Posts Tagged 'Scotland'

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.

What? I Mean, Pardon?

By Sarah Chamberlain

The great Irish playwright and wit George Bernard Shaw once said that America and Britain were “two countries, separated by a common language.” It may seem like a throwaway line, but the more time I spend in Scotland, the more I realize that aphorisms like this exist because they’re painfully true.

Be cautious when it comes to slang

Be cautious when it comes to slang

When I returned from my year abroad in Edinburgh last year, one question friends and acquaintances frequently asked was if I had had any trouble understanding the Scottish accent. Fortunately, 99% of Scots do not sound like Groundskeeper Willie, and I could understand everyone I met in Edinburgh almost all the time. Where my gaps in comprehension emerged were in my understanding of Scottish slang. Sometimes I wouldn’t recognize at all a word my Edinburgher friends used, like when they referred to a bunch of “neds” (best defined as the Scottish version of white trash, instantly recognizable by their uniform tracksuits, very shiny white sneakers, and bling).  But more frequently, I would hear a word being used in a way that I’d never heard before. The best example of this is the word “pants”. Americans use it to refer to jeans, or slacks, or the two-legged things you wear on your lower half. But in Britain, “pants” is short for “underpants”. This resulted in some embarrassed amusement on the part of my mates when I was telling them about the new wool pants I’d bought. Now even when I’m back in the States, I will always refer to the things I wear on my legs as “jeans” or “trousers” as a protective mechanism. And to make matters worse, in Scotland, saying that something is “pants” means that it’s lousy. The first time I heard one of my friends say this, my response was something along the lines of a stunned “I beg your pardon?” Complete slang overload.

Unfortunately, the confusion is more on the side of the Americans than on the Brits. The U.S. has been exporting their cultural products to Britain for decades, making American English something commonly heard on concert stages, on TV shows, and in movie theaters. Since we haven’t imported nearly the same amount of British culture to our shores, much of it is mysterious to visiting Americans. So if you are going to study in the UK and want to be ahead of the curve, start watching some British TV! It is very educational, as well as being hysterically funny. Blackadder is especially good.

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Summer Adventures: Sailing Around the World

Hit the open sea this summer! Whether it’s kayaking, yacht cruising, sailing, or wind surfing there’s no better way to spend a summer break than enjoying the water. Studying Abroad? Take a break from land-based activities for a few days. Here are some places that offer unforgettable experiences away from land.


Sail Along the Miki Canal

Sail Along Greece's Miki Canal

It’s Greece, need we say more?  When you’re not sunbathing on the beach,  explore this magical country by sea! Broaden your horizons and visit the islands that make up one-fifth of the country.  Explore the Saronic Gulf.  Check out the island of Aegina, a short sail from Athens. Trek to the ancient Temple of Aphaia high on a hill to the northeast to catch some of the most unforgettable sunset views. Spice it up Italian style and visit Naplion, an old Venetian town further north in the Saronic Gulf. You’ll also find the island of Spetsae, which is surrounded by small boatyards where they still build traditional wooden fishing crafts. Another option- sail the Turkish coast. Your best bet is to sail in May, early June, or September. Find more sailing options here.

New Zealand

Let the wind guide you along New Zealand’s beautiful coastline. Check out the old whaling town of Russell, a short sail from Auckland. Visit the museum and the church, which is the oldest in the country. Across the water lies Waitangi, New Zealand’s most important historical site. The Treaty House and Maori meeting house are both national monuments. Another can’t miss- The Bay of Islands offers everything from uninhabited islands to small coves and steep hills. Sail around Cape Brett to Whangamumu Harbor, which operated as a whaling station until the 1930s. By the way, New Zealand is the only destination in the world where you can set sail in the morning and ski in the afternoon!


Relax Along Scotland's West Coast

Relax Along Scotland's West Coast

As fun as it is to explore the historic locales of Scotland, the Scottish coast is big on water sports. Pick your poison- go wreck diving, kayaking, sailing, take in scenic views, or discover an unspoiled underwater environment.  What lurks underwater? You’ll find colorful anemones, soft corals, kelp forests, crustacea, pelagic and demersal fish, seals, dolphins, and an occasional whale or basking shark. Sounds cool!  Did you know Scotland is also one of Europe’s top destinations for windsurfing and waterskiing?  Introduce yourself to another side of the Scottish landscape!

Our advice? When you tire of land exploration, see what the sea has to offer! It will no doubt be a memorable- and original experience.

Here are a few other sites to check out:

    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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    Gulliver helps students Study Abroad. Our blog covers: current issues in Study Abroad; featured posts by Study Abroad students; and Gulliver updates, news, and behind-the-scenes peaks. Thanks for reading!