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  • Asirini Parakramawansha

A City of Paper and Ink

Close your eyes as we twist the lens and step into a world that’s far removed from anywhere we’ve visited before. Can you smell the aroma of freshly pressed pages? If whispers of hidden stories tickle your ears, you’re probably in the right place. Welcome to the Writer’s Haven! Or Edinburgh, as it is known to the muggles and non-dreamers.


Edinburgh city looking magical in the mist
A fairytale city... literally

As we walk down the alleys, look up in awe at buildings that are structured like titantic, 50-book-high stack of novels; ready to cascade into a million pages of literature at just the slightest push. Every corner brings to mind the turrets of Hogwarts, the smoggy residence of Detective Holmes and maybe even the lurking figure of Mr. Hyde. How is it that one city can encompass so many different styles of architecture? So many diverse worlds? Perhaps the architects of these fine buildings were time travellers. I can imagine top-hat donned, old-timey planners pinching their favourite works from throughout history to build this labyrinth of cobblestone.


But these buildings don’t seem to be pulled from the past, but rather from the ink and parchment of a novel. Maybe all the stories that Edinburgh has dreamed up have truly given it life? Could an entire city have sprung from typewriters and ink covered fingers? Or could it be that this city writes the stories itself… There’s only one way to find out! Grab your wand and quill, and let’s get to the bottom of this mystery.

Edinburgh city from Calton Hill except all the buildings are made from book pages
How many books does it take to build a city?- a glimpse of my view through the kaleidoscope as illustrated by yours truly

Wizards here, wizards there- Hogwarts buildings everywhere!


Most would describe Edinburgh as being a magical place, but if when you look at this city through a kaleidoscope, that becomes more fact than fiction. There's no denying it! The city has a mountain with a dragon sleeping beneath it, a castle full to bursting with deceased strongly-accented nobles and a bizarre festival during which statue-people walk through the streets! It even has its own Diagon Alley. Of course, this road is called Victoria Street by those unfortunate ordinaries among us, however it sells the most bizarre of wares and even has its own wizarding joke shop! Could the magical merchants of London have hopped through a book page to expand their stores in the hubbub of the Scottish capital?

I guess it must be safer for the wizards here, where instead of stopping intruders with magical walls, they now have impenetrably thick traffic.

But not a mile away from the dazzling colours of 'Victoria Street' exists Hogwarts! or should I say Hogwartses? The problem is, the wizarding community's education system is undergoing a bit of an identity crisis. At the moment, every school with a turreted roof or majestic building in Edinburgh has laid its claim on the legendary academy. But no one really seems to know which one’s the real Hogwarts. Maybe the ridiculous popularity of Harry Potter has resulted in hundreds of Hogwarts (Hogwartses? Hogwarti? I give up!) popping up all over the city? However, after looking in to some of these schools I've found that none of them have ever taught broomstick flying (or so they say). But still, how could any of these wizarding academies even exist unless they were really part of the world of Harry Potter- or maybe if they were simply plucked straight out of the book! It seems that we may need to dig a little deeper into this case...

Victoria Street- Scotland's Diagon Alley
One of the witches of Diagon Alley was kind enough to let me use her picture. If you look closely enough, you can almost see it moving...

Its elementary, my dear watson


Edinburgh is positively crawling with fantastical settings but it seems that some stranger phenomena have mysteriously appeared in the heart of the city. Upon closer inspection through the lens, I've found that maybe these strange appearances are not book buildings, but people! To uncover the first piece of evidence we need to trek up to the university where it was rumoured that Sherlock Holmes once taught. Of course, being the crafty detective he is, Sherlock masqueraded as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Medical professor at the time. His knack to discern details about his patients' personal lives through keen observation was legendary. Not only that, but Robert Louis Stevenson had actually met 'Mr Hyde' when he was writing his novella Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

The man in question was a friend of Robert's who had been put on trial for his wife's murder and was renowned for serving poisoned cheese toast at dinner parties.

But if these characters were real, how many others are there? Perhaps the legends of the drummer boy who lives beneath the city is actually the Tick Tock Croc from Peter Pan? Maybe the dragon beneath Arthur's Seat is actually a fortress of blacksmith dwarves? Knowing this, I can't help but peer at the faces of passersby. If you're quick you might just spot Miss Jean Brodie as she strolls down the Scotsman steps or hear the neighing of a kelpie from Hollyrood park. But the real question is, did they come from the books or did the books come from them?


Dragon or the egg?


So what came first? The stories or the city? Most people who happen to walk along these cobbled streets believe that the reason so many books seem to be alive here is because they were inspired by the architecture and culture present in the city. But I beg to differ. Magical societies and literary genius is found everywhere but having so many extraordinary tales come to life in such a small space makes me think that someone has made this city into the stone and cobble library that it is today. Or maybe many someones. No; not the witches, or detectives, or even dragons. I'm talking about the authors and dreamers that once lived here and the many that still do. And although they could have been inspired by the extraordinary structures that fill this city, its my belief that it was their works that sculpted them in this way. Because if there was never any Harry Potter, there would be no Diagon Alley. And besides, how else would they convince crocodiles, pirates, double-persona doctors and whatever else to live in the gloomy Scottish climate? I wonder how many new worlds will collide here after this year's book month or how many are being born on laptops and notebook scrawls even as I'm writing this. I guess we'll have to find out the same way that all the world's whimsical secrets are revealed to us- through the portal of a kaleidoscope.


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