Arriving at the Waverley train station was truly a magical experience. And I mean that quite literally. As all Harry Potter fans know, the seven book series was largely written in various cafes around the city of Edinburgh. I remember first reading about Hogsmead when I was in elementary school, and the imagery I conjured up in my brain was eerily similar to the aesthetics of the Royal Mile. Don’t even get me started on how the castle could literally be Hogwarts itself. The gigantic stone castle is perched atop a steep hill overlooking the city, and its everything I imagined Hogwarts looking like. From atop the castle you can see much of the city as well as the coast. And from below, you can almost pick out wizards darting about on their enchanted broomsticks.

I stayed at Haystack Hostel in a triple room with two real nice British girls in town for a festival. I think that it’s a fairly new hostel as they were still installing mirrors and light fixtures into the rooms during my stay. I’d personally describe the decor of the hostel as shabby chic—lots of faux fur pillows and blankets and pine. I chose the hostel because it’s basically right across the street from Waverley station. However, it was on the third floor of the building, without an elevator. I wasnt surprised because most buildings in Europe don’t have elevators, but I was sort of sad. I’m getting quite tired of lugging my big suitcase up and down stairs.

Scottish Gallery of Modern Art (one + two): Edinburgh has not one but two Modern art galleries within the city. I was pumped to see them, until I realized that they were quite a trek outside of the city center. Everything in Edinburgh is situated on a hill, including the two galleries. It felt like I walked uphill all of the way there, and back. However, I did enjoy getting out of the bustling city and seeing some proper British homes. The Galleries themselves were sort of lackluster, in my humble opinion as an art historian in the making. The One had an exhibit about Jenny Saville (read about her below), but none of the works touched me the same way that Aleppo did. Two had a good collection of surrealist paintings—Dalí, Magritte, and the likes. Both Galleries had large outdoor installations, too.

Scottish National Gallery: I’m not saying that I wasn’t impressed by the National Gallery, it just wasn’t my favorite museum that I’ve been to. With that being said, I had a moment whilst in the Italian Renaissance gallery. Surrounded by paintings of the great Italian masters was a painting by Jenny Saville titled Aleppo. Sticking out like a sore thumb in a room of oil paintings and religious imagery, Aleppo is made of pastels and depicts a contemporary scene of the horrific events from the city of Aleppo. Saville drew inspiration from the tradition of ‘Pieta’ (aka the moment where Mary is cradling the body of Jesus), which is why this work was included in the Renaissance room. Except instead of biblical figures, Saville used images of dying children. The pain in the eyes of the children shook me to my bones.

Royal Mile: Okay, so the Royal Mile is quite touristy, yes, but it’s also a must see in Edinburgh. Basically, it’s the major street that cuts through Old Town. It begins at the Holyrood Palace and ends at the Castle. There were lots of shops selling Scottish wool, trinkets, and souvenirs as well as pubs and diners. It was mostly up hill, which was a strain on my already over exerted calves.

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