Scotland is known for its Highland Games and on the Isle of Arran; the Brodick Highland Games are similar to a big family reunion.  The weather on the Island was cold and rainy during the week, but on the day of the festival the sun shone as brightly as the smiles saying “hiya.” The smell of grilled onions coming from the hamburger stand at the festival smelled like a childhood visit to Maxwell Street in Chicago. The taste of beef mixed with oats must be acquired.

While on the Isle, don’t bother with the beef. Go for the cheese. The Isle of Arran Cheese shop sells cheese all over the Island, including the festival. The crushed stem ginger and the caramelized onion cheeses are fantastic. Any hamburger disappointment will quickly vanish when the log toss begins.

The most famous of the Highland games, men and women are challenged to stand 20 ft. long, 200 pound logs upright and toss them so that they land in a perfect 12’o clock position. Scores of men accepted the challenge as did one woman but only one man succeeded in meeting the challenge as he had for the last five years in a row.

Men and women dressed in full costume for the pipe band competitions at the games also partook of the pale ale that flowed freely while they laughed and joked with their family and friends and posed for the many pictures taken that day. The pipe bands marched around the sport field, parading their skills to the audience, while a lone piper played a separate tune for the Highland dancers whose performance on a nearby stage appeared very similar to a ballet.

Edinburgh is known for its Festivals. In August of each year the city holds two festivals; the Military Tattoo and the Fringe Festival. Edinburgh was filled to capacity with people from all over the world for these two festivals. Older people braved the long lines winding around Edinburgh castle to attend the Tattoo where Military bands from all over the world, including the United States performed. Young people filled the streets of Edinburgh to attend the Fringe events.

The Military Tattoo is a show of music and lights complete with fireworks and two tornado fighter jets. The Australian band included singers and Norway’s drill team marched with the accompaniment of an electric guitarist. The United States band played superhero themes from television cartoon shows and displayed a colored light show of comic book characters using the castle front as its screen.

Without a doubt, the Top Secret Drum Corp was the highlight of the 2012 Tattoo. A non-military drum corps based in Switzerland; the Top Secret drummers play in a fashion similar to military drum corps but much faster. Their antics on the field included spinning flags, sword play with their drum sticks, and drums that light up when struck. A group of part-time drummers, they played with a professionalism spun from genuine passion for the drums. The drummers really appeared to be have a good time showing off their skills to the screaming spectators.  

The Fringe is a month long series of music, theatre, comedy and art. Most of the performances take place in public buildings and night clubs for a moderate entry fee. During the early afternoon hours, performers take their acts on the street to entice city visitors to the paid performances. Throughout the day, tourists witness the strange: a man walking down the street with a TV on his head, a group of young people dressed in towels carrying a bathtub, or young men dressed in sheets arguing and stabbing each other with paper swords.

The best food in Edinburgh: Saigon, Saigon; a Chinese Buffet on Princes’ Street and Mother India on Infirmary street, the absolute best Indian food on the planet. The lemon and cashew rice at Mother India should go on everyone’s bucket list. The flavor was both incredible and intense and one bite only made you want another. If you are fortunate enough to have leftovers, morning will not come soon enough to relieve the unbelievable experience again. There are good and horrible lattes everywhere. Café Misu serves a Tiramisu Latte that words cannot describe. Magic tricks for the mouth. 

Edinburgh streets around the University area are closed to traffic and performers crowd the street telling dirty jokes, juggling saws, riding unicycles; playing guitars and keyboards and horns; singing and laughing and acting. Street vendors sell all types of ethnic cuisine along with jewelry and other trinkets. It is possible to have a fantastic time in Edinburgh during the Fringe without purchasing a single Fringe ticket. You just need to follow the crowds and the laughter.

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