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Spontaneous Trip to Edinburgh!

Hello readers! Welcome to another weekly update about my semester in Glasgow, Scotland! This week went by fast, even though there wasn't a lot to do. I felt like I didn't have a lot of school work, which was nice. I have a feeling it's going to catch up with me though--especially with these final papers I have to write. We'll worry about those when the time comes I guess. Rachel and I decided very last minute on Friday to head to Edinburgh on Saturday. It's only an hour bus ride, so it wasn't too crazy.


A ticket from Glasgow to Edinburgh (round trip) is only ten pounds, so we decided to just go for the day. We arrived in Edinburgh around 11 am, giving us time to explore the city before our Harry Potter Tour. Prior to arriving, we booked a free Harry Potter Tour with City Explorers! Before our tour, we walked around the Edinburgh Castle and through the Princes Street Garden. While walking in the garden, we found this bronze elephant statue. I took a picture in front of it, just thinking it was cool. After looking further into it, I found out that it is a memorial for the hundreds of babies that were cremated and dumped in an unmarked grave at Mortonhall Cemetery. Apparently this scandal spanned for more than four decades. Hundreds of parents never knew the final resting place of their children with at least 250 cremated babies buried in secret. Parents were told there would be no ashes left to scatter following cremation. I found an article that said that "managers at the council-run crematorium knew that there were ashes after baby cremations but refused to tell parents, claiming it would be 'too destressing'" (Murray). After the Mortonhall scandal, a separate commission was set up to review policies and practices in Scotland. Now Scotland's crematoriums won't be able to dispose a person's ashes for at least four weeks after cremation and must keep records of where the remains were buried or scattered for a minimum of fifty years. Now knowing the history and meaning behind that elephant statue, I can look back on that picture and know how special that elephant is for the parents who were not able to take their children's ashes to their final resting place.


On a happier note, our Harry Potter tour was about an hour and a half long. Our tour guide told us straight away that if we were looking for places that you could easily point to and say "I recognize this place because of a scene from [insert HP movie title]," then this tour was not for you. Harry Potter was never actually filmed in Edinburgh, but was instead where J.K Rowling spent most of her time writing the series since she lived there. Although Harry Potter wasn't filmed in Edinburgh, Marvel's Infinity War was! Haha had to add that tidbit in there since I am also a Marvel nerd. A lot of people have the misconception that Harry Potter was "born" in Edinburgh too. J.K Rowling didn't move to Edinburgh until AFTER the first three chapters were written, so the name "Harry Potter" doesn't come from any gravestone or street sign in Edinburgh. We were shown different buildings that may have influenced her writing of Harry Potter. We walked down Victoria Street, which is known to be one of the streets that influenced Diagon Alley. Another mentionable sight was Potterrow. This is a street, but it inspired the scene from Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (#5) towards the beginning when Harry and Dudley get attacked by the Dementors under the bridge/bypass (I have no idea what that kind of structure is called, but it's the picture that looks like a bridge). After the tour we explored some of the Harry Potter shops--don't worry mom, I didn't buy anything, even though I was VERY tempted :) There were also Harry Potter Escape Rooms, which I personally think would be VERY fun to try! We found a bar called Department of Magic which served different Harry Potter themed drinks and BUTTER BEER! I finally was able to try some and let me tell you, IT WAS SO GOOD. To be honest, I'm not sure if I had the alcoholic or non-alcoholic one, so I guess I'll just have to try it again. I have also included pictures of gravestones that did inspire some of the characters in Harry Potter like Tom Riddell (Rowling changed to Riddle for book), William McGonagall, Moodie, etc.


We decided to sign up for another tour since our bus wasn't leaving until 8pm. We went on a free ghost tour! Now I always knew that Scotland and Europe in general had a history of violence, but it never occurred to me how violent it actually was. We were told stories of cannibals, ghosts, demons, and gruesome torture methods. We ended the tour taking a stroll through Greyfriars Kirkyard, the arguably the most haunted cemetery in all of Europe. Back in the day, people used to sell dead bodies to the medical schools to practice on. There was a lot of money to made from this, so many people went to graveyards and started digging up bodies to sell to the medical schools. Now I'm not going to try to tell this story since I have only heard it once. Basically the jist is that these two guys decided to skip a step in the process and just collect live bodies AKA they murdered people and sold their bodies to the medical school. They killed around twenty people before they were caught. Now the poltergeist which haunts Greyfriars Kirkyard (a graveyard) is a little easier to explain. The poltergeist is thought to be George MacKenzie, a ruthless persecutor of the Scottish Covenanters, a Presbyterian movement in the 17th century (I'm not going to explain the history behind that, look that up yourself). According to the legend, his spirit was released in 1999 when a homeless man was looking for shelter in Greyfriars Kirkyard and broke into the Black Mausoleum--the private chambers of the MacKenzie family. Our tour guide told us that the man who was seeking shelter from the harsh Scottish winter thought it was even colder inside this building that housed the MacKenzie tombs. Now the tombs aren't on the "top" level or ground level. There's a grate in the middle of the building. Apparently the homeless man lifted that grate thinking it would be warmer actually inside where the tombs were placed. For some reason, this man was trying to open one of the tombs, which ended up being George MacKenzie's. As soon as he cracked it open there was a rumbling and the ground beneath where he was standing gave out from under him. He was propelled into this room in pitch blackness. He was feeling around and was trying to get a sense of what his surroundings looked like, but he was feeling skulls and bones. He let out a scream like any normal person would do. Someone who was with their dog above ground outside the mausoleum heard the scream and walked over to see what was happening. I can't remember what our tour guide said he saw, but I do remember him telling us that the guy and his dog sprinted away from that mausoleum after seeing whatever was inside. The bones were remains of black plague victims from a long time ago. It would still be pretty freaky to feel bones in complete darkness though. The homeless man got out fine and also ran away in case anyone was worried if he didn't make it or whatnot. Many report leaving Greyfriars Kirkyard with bruises, burns, scratches, and even broken bones. Many spend the night hoping to get a glimpse of the MacKenzie Poltergeist. Many Scottish children play games with the Poltergeist, encouraging it to come out. Needless to say, MacKenzie did not gift us with his presence last night--which was perfectly fine with me.


We will go back to Edinburgh to explore the Castle and other monuments we missed yesterday. We tried to go to Aberdeen and Stonehaven today, but the tour we wanted to go on was full (sad). Instead I went to church and caught myself up with dishes, laundry, and now my blog! Next Sunday we are going to a Bridal Show here in Glasgow! I'm excited to see the beautiful wedding gowns and learn more about the wedding industry, since I am thinking about making a career in wedding planning. We'll see how it goes! Until next week, enjoy this pictures of Edinburgh!

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