InterNations founder Malte Zeeck visited our expat community in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago in order to attend the local InterNations April Expat Event. He came back to Munich full of enthusiasm for this beautiful city, for Scotland in general and for Scotch whiskey in particular…
It was sunny outside and around 15 °C when my airplane touched down at Edinburgh Airport on Thursday afternoon. They say that first impressions count, and this is often true when visiting somewhere for the first time: There is no better start to a weekend city break than seeing the place glisten in the sunshine far below you while your plane is approaching its destination.
The positive first impression of Edinburgh was reinforced during the bus ride to my hotel Nira Caledonia, a luxury boutique hotel in central Edinburgh. From the windows of my double-decker bus, Edinburgh presented itself as a beautiful and old, clean and affluent city – an impression mainly owing to its many well-kept buildings from the past.
On this fist day, however, I didn’t have the time to delve any deeper into the city’s past or present. Once in my hotel room, I freshened up briefly and shortly afterwards I left the hotel again on foot. My destination: The Dome, where our Edinburgh Ambassadors were hosting that night’s InterNations Event. When I say Ambassadors, I mean Gregory on this occasion; unfortunately his Co-Ambassador Dino, a finance professional who grew up in Northern Ireland and worked in London and Paris, was away at the time. Gregory, who has been InterNations Ambassador for Edinburgh since late 2010, originally came to Scotland from his home country Poland in order to study; however, attracted by what he calls “the beauty and uniqueness” of the country, he simply stayed on when he finished his degree. He has worked and lived not only in Poland and the UK, but also in Germany, France and India.
At the event, Gregory did a great job welcoming his guests from around 15 different countries. This may not sound hugely impressive, but given the number of attendees (around 25), 15 different nationalities make for quite an international mix. The good thing about events in our smaller Communities is that it is so much easier to actually talk to people. That night, I met InterNations members from Thailand, Spain, the USA, Austria, Italy and enjoyed many interesting conversations.
All in all, it was a very pleasant evening – not least due the great choice of venue. The Dome isn’t called The Dome for nothing: Its central feature is a magnificent hall with arched ceilings and a coffered central dome. Originally built on the site of the old Physicians hall to host the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1844, the building now hosts conference suites, several bars and restaurant. One of them, The Club Room with its crystal chandeliers and candle-lit tables, provided the perfect surroundings for this intimate and exclusive meeting of global minds.
After 5 hours of socializing with InterNations members from around the world, I headed back to my hotel room just before midnight. Just as well – after all, I still had a whole weekend of sightseeing and Whiskey tasting ahead of me!
The next day, I took advantage of the fine weather to explore the Old Town of Edinburgh and the New Town. One mediaeval, the other Georgian, both are in fact listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thus not only stunningly beautiful in places, but also very unique in character. I followed Hanover Street and walked up the Royal Mile, past the Scottish Parliament to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where the Queen resides during Holyrood Week (usually somewhere around late June/early July). The Palace was already home to Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century and is in many ways closely associated with Scotland’s turbulent past. The Parliament building, on the other hand, only dates back to 2004. There was a lot controversy surrounding its construction, partly due to the immense costs involved in it, and I must say that I wasn’t terribly impressed by the result. Later, I climbed up a hill in Holyrood Park and enjoyed the fantastic views over the city.
Some of the other sights I took in during my weekend were the Edinburgh Castle, and the many churches and old cemeteries scattered around the city. Unfortunately, however, the good weather didn’t last. Fog descended on the city and it was there to stay – the perfect excuse for me to spend more time in Edinburgh’s cozy pubs drinking fine Scotch whiskey, of which I tried many different blends and brands and which I found much to my liking.
All in all, my weekend in Edinburgh has left me with the desire to see more of Scotland: the famous distilleries, the historic castles, the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands, and of course Loch Ness… I ran out of time on this occasion, but I am hoping to come back for more.
Photos courtesy of Malte Zeeck and Wikimedia Commons (View from Holyrood Park by Lisa Jarvis, Edinburgh Castle by Stuart Caie)