An aquaintance to Edinburgh’s twin cities

Edinburgh, one of the most influential, cultural and historical capitals in the world is partnered with some spectacular destinations around the globe.  Nargis Lalee finds out what Edinburgh’s other halves has to offer.

Florence, Italy has been twinned with Edinburgh since 1964.  It is probably the best looking city in Europe. People flirt along the broad avenues as mopeds fly past honking horns in this bustling vista. All the great masters of art, Dante, Angelo, and Da Vinci have wandered through this city. Florence is blanketed with terracotta rooftops, bell towers, luscious gardens and exquisite arched bridges. Expect to bump into a few statues, piazzas and fountains along the way too. This Tuscan gem is a small city, similar in size to Edinburgh and easy to get around. With vineyards and the world of art and renaissance architecture at your feet, it is worth strolling along the wide Florentine avenues with a delicious Italian gelato. The best time to visit is between March and September. Offering an abundance of accommodation, you can choose from convents to riverboats on the maze of canals that meander through Florence.

A panoramic view of Florence

Krakow, Poland is the partner city of Edinburgh since 1995.  It is an important pinnacle of Polish culture, art and economy. Poland has become a fashionable destination in recent years as hen, stag and ski parties favour the low budget airlines that service Krakow, but don’t let that put you off.   Delve into the Jewish quarter just outside of the old town or take a walk through the Gothic churches, synagogues and plazas. A fine city of art and architecture it has a modern aspect too for those of you who enjoy the hustle and bustle or nightlife. Krakow boasts the first university in Poland which gives a youthful flavour contrasting it’s world heritage status. It is worth visiting the Wawel castle or Schindler’s apartment where he sheltered thousands of Jews in World War Two. This truly magnificent city is definitely one to visit.

Kiev, Ukraine twinned with Edinburgh since 1989 has lost its cold harsh crime- ridden reputation and adopted a newly independent friendly one. With its post-orange revolution, it is an important cultural and economic centre of Eastern Europe. Kiev is home to beautiful botanical gardens, gilded churches, cathedrals and monuments. It is easy to get around Kiev with its capable Metro, bus and train system. Immerse yourself in political history by taking a walk on ‘The Maydan” (Kiev’s Independence Square) or Mariinsky Palace. For the lighter hearted, stroll along the Byzantian mosaics or opt for the fun Hydropark on the Dnieper river. Whether you want caves and monasteries to roam around in or iced rivers to skate depends on the time of year you go. In winter, Kiev sparkles as a white wonderland and the summer brings an opportunity for discovery and outdoor fun. Plan your travel soon as, in 2012, Kiev is co-hosting the European Football Championships and it is sure to be a hot destination.

Munich, Germany twinned with Edinburgh since 1954 is the capital of Bavaria and has been described in many travel guide as a “Weltdorf” meaning world village. A city proud of their folklore traditions, it boasts their old meets new attitude with their cosy konditorie’s contrasted by fashionable boutiques complimenting the flashy metropolis of sexy cars and a highly competitive financial industry. The heart-warming city logo is “Munich Loves You” and the city’s name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded it. The charm that exudes from this clean and shiny city is literally a breath of fresh air with its low emissions caused by the public’s preference to public transport- there are options of a comfortable Deutsche Bahn or more than 200 kilometres of bike paths. Street performers line this city with music and entertainment in the proximity of a beer garden or two. This smorgasbord of a metropolis will definitely give Berlin a run for its money. Don’t forget your lederhosen on the way to Oktoberfest.

Aalborg, Denmark twinned with Edinburgh since 1991, is a fresh and exciting destination in Scandinavia. More than 1300 years ago, Vikings settled here in this market town and today it is a great contributor to the fishing industry. Aalborg screams vibrancy and lust for life but, outside the city boundaries, you wander upon oasis after oasis, with abundant lakes and sleepy cows on rolling hills. If you fancy some heart racing excitement, head to Tivoliland for the amusement park. Foodies will love the multitude of choice restaurants and eateries as gastronomy is an artform well appreciated by the great Danes in this city. It hosts many festivals and concerts with the Aalborg carnival giving Brazil a run for its money every year. This city of many tastes is truly a mixed bag of fun and exciting opportunities.

Dunedin, New Zealand twinned with Edinburgh since 1974 it is the second largest city in the South Island. Dunedin is the Gaelic word for Edinburgh and was so named because of its Scottish settlement. The shallow water beaches are home to diverse creatures like the largest flying bird, the Albatross and the Yellow-eyed penguin, the rarest penguin in the world. This is a place of natural beauty with landscapes of cragged coastline to its historic harbours and ports. The thriving student population is testament to the oldest university in the country and, though surrounded by hilly suburbs, tourists flock here to recuperate from the perils of Queenstown. It is definitely recommended to visit the Chinese gardens and the railway station or the Cadburys chocolate factory. If you’re feeling active try walking up the Guinness world records steepest street (Baldwin Street) in the world, and with all the street names being the same as Edinburgh, you will feel right at home. Visit a vast number of history museums, monuments or the Rabbi Burns statue. Interestingly enough Thomas Burns, Rabbie burns’ nephew oversaw the emulation of this Antipodean twin.

