Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 29 - Revisiting Edinburgh while Hubby Roams London

My tummy was a bit off today, so I chose to stay in the flat, while hubby bought theatre tickets for us tonight then was let loose in the city.  Probably not a smart thing to do, but there you are.

I really wasn't able to do justice to the city of Edinburgh last week, so I thought I'd add a few pictures of the city while I'm home bound.

Firth of Forth emptying into the North Sea

Edinburgh is situated on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. With a population of 495,360 in 2011 (up 1.9% from 2010), it lies at the center of a larger urban zone of approximately 850,000 people. The original town was built on the volcanic ridge descending from the Castle Rock, while the modern city is often said to be built on seven hills.
Buildings on High Street in Old Town Edinburgh
In the 17th century, the boundaries of Edinburgh were still defined by the city's defensive town walls. As a result, expansion took the form of the houses increasing in height to accommodate a growing population. Buildings of 11 stories or more were common, and have been described as forerunners of the modern-day skyscraper. Most of these old structures were later replaced by the predominantly Victorian buildings visible in today's Old Town.

General Assembly Hall of the Church of England in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile is the name given to a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. The thoroughfare runs downhill between two significant locations in the history of Scotland, namely Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The streets which make up the Royal Mile are (west to east) Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street, the Canongate and Abbey Strand. The Royal Mile is the busiest tourist street in the Old Town, rivalled only by Princes Street in the New Town.

Holyrood Palace as seen looking down the Royal Mile
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.

Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence.

Mary, Queen of Scots witnesses the murder of her secretary
The royal apartments in the north-west tower of the palace were occupied by Mary, Queen of Scots, from her return to Scotland in 1561 to her forced abdication in 1567. She married both of her Scottish husbands in the palace: Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, in 1565 in the chapel, and James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, in 1567 in the great hall. It was in the Queen's private apartments that she witnessed the murder of David Rizzio, her private secretary, on 9 March 1566. Darnley and several nobles entered the apartment via the private stair from Darnley's own apartments below. Bursting in on the Queen, Rizzio and four other courtiers, who were at supper, they dragged the Italian through the bedchamber into the outer chamber, where he was stabbed 56 times.

The Scottish Parliament Building in Holyrood
Close to Holyrood Palace is the Scottish Parliament Building. Construction of the building commenced in June 1999 and the Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) held their first debate in the new building on 7 September 2004. The formal opening by Queen Elizabeth took place on 9 October 2004. Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect who designed the building, died before its completion.  From 1999 until the opening of the new building in 2004, committee rooms and the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament were housed in the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland located on The Mound in Edinburgh.

From the outset, the building and its construction have been controversial. The choices of location, architect, design, use of non-indigenous materials (granite from China instead of Scotland), and construction company were all criticised by politicians, the media and the Scottish public. Scheduled to open in 2001, it opened more than three years late with an estimated final cost of £414 million, many times higher than initial estimates of between £10m and £40m.

Our Dynamic Earth
Also built in Holyrood is the science center, Our Dynamic Earth, that serves as a prominent visitors attraction in the city, and also functions as a conference venue. It is beside the Scottish Parliament building and at the foot of Arthur's Seat.  The center opened in 1999 as one of the first major projects supported by the Millennium Commission. The building's structure consists of a steel mast-supported membrane stretched over a steel skeleton. It was designed by architects Michael Hopkins and Partners.

I will talk more about Calton Hill and Burke and Hare, the famous Scottish grave robbers at another time.  I'd like to end now with a mention of the play we saw tonight at the Duchess Theatre, "The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui" by the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht starring Henry Goodman.  The play chronicles the rise of Arturo Ui, a fictional 1930s Chicago mobster, and his attempts to control the cauliflower racket by ruthlessly disposing of the opposition.  It was written by Brecht in only three weeks in 1941 whilst in exile in Helsinki, Finland awaiting a visa to enter the US.  He never envisioned the play being performed in Germany as he intended it for the American stage and audiences all along.

Duchess Theatre
The play is disturbing as it consciously represents a highly satirical allegory of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. All the characters and groups in the play had direct counterparts in real life, with Ui representing Hitler, his henchman Ernesto Roma representing Ernst Röhm, Dogsborough representing Paul von Hindenburg (a pun on the German Hund and Burg), Emanuele Giri representing Hermann Göring, Giuseppe Givola representing Joseph Goebbels, the Cauliflower Trust representing the Prussian Junkers, the fate of the town of Cicero standing for the Anschluss in Austria and so on.

 In addition, every scene in the play is based on a real event, for example the warehouse fire which represented the fire at the Reichstag, or the Dock Aid Scandal which represented the Osthilfeskandal (East Aid) scandal.
Henry Goodman as Arturo Ui
In the end, Henry Goodman drops character and speaks directly to the audience to warn us against making the same mistake twice.  Though it was very well done, and at times even funny in the clownishness of Arturo Ui in the beginning, it quickly develops into a reminder that I found disturbing.  Too disturbing for me to recommend it as an evening's entertainment.  That's not to say it wasn't brilliant in its own way. Though I'm not ending on a precisely cheery note tonight, I'll end here, leaving you with these thoughts as I tray to sleep tonight.

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