Old Edinburgh’s main drag — nicknamed The Royal Mile — leads from the castle
downhill through the Old Town to the palace.
This colorful jumble is the tourists’ Edinburgh:
a dense tangle of historic buildings,
fun museums and cultural cliches on sale.
Edinburgh was a wonder in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was famed
for its skyscrapers — they say the first anywhere —
but also for its filth.
It was once the most congested city in Europe. Its most wretched couldn’t even
afford candles. They lived in darkness. It’s said they knew each other not by how they looked,
but by how they smelled.
Medieval skyscrapers towered ten stories and higher.
Frontage and High Street was so limited that the buildings were narrow and tall
crammed shoulder to shoulder with little courtyards called ‘closes’ branching off.
These closes were connected to the main drag by skinny lanes or even tunnels.
Four hundred years ago
Edinburgh was nicknamed ‘Auld Reekie.’
The entire city was a black-stained mess of chimneys and reeked of smoke.
The Royal Mile ends at the gates of Holyrood Palace — for five hundred years
the official royal residence here in Edinburgh.
For several centuries, Scotland was ruled from London.
Parliament hadn’t met here since
Recently, the Scots voted to bring their parliament home
and London didn’t object.
In the year 2000, Edinburgh resumed its position
as home of Scotland’s parliament.
Scotland’s strikingly modern parliament building opened in 2004.
The Catalan architect, Enric Miralles, mixed old windows, wild angles and organic
themes into a startling complex that would, as he envisioned,
surge from out of the rock and into the city.