“Today my heart is split into two,” said a friend of mine in his leaving Edinburgh speech, “one part is looking forward to going back home and seeing my friends and family. And the other part lies here, in Edinburgh.” I knew these words would be as true for me a few months on. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I wouldn’t believe that a city so grey could ever inspire such color in your heart. This little Scottish capital of half a million people is remarkably unique in ways known and unknown, ways that have much to with its uncanny landscape and structure, and the kind of people that it attracts. I could be a bit biased and not the best authority, but for all I’ve seen and known, Edinburgh is one of the perfect cities, or as close as a city can come to perfection.
The best cities, the ones that really endure, that remain happy, healthy and balanced in the long run, are the ones that blend technology and development effortlessly in seam with nature. Whatever the other limitations of the UK, this is one thing they know how to get right and as the airplane circles over the little, compact city before taking off, you can see how Edinburgh is the perfect example of that. In the middle of the heritage, old town is Arthur’s Seat and the crags, an eruption of gorgeous, tiny hills that are easily reached and hiked, breaking the monotony of concrete. Expanding around these is the Holyrood Park, a beautiful green spread about with a few ponds and wildflowers blowing about in the wind. A little way off are the Pentaland Hills, part of a national park that also make for gorgeous hikes, and the other end of the city where lies the coast.
When someone who was visiting asked me my thoughts on Edinburgh, having lived here a few months, the answer came to me readily: it is a small city with the facilities of a big city. As a capital, all official centers are housed in Edinburgh, in addition to it being the financial centre of the UK after London. The more remarkable thing about Edinburgh is its size; it’s not too big that you can’t walk most places, nor too small that you feel that’s all there is. Living in most places in Edinburgh would save you tons of travel time, as well as transport money, but most of all, the liveliness of the city will make walking around eventful. There is always something happening, always something to see on the streets so your walk would never be plain. Old, medieval buildings sit next to each other and living there makes you forget sometimes how beautiful it truly is.
Ravish Kumar said in his book Ishq Mein Shahar Hona that you can fall in love with a city best if you are in love yourself, if you discover the city while in love. I stand by it, but that’s the thing about Edinburgh, that it gives you places and opportunities to fall in love. The little hills for the short hikes, the parks which can be endlessly strolled, the cozy cafes and coffee shops, and the Scottish temperament of always being drunk and always being in love. The city creates a positive, fulfilling space around you- it will make you fall in love, with itself, with life, and otherwise.
The weather is difficult, but the beauty surpasses it. In the fall, the hues and colors will surround you, as the air will turn crisper; the winter will be harsh and drive you indoors, but it will bring you closer to each other. The spring is when the city will have your heart once again, while the summer will make everything even more lush if it was possible, adding a few extra days with the city bathed in sunshine.
But perhaps the most beautiful for me was watching the Meadows change seasons through the year when I lived here, watch it complete the circle of life. In the fall when I had just arrived, on the velvety green, the dried leaves would be spread about as if deliberately and with care, sitting in shades of orange, red and brown, coloring beneath the golden, albeit weak, sunshine. In the winter the Meadows is stark and bare, the bald branches resisting the fierce wind that drives away everything, as a huddled figure would hobble across the middle meadow walk. The spring would bring about the cherry blossoms, lining the entire walk in a vibrant pink, clashing with the green on the ground and it would be even more beautiful when the petals would shed like confetti in the following month. In the summer you’ll be able to see the tiny fruits atop the trees, breathing in the wind that wouldn’t be so harsh now as seagulls would flop about, watching the sky change color and the sun beginning to set early once again as another autumn would roll around. You learn something so very deep about life as you see the seasons change.
Edinburgh is also a city invested in the arts, and I could see it in the way how an amateur student theatre show was sold out on a Tuesday afternoon. Living here, you will be surrounded by art in some form, may it be theatre, art or their beloved live music. In August there is the Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, when you get the chance to watch everything from circus acts to mimes, people coming in from all over the world.
From my library I could see the beautiful skyline of the city, the mostly grey and sometimes clear blue sky, interspersed with patches of clouds, joining in the horizon with the low strung Pentaland hills. Further downwards would be the little, red, gingerbread houses, interrupted by dark grey streets, finally joining up further with the Meadows that never stop shining. There is an ability for enthusiasm in the city, an easy approach to life which is contagious to all who live here.
I’m a great believer in the fact that the people make the place, yet there is an essential beauty in Edinburgh. It’s a world within a world; time moves, but time stands still. And I am a certain that whenever I come back to it, for surely I will, its magic will get me again, breathing in the air that made me live each moment more intensely, and value the gift that is life.