Nothing makes us happier than getting something for free. It's like the high you get when you go to T.J. Maxx and get three pairs of workout pants for the normal price of one. Since we're budget traveling and cutting corners wherever we can (hello hostel that costs 15 euro a night!), free things are our favorite things. So our current travel obsession is free walking tours. Not only do you get to see all of the city's highlights right off the bat, but the tour guides are normally hilarious and informative since they're working for your tips. Here are some of the standout stories:
Exploding corpses: That's right. Our guide Ollie told us that in St. Patrick's Cathedral, bodies used to burst out of the walls. Not really sure why people started burying the dead there, but apparently the gasses released from a decaying corpse-combined with the conditions of the walls-caused bodies to physically explode out. What an interesting church service that would be...
Smoke Alley Theater: This theater used to be extremely violent. Actors were expected to have 80+ plays memorized and then the night of the performance, the audience chose by vote what they wanted to see. If audience members didn't get their way, they would throw things at performers and even stab them-yikes!
J.K. Rowling's influence: I'm sure all you Harry Potter fans know that the famous author wrote HP in Edinburgh. On our tour, we went to Greyfriars cemetery and saw the grave which inspired the dark lord's name: Tom Riddle. Our guide told us that once the books became famous, people would pile into the cemetery to bring notes & gifts to the gravestone until the city had to forbid it. Can someone explain to us why people would bring one of the most infamous villians gifts??
Bobby the Skye Terrier: Grab your tissues because this is the cutest thing we've ever heard. Back in the late 1800s, when body snatching was a big crime in the city, Auld Jock was hired to patrol the cemetery. Because he got lonely, he was granted a companion-cute little Bobby. The two were inseparable and when Auld Jock died, Bobby would sneak into the cemetery to sleep on his grave. Since there were so many strays, a new law stated that they all had to be put down. By now, everyone had come to love Bobby and he was known as the city's symbol of loyalty. To save him from his terrible fate, the city gave him the title of a man and he lived happily for many more years. Here's the kicker: because Bobby was considered a man, he technically could vote before women :/
As you can see, we've learned some odd, charming and unbelievable pieces of history that we feel like are especially unique to free walking tours. Give em' a try! If nothing else, you'll get your steps in and have quirky facts to share during awkward conversations.