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Ghosts, optical illusions, steps, more hills by Ann Treacy
April 13, 2010, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

Day two in Edinburgh was more ups and downs. (Remember, built on 7 hills.) We started at the Camera Obscura. It’s kind of a museum of optical illusions. My favorite part was the telescope on top you could work remotely from inside . You could zoom in on things all over town. I loved that. There was a giant version the guides could use to give us a lazy man’s tour of the city. We loved it. Here’s a definition of Camera Obscura from Wikipedia. I thought it was interesting…

The camera obscura (Latin for “dark room”; “darkened chamber”) is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen. It is used in drawing and for entertainment, and was one of the inventions that led to photography. The device consists of a box or room with a hole in one side. Light from an external scene passes through the hole and strikes a surface inside where it is reproduced, upside-down, but with colour and perspective preserved. The image can be projected onto paper, and can then be traced to produce a highly accurate representation.

After Camera Obscura we went on a underground ghost tour. Soon after the tour began we realize why there weren’t more kids in the tour. The tour takes place in a vault underground – it’s part of Edinburgh’s underground city. The vaults were originally built by merchants for storage but they soon learned that the caves we too porous to be useful. So there were abandoned. In the 1700s Edinburgh became over populated. They made it illegal to be homeless, punishable by death. So the homeless moved to these underground vaults. The life expectancy of a grown man was 18 months once we moved to the vault. I won’t go into gruesome details – but it was really sad to just think about the conditions. One of the vaults is currently used by a Wiccan group. There were some scary stories about why the Wiccans move from one room to another. The tour guide had a great, super scary delivery. It took about a hour for the girls to talk to us after this tour. Although – and I want it on the record – this was Patrick’s choice, not mine! As revenge I am including the picture of him in the vault. It’s one of the few pictures that turned out.

After the creepy tour we headed to the Scott Monument. It was built in the mid-1800s and there are 287 steps to the top. I got to about 250 and had to turn back. Partially because I just couldn’t stomach Aine running around completely oblivious to the height. I can’t believe that we weren’t scooping her up off the pavement – although in fairness there really wasn’t an easy way to fall or jump out of the tower. Lily, Aine and Patrick made it to the top of the tower.

Then we went to Calton Hill. There’s an old observatory there – and some towers and ruins (Nelson’s Monumnet) that nearly look like they are from Rome. Like the day before on Arthur’s Seat, it was just nice to be out in the great weather climbing aorund. Aine particularly enjoyed it. Patrick pointed out that it’s fun to see all of the old emperial statues and mouments. For better or for worse those seem to get blown up in Dublin so there’s not a lot left.

We capped off our day with a fun Thai meal.

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