Edinburgh: You’re A Wizard, Harry

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I visited Hogwarts this week! I walked up and down the streets of Diagon Alley, I saw the cemetery where Lily and James Potter are buried, I saw pictures of the Hogwarts Express, and I even saw the school sitting up on the hill! Okay, okay… I saw J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for it all, at least! Edinburgh was a magical city filled with so much history. Walking down The Royal Mile, the main street, you really did feel like you were taking a stroll down Diagon Alley, walking past all the magic wand shops, owl pet stores, and wizarding hat emporiums. I visited the Café where Harry Potter was first born. J.K. Rowling would sit in The Elephant House and write for hours upon hours inventing the story of Harry Potter. A plaque outside of the store marks it as the birthplace of Harry Potter, and inside are a few pictures of J.K. Rowling and a few trinkets to be sold to Potter fans; but other than that, you would never really know that a legacy was born here… that is, until you walk into the bathroom.

The second you open the doorway into the bathrooms, you are awed by the colors and words that cover every inch of white wall in the small room. You have to stand there and just stare for a second because of how incredible it is. Then, when you walk into the stalls, there is even more writing! There are quotes, thank you notes to J.K. Rowling, signatures, you name it! The toilet seat was by far the funniest and my favorite though, and if you’re a Harry Potter fan or at least have seen the movies you’ll know where these sayings are from! Being in this place (the café in general not the restrooms) really inspired me to buckle down and start writing my own books. I know I want to be a writer; I just have to stop making excuses and do it.

What was truly amazing to see on the streets of Edinburgh was the history that still lived there. My Scottish family clan was the MacMillans, and I found so many articles and souvenirs bearing their name. The Scots are proud of their heritage, or at least the tourists who come visit are. You could see the history on either end of the Royal Mile, from the castle on the hill (Hogwarts) all the way to the Palace of Holyrood made famous by Mary, Queen of Scots. But, the real history lies below these fancy buildings. We took a tour called The Real Mary King’s Close which showed us what the people of Edinburgh really lived like back in the day before they joined governance with England and became the United Kingdom. But the craziest part of all, it was all underground! An entire little village dwells under the streets of the Royal Mile, roads and houses built on top of it as the city expanded and grew. The living conditions back in those times were horrible. I don’t even want to explain because you will be disgusted. We couldn’t even take photos down there because of how dark many of the rooms were, but being able to walk through these streets and houses underground was simply incredible.

By far, though, the most incredible experience I had in Scotland happened at sunrise. The first morning we were there, I got myself up at 5:30 in the morning, and a group of friends and I ventured off in search of Arthur’s Seat. Today, it is a large hill/ mountain located in Holyrood Park and overlooking all of Edinburgh. Legend has it that Camelot, the infamous castle of King Arthur, once sat at the very top. So, we were determined to climb it and watch the sun rise up over the mountains of the Highlands off in the distance. We didn’t known that there were multiple paths up the hill and therefore, of course we took the first path we saw…probably the most difficult trail possible. I had never hiked ANYTHING before, and I was climbing up rocks, balancing on the edge, and praying for dear life I made it to the top alive. But, just as the sun was beginning to peek up above the mountains, I made it to the top. I felt as though I was on top of the world. The rocks glistened with dew and frost as the sunlight began to reach them, and I just could not help but think about how beautiful so much of this world is. I am so grateful for this experience; when else will I ever be able to say I hiked to the top of a mountain and watched the sun rise over the Scotland Highlands? And the best part of all? From the top we could see the easy trail that went down the back side of Arthur’s Seat, and it was a peaceful stroll back down.

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Riley Stefano is a student at St. Michael’s College and an official API Student Blogger. Riley is studying abroad with API in Galway, Ireland.

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