There is no doubt that Edinburgh is a beautiful city. One of the most beautiful cities in the world in fact, boasting striking architecture, glorious parks and a dormant volcano right in its very centre. It is one of those stunningly peaceful urban places where it doesn’t boast about its dream like authority over the rest of the world. It is just happy to put everywhere else to shame simply by being itself. Relaxed and pretty, up there in the North, waiting for you to come and discover that you don’t need to trek all the way into mainland Europe to be amongst awe inspiring architectural grandeur.
But in August everything changes. Almost as if the city has taken a psychedelic drug. Sweet innocent Edinburgh is engulfed by a crazy Hyde-like version of itself. An all-singing, all-dancing, colourful glittery city replaces the easy-going one that I have come to know and love. Posters add a fluorescent sheen to the soft sandstone, gaudy signs cover the usually distinguished entrances and visitors flood in from all corners of the globe.
During this time it is impossible to walk the streets without being accosted by leaflet brandishing theatrical enthusiasts. The whole place is alive, buzzing with people rushing between shows. They become a swelling, moving mass of people who all smile and laugh and chat to each other. The whole place takes on a quality that is quite un-British, going directly against the dour stereotype that Scotland has found itself saddled with.
And sedate in this rough sea of activity are the buskers. They line the edges of the Royal Mile (the central highway of the Festival), drawing the crowds towards them like magnets. Attracting these culture addicts does not take much. It really is like pulling in moths to a flame as they can’t resist the pure talent that is flaunted so plainly in front of them. You just can’t stop yourself from being sucked in as they spill out their soul for you. It is hypnotic.
Perhaps this is the real draw of Edinburgh during the Festival Season. It is the overwhelming contentment of feeling that you are a part of something. And an amazing something at that. Even if you are just watching the shows and buskers, you are still very much a part of the action. You get to know the actors and see them out and about in the city. You start chatting to other audience members in the queues, and then somehow you never fail to bump into them later when you are out and about, looking for the next gem. You talk to strangers about what they have seen and what they would recommend. The festival basically brings everyone together in the best possible way. And in this digital age, where people are feeling increasingly lonely, that can only be a good thing.