Edinburgh Festival City

SCOTLAND’S CAPITAL EDINBURGH IS TRANSFORMED INTO ONE OF EUROPE’S LIVELIEST CULTURE AND FESTIVAL CITIES IN SUMMER.

When a large number of events, including the International Art Festival, the Alternative Art Festival, the Military Band Festival and the International Book Festival, all take place simultaneously in August. The International Art Festival in particular brings together world-class classical musicians, opera singers, dancers and theater actors.

A range of exhibitions, seminars and workshops also run throughout the festival. First held in 1946, the Alternative Art Festival, aka The Fringe, is the largest of its kind in the world, setting the stage for upwards of 40,000 performances in 250 different venues scattered across the city. For a better idea of how big and popular it is, just consider that close to two million tickets for the festival were sold in 2009.

Packed into the 25-day festival are 300 performances watched by an average of 74,000 people. I must hasten to add however that accommodation in the city is in short supply during festival month, so if you plan to be in Edinburgh in August it’s a good idea to reserve your hotel in advance.

But Edinburgh’s attractiveness is not limited to August. Capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is also the country’s second largest city and the seat of the Scottish Parliament. What’s more, both the old and the new part of the city are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. But these districts are as different as night and day.

Old Edinburgh, aka the Old Town, preserves its medieval texture with a number of buildings dating from the Scottish Reformation, while the New Town exhibits an orderly 18th century grid which might be said to be the best example of classical European-style town planning. Must-see sights are rife in the Old Town, first stop being the famous St. Giles’ Cathedral and its stained glass windows.

This is also the city’s main meeting point. You need to set aside a whole day to complete the sightseeing tour, which includes St. Andrew’s Square, the Grassmarket, the National Museum of Scotland, Parliament Square and Edinburgh Public Library. One of the city’s most famous thoroughfares also runs through the Old Town: the Royal Mile.

Lined with cafes and restaurants, the Royal Mile is lively and entertaining all year long. But we recommend that you not confine yourself to this street. If you climb the steep and narrow lanes along the city’s main axis, you will reap your reward in the end when Edinburgh Castle rises before you in all its splendor. Have your camera ready!

KILTS, CASHMERE AND HAGGIS

Haggis is the traditional dish of the Scots. Made of internal organs like lamb liver, heart and lung, which are minced and stuffed into a casing of sheep’s intestine along with bulghur, currants and pistacchios, haggis is traditionally served with mashed potatoes or turnips.

Formerly a cistern and now a textile museum, shop and gallery, ‘The Tartan Weaving Mill & Exhibition’ is a popular stop with tourists in the market for kilts and cashmere. There is even a corner of the shop where you can try on and have your picture taken in traditional Scottish costume. Entrance is free at this venue, which can be toured in about an hour.

EMEL ERNALBANT  - Photographer

The setting for films like Trainspotting, The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter, Edinburgh is a favorite with many directors. Indeed, you will feel as if you are on a film set as you stroll through the city’s streets. So it will come as no surprise that famous author J.K. Rowling wrote her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in an Edinburgh café.

Turkish Airlines has flights in both directions from Istanbul to Manchester, Birmingham or London. Edinburgh is within easy reach of all three cities by bus or train. For information: www.turkishairlines.com

If you are tired from traipsing through streets and museums, you can climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat, which rises to a height of 251 meters. Edinburgh is one of a handful of European capitals that boast a mountain, albeit a small one, inside the city limits. For more information about the city’s festivals, which host a slew of events in August: www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk