Postcards from Edinburgh: Guthrie Street Steps

Steps are something very mundane and trivial. We are using them every day, often complaining about their existence. Like, why isn’t there an elevator? They are one of those parts of our lives that go widely unnoticed. Which is why I still don’t exactly know why I was so interested in seeing exactly these steps with my own eyes. And I was.

These are the steps on which Elizabeth Hale walked and they are some kind of symbol of how hard the North is compared to the South. Don’t know what I am talking about? If you do, congrats, you have seen one of the most beautiful movies ever made (in my opinion at least). If not, here goes: I am speaking about ‚North & South‘, a movie based on a novel by Elizabetz Gaskell, who is said to have been a student of Charles Dickens. The latter wrote a book called ‚Two Cities‘ about London and Paris. Two very different places at the time and, of course, today as well. I read somewhere that this was Gaskell’s take on the differences, but within England. So she wrote about a family that has been living in the South of England until the father, Reverend Hale, finds himself unable to teach what the church is asking him any more and flees the country. He uproots his family and places them in area that is the complete opposite of what they are used to. The author based Milton, the new family home, on Manchaster, on the industrial weaving scene in northern England. Standing in for Milton, in the movie, was Edinburgh. And that is one of the reasons I am so much in love with Edinburgh. Yes, there were many effects so that the view from Calton Hill didn’t look as modern as it does today, but still. I fell in love with this place and all those little scenes that build the atmosphere of the movie. Which includes those steps. In the movie, Elisabeth at first is extremely insecure and one of the scenes where that shows takes place on Guthrie Street Steps. They re-occure every now and then. During my two trips to Edinburgh I have been looking out for them, knowing that they had to be some place in the Old Town and not too far off the Royal Mile. But I didn’t find them. Until we got lost one day. Suddenly there they were. They were instantly recognisable to me, because there aren’t too many of those old steps with the handrails in the middle and such a width. I was so happy that after all I had found them.

Looking at that picture I find my eyes are being drawn to their wavy and very smooth surface. Billions of pairs of feet over hundreds of years have polished them and they are still there. This is what I love about Edinburgh: the estimation in which they hold relics like that. Edinburgh is a very modern and lively city, but its roots have never been demolished. As of every city there has been nother time that has been lost. It’s true for Paris, it’s true for Berlin and many other places. And of course it is also true for Edinburgh. But here you can still reconnect. And one place to do that is on Guthrie Street Steps 😉


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