgh has plenty of chilling experiences for Halloween. The Globetrotter Inn turns the spooky factor up a notch with a big Halloween bash at its 24-hour on-site bar.  For an extra scare, visit the Edinburgh Dungeon to unravel the city’s history of witch-hunters, grave robbers, prolific murderers and executioners.

Loki Hostel– Mancora, Peru

Hit the beach this Halloween! Loki del Mar in Màncora is the newest addition to the Loki Hostel chain. Having found success in Lima, Cusco and La Paz, this new beach setting invites visitors to surf, body board, or kayak. You might want to save your costume for the after-party!

Nathan’s Villa Hostel– Krakow, Poland

No curfew. No lockout. No checkout time. Big Halloween Party. Take advantage of the eerie sights around Nathan’s Villa Hostel. Check out the historical Dragon’s Den, Auschwitz Concentration Camp, or Remuh Cemetery in Kazimierz. Cap off the night by competing for “Best Halloween Costume” and enjoying free punch at the hostel bar. The party will bounce well into the night…and early morning.

Edinburgh: UNESCO City of Literature

By Sarah Chamberlain

Sometimes when I walk through Edinburgh, I feel like I’ve stepped into the pages of a storybook. The castle perched on the hill, the Gothic buildings in various shades of brown and tan,  the massive rock that is Arthur’s Seat looming over everything, all come together to create a city almost surreal in its beauty. It is no surprise then that this city that resembles something from a fairy tale has been the home and the inspiration for numerous great authors, from Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson to J.K. Rowling. Other excellent authors that use Edinburgh as both real-life and literary stomping grounds include the mystery writers Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith (who has also written a superb serial novel, the 44 Scotland Street series, set in a tenement building in the New Town), and the novelist Muriel Spark. The literary associations don’t end there. During the Festival season in August, Edinburgh hosts the world’s largest book festival (this year’s guests include David Sedaris and Neil Gaiman), and the city itself was even designated by UNESCO as the world’s first City of Literature.

n1223875_35918469_8589All in all, Edinburgh is a very exciting place to be if you’re a bibliophile like me, and what better way to get some insight into the city than by reading books set in and inspired by the city? Here are a few of my particular favorites:

The 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith: Even if the address itself doesn’t exist (and believe me, I’ve checked!), the neighborhood and the people living at 44 Scotland Street in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town feel incredibly real. First published serially in the Scotsman, the novel chronicles the lives, loves, and small joys and disappointments of a variety of people living at the titular address. Reading the first volume of the series was what inspired me to choose Edinburgh for my year abroad, so I can’t say enough good things about it!

The Inspector Rebus novels by Ian Rankin: For a much darker and more sinister view of the Burgh, look no further than this series of detective novels, which follow John Rebus as he investigates murders and kidnappings, moving from the highest to the lowest levels of Edinburgh society. Rankin includes real-life Edinburgh locations in his books; Rebus’ favorite watering hole, the Oxford Bar, is a real pub in New Town, and his flat is on a real street in the southern neighborhood Marchmont.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark: While the previous authors are based in contemporary Edinburgh, the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie takes place in the 1930s, in a version of the city that is hard for me to imagine today. The story of the charismatic teacher Miss Brodie’s relationship with a small group of pupils is an engrossing one, and it draws a picture of the city that lies between well-chronicled history and the present day.

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Sound of the City

By Sarah Chamberlain

Not all Scottish musicians look like this!

Not all Scottish musicians look like this!

I’m sure that when many people think of Scottish music, they think of a man in a funny plaid skirt squeezing something that looks like a large black turkey, and creating noises that in fact sound like that animal being slowly tortured to death. I will concede that bagpipes aren’t for everyone, but speaking from my experience as a student radio DJ here in Edinburgh, there is superb music to be found in Scotland. Venues range from huge stadiums (the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, played at Hampden Park Stadium in Glasgow earlier this week) to tiny basement clubs. Local preferences tend towards indie, rock, and folk, and you can always find bands playing variations on these at cheap gigs (prices ranging from free to ten pounds a ticket) on all nights of the week. Belle & Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand had to start somewhere, didn’t they? If you are in a musical mood but are unsure where to start looking for a gig to go to, a great place to find listings is The List, a fortnightly magazine which covers all kinds of cultural happenings in Glasgow and Edinburgh. And to get an idea of what the Scottish music scene can produce, here are three excellent bands that I’ve had to pleasure to see and to hear while I’ve been living in Edinburg.

