Stepping off the double-decker bus, I finally had a moment to recover from the minor heart attack driving on the left side of the road had induced. I spun to take in a panoramic view of my surroundings. Shielding my eyes from the sun, I wondered if I was in the right place. Wasn’t the UK supposed to be gloomy and miserable? Isn’t that why everyone here comes to Spain?
I headed towards the historic centre of town in absolute awe of how well-preserved the architecture remained. If it hadn’t been for the hipster cafés and tacky gift shops, the city could have passed for a medieval theme park.
The crisp February air nipped at my nose as I wrapped my scarf tighter. Then, the magic happened.
It began to snow.
You might be thinking, Uhm, Ivana, you’re Canadian. So what? It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but that brief snowfall, flakes glittering in the fading sunlight, filled a void that I hadn’t realized existed. Edinburgh felt like home.
I visited Edinburgh in February, shortly after returning to Canada to spend the holidays with my family. Going back to Spain was difficult as always. That brief trip home reminded me of all the reasons why no matter where I go, Canada keeps drawing me back. Our diversity – evident in the faces, the food, the conversation – is virtually unmatched. The warmth of our friends and neighbours keeps us toasty through the bone-chilling winter. We practice humbleness in the grand puppet show of world politics but show fierce pride in our identity. All of these things I hold so dearly, I saw mirrored in Scotland.
Each person I encountered, from the airport staff to the bartenders, treated me with politeness and a willingness to help that I so desperately missed in Spain. One look at the plethora of posters promoting concerts, theatre productions, and festivals is enough to tell you that Scots, like Canadians, find ways to enjoy life despite the often miserable weather. And while its southern neighbour tends to steal the spotlight, Scotland can pride itself on being the friendlier, more level-headed country. Scotland’s ties to England are much stronger than Canada’s to the United States; nevertheless, every move our neighbour makes affects us (for better or for worse).
I must admit that my experience in Scotland was very limited. Staying in the centre of Edinburgh, I only scratched the surface. However, as I wandered through town that weekend, I felt a sense of belonging as I never had before in Europe, even in my own birthplace. Edinburgh is one of few places in the world of which I can confidently say, “I could live here.”
So far, nowhere on Earth can measure up to Canada, but Scotland comes pretty darn close.