Mercifully, this will be a pretty short post following the Herculean epics covering my time in Italy and Spain – but within this abridged, rapid-fire section of my trip was a whole lot of visceral experience and raucous fun. After leaving Barcelona, I was headed to Edinburgh for the annual Fringe Festival. While quite well-known in Europe, it’s not quite as recognized back in the states except amongst the most ardent fans of comedy and performing arts – but it should be.
You see, The Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. Throughout the month of August, this beautiful Scottish city hosts more than 50,000(!) performances (comedy, art, dance, theater, music, etc.) across 300+ venues. Even the streets themselves are bursting at the seams with performers, musicians, buskers, and all sorts of creative weirdos, day in and day out. It’s essentially a super distilled showcase of the world’s best entertainers, all vying for your attention and admiration. The whole city is transformed for the month, and the energy is totally off-the-walls.
And vy they do! It seems as if every millimeter of the city is blanketed in flyers advertising shows taking place throughout the month. Magicians, stand-up comics, plays, monologues, acrobats, circus performances, clowns, improv troupes, a capella groups, puppeteers, monologues, dancers, the list goes on – countless performers of every conceivable variety are advertising their shows, not just via flyers posted on walls, but by way of entertaining on the streets themselves. To put it simply, it’s utter madness, and it’s incredible fun.
This is what the atmosphere looks like in the streets
Half of the fun comes from just walking around town and basking in the sheer lunacy of it all
Over my 3.5 days in Edinburgh, I saw 18(!) incredible shows. (Sidenote: None of them allow photos… but I managed to sneak a couple, and I’ll post some press photos for most of the others, to give you an idea of what’s what).
Amongst these were:
*A performance of Hamlet in which one of six professional actors was blackout drunk (guess which one).
*An uproariously funny audience-controlled robot cooking show
*A moving, projection-mapped monologue about the realities of the Colombian cocaine trade
*A side-splitting live funk opera about the future AI wars between Musk and Bezos
*An Aussie standup with an AI sidekick she was training to be human
*A play about toxic masculinity in a schoolyard fight set to a soundtrack by members of Frightened Rabbit
*A performance in which sketch comedy groups must steal and adapt each other’s routines
*A late night variety show that encourages comics to strip naked to promote their shows
*A play about the new face of sexuality and intimacy in the digital age
*A sexy freakshow circus cabaret
*A two man show about depression and male relationships
*A bizarrely hysterical performance by one man with a blue mustache playing the 26 lost Spice Girls
…And various other comedic performances, including several by my absolute standout favorite act, American-Norweigan duo Zach & Viggo. Be forewarned, this is wildly inappropriate, more than a little weird, and very not safe for work.
Seriously, what a supermassive explosion of creativity and fun! My insane marathon of shows made up what was honestly one of my favorite (half) weeks of the entire year; I haven’t felt this inspired and supercharged with admiration for the human imagination since Burning Man.
I was especially lucky to get to hang out with my friend Ivy again, who I met back in Bologna Italy! Ivy is an Edinburgh native, so she really showed me the ropes and introduced me to a ton of her friends. I was lucky to have her there and I’m super glad to call her my friend!
Before I left town, there was just one thing left I knew I had to do: taste some haggis with whisky sauce. This is a quintessentially Scottish dish consisting of a sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, and stomach, and it’s far tastier than it sounds. Forgive me, vegetarian friends!
After that complete and utter whirlwind in Edinburgh, it was off to my next destination in neighboring Ireland
Downtime (and beer!) in Dublin
I’d love to tell you that I really delved deep into Dublin and explored every inch of this great city. I’d love to share some deep history and a ton of photos from the wealth of various activities I partook in here. But the honest truth is that I was tired as hell. Traveling full-time, while certainly a joy, is utterly exhausting – and I chose to spend most of my time in Dublin recharging my batteries, taking it easy, and giving myself a social break. So that’s what I did!
BUT there is one thing that I knew I couldn’t leave Dublin without doing.
And naturally I took a few strolls through Temple Bar as well, Dublin’s notoriously fun pub district that’s packed to the gills with live music, whiskey, and draft Guinness pours. I didn’t bother taking photos of my Guinness stew or corned beef meals – but they were tasty! You’ll just have to take my word for it.
So that was that! Edinburgh and Dublin made for the perfect thematic mixup to bridge the gap between the classically European Italy and Spain, and my next big adventure. But I really got just enough of a taste to realize there’s so much more to do and see in Ireland and Scotland both – so I look forward to more thoroughly exploring these great countries again sometime later in life.
Having caught up on some R&R, I was mentally and physically prepared to tackle two demanding and intrepid weeks in my next destination, one that I’d been really looking forward to all year: Iceland. Stay tuned…