Kyoto, Japan has had a special friendship link with Edinburgh since 1994. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture. If Tokyo is too large to handle then Kyoto is perfect in size and span. The gardens, castles, temples and canals makes it worth a visit. Go and discover waterfalls and shrines in secret corners of Kyoto or pick up seafood at Nishimi market. This Japanese treasure chest ranges from rumbling Japanese gardens to bright neon advertisement billboards. Though Kyoto has suffered wars, fires, and earthquakes during its eleven centuries as the imperial capital, it narrowly avoided being attacked in World War Two. With two thousand Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and architecture intact, it is one of the best-preserved cities in Japan. However, the best parts are well hidden from the tourists as the picture postcard version of Japan (think Geishas, bamboo huts, floating temples) lies well beyond the concrete jungles of streets and public places. Go Geishas spotting or hitch a ride in a rickshaw (people powered vehicle) and you will experience an authentic orient.

Nice, France twinned with Edinburgh since 1958 is a city in southern France.  It is located on the Mediterranean coast and is the capital of the French Riviera. A truly cosmopolitan tourist destination, it was the chosen destination for the wealthy in the 19th century. Popular pebbly beaches are home to topless sunbathers whilst beautifully tanned people rollerblade and cycle along the coast. The city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais (the Walkway of the English) owes its name to the earliest visitors to the resort. The nightlife is vibrant and energetic and the days are languorous and sun filled. Pick your favourite spot on the beach or find yourself discovering secret hidden passages in the old town The Italian and French personality merges into one in southern Cote de Azure evident by the sprawling Italian plazas and architecture. July and August are the busiest months but, whichever season you prefer, make sure to get a ride on the tourist train and satisfy your taste buds with the local favourite socca (Chickpea crepes). Here, perfume is as important as water so treat yourself to some fresh flowers at the Flower market and make your own.

San Diego, USA twinned with Edinburgh since 1977 sits along the Pacific Ocean on the west coast of the United States. This surfer town is a fun casual laidback Californian retreat. Boat rides, surf competitions and ship festivals make the outdoors fun for all ages. With its fast growing population and activity filled personality this is a definite family favourite, Feed a giraffe at the much loved zoo, train Shamu the dolphin at SeaWorld or hit Coronado beach on the enchanted island to catch up on the tan. Though a modern city, the feel of the Native American history is all around. Be sure to get your fill of it at the Missions San Diego founded in 1769, the starting point for Christianity in the Far West or learn about the native Kumeyaay Indians who inhabited the area of San Diego for more than 10,000 years. The city lies on pockets of mountainous and canyon parkland making it quite hilly. Use the trolley to get around San Diego as this is the cheapest and most reliable mode of transport. A must see is the sprawling Balboa Park, Legoland and with over seventy miles of pacific coastline this makes a perfect family resort holiday.

Vancouver, Canada twinned with Edinburgh since 1977 is another coastal city located in lower British Columbia. This sophisticated breathtaking city is the set for this year’s Olympic and Paralympics Winter games. This well loved metropolis is also close to some of the worlds best skiresorts. Vancouver is regularly featured in best city to live in the world lists.  Its crags, beaches, museums, and galleries give it an antique character.  This is a young city of only 150 years derived from a small settlement called Gastown after an English man, Captain John “Gassy” Jack Deighton, who set up a pub there. It also boasts the favourable and familiar neighbourhoods of other cities such as SoMa, West End and Chinatown. Aboriginal people were evident in the Vancouver area around 10,000 years ago. A place known for it is cultural links its residents are ethnically diverse, with 52% having a first language other than English. Vancouverites enjoy the mix of swimming in the sea and being able to ski in the same season.

Xi ‘an, China twinned with Edinburgh since 1985 is the capital of the Shaanxi province in the People’s Republic of China in the central northwest. Xi’an is the eastern terminus of the Silk Route and home of the Terracotta Army. Religious influences will hit you hard in this multi cultural empire, as the cornerstones of Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism which shape China’s philosophy and ideals. Visit the largest mosque in China or shop to your hearts content in the Muslim quarter China Markets. Indulge your senses and immerse yourself in over 3,000 years of history. Xi’an is one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilisation and yet simultaneously a leading city of China’s western development drive. Try the Guangdong cuisine from street vendors or shop for local delicacies at the outdoor markets. A must see is the museum of the Terracotta warriors and Ming dynasty castle walls. The two Chinese characters in the name “Xi’an” literally mean Western Peace.

Words by Kim Hession and Nargis Lalee

Photography courtesy of Wikipedia

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