Broken Records – They somehow manage to cram seven members and their instruments onto a tiny stage, and make a huge, dramatic, and gorgeous sound that takes cues from Scottish folk, Gypsy rhythms, and not a little bit of Arcade Fire.

Meursault – Electro-folk may sound like a complete contradiction in terms, but these guys combine beats and bleeps with acoustic guitars and a huge, powerful voice to create something a little strange but also really exciting.

Go Away Birds – A boy-girl duo, making very lovely, simple indie-folk music. Her deep and sweet alto voice make stories of falling in and out of love utterly spellbinding.

I hope both that you get an idea of the sound of Edinburgh, and that you’re inspired to seek out local music wherever you end up study abroad, whether it’s Berlin or Buenos Aires or Beijing!

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Summer Festival Season: Edinburgh, Scotland

What better way to spend your summer than overseas!!!! Edinburgh, Scotland is a great place for exploring- whether it’s a trek to an extinct volcano, walking in the footsteps of kings and queens from Edinburgh Castle down the Royal Mile, or checking out lesser known towns. In Edinburgh, summertime also means festival season!

Festive Fireworks Light up Edinburgh

Fireworks Light up Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s summer festival season runs through the month of August. Catch the tunes of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival from July 31st-August 9th. The event brings more than 100 concerts to venues around the city. Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe (the largest arts festival in the world) run nearly simultaneously for three weeks in August and feature thousands of world-class concerts, plays, comedic and dance performances. With 12 festivals throughout the year there is more than enough for everyone. If you’re itching to get a taste of another culture- this is a great way to dive right in!

Another Sunny Day: Enjoying Summer in Edinburgh

By Sarah Chamberlain

Being a native Californian, at times in the past I’ve taken warm weather for granted. Actually, taking it for granted doesn’t cover the full extent of my feelings. I’ve whined and moaned about the summer heat, sat in front of fans in darkened rooms, and even put my pillows in the freezer in an attempt to cool off at night. Summer lasted from early May until early October, and the sun always shone down from an almost-blindingly-bright blue sky. It was only when I moved to Scotland to study abroad here in Edinburgh that summer did not always mean lots of dry heat and sunshine. Instead, gray clouds and drizzling rain tend to be the order of the day. But occasionally the BBC’s usually-overly-optimistic weather forecast does come true, and a warm summer sun shines down on the city.

Another Beautiful Day

Another Beautiful Day

While temperatures on days like this never reach California highs (Scots consider anything over 70 Fahrenheit to be heat-wave levels), people here savor the weather in a way I’ve never seen Californians do. It seems like half of Edinburgh is outside somewhere, whether hiking or playing sports or just relaxing in the grass with their friends. So here’s a guide to places to go when the thermometer nudges up just those few degrees.

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is kind of hard to miss, even if you’ve never been to Edinburgh before. A huge extinct volcano just south and east of the city center, it looms large on the skyline almost everywhere. On clear days you can see tiny figures both on the edge of the Crags and on the top of Arthur’s Seat itself. You can be one of those people too; it’s only a 45 minute hike up from either near the Scottish Parliament or from Duddingston up the hill to the seat. And once you’re there, the view is…incredible, to say the least. You can see all over the city, out to the Pentland Hills in the southwest and to Fife across the Firth of Forth. It doesn’t get much better than the combination of brown spires, green hills, and blue sky and water.

Inverleith Park

This is in a neighborhood called Stockbridge which is largely unknown to many tourists, so it’s a nice place to go if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile and Princes Street. On a sunny day you’ll see cricket matches and little kids racing boats in the small pond. There’s a particular hillside where you can get a lovely view of the Old Town as you people-watch. If you want to bring a picnic with you, there’s an awesome cafe called Circle on Brandon Terrace on the way to Inverleith where you can pick up cheap, tasty sandwiches.

The Meadows

If you’re not in the mood for a hike or even a long stroll to Stockbridge, the Meadows are an enormous park just south of the main campus of the University of Edinburgh. In May the lawns are covered with students alternately studying and catching what rays there are in between exams. You’ll also see people playing pick-up rugby and soccer, throwing a frisbee around, or having barbecues. Sitting here in the grass writing this, I don’t think there’s a more pleasant place to be on a day like this.

So on days when the weather’s too nice to be wandering around castles or museums, do as the Edinburghers do and get outside!

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