Checking in at The Caledonian
“The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch”, better known by its shorter title “The Skating Minister”, is an oil painting by Sir Henry Raeburn in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh – a secret favourite of Andreas Augustin.
Arriving at a hotel to write a book about it is a totally different affair from arriving when you are on holiday, or when your are on a business trip. Already from the distance you try to get some information, by a stern look at the façade, by carefully listening to each word of the driver, the doorman, the receptionist.
Charlie Rodger is a symbol of “The Caley”.
After checking-in at the Caledonian, I take a moment to enjoy the
marvellous view over the valley across Princes Street Gardens; the old
city to the right, the new city to the left. Through my window, in room
236, I can see the castle.
I quickly sneak out of the ‘Caley’, as the hotel is affectionately known in Edinburgh, and cross the road. I walk down the steps into St Cuthbert’s churchyard. Suddenly the hustle and bustle of the city are far away, and I find myself steeped in the serene atmosphere of this historic graveyard. Buried here are the remains of George Meikle Kemp, who designed the Scott Monument on Princes Street, commemorating novelist Sir Walter Scott. Here, too, lies John Napier, the great mathematician, astronomer, poet and prodigious inventor. It is also the final resting place of Alexander Nasmyth, artist, architect, bridge designer and inventor, and Thomas De Quincey, author and essayist.
My target lies a bit further into Princes Street Gardens.
View from my room to Edinburgh Castle
I am meeting Roddy Martine, my Scottish co-author, at Ross Fountain. After six months of wonderful cooperation we would present our book The Caledonian Edinburgh to the public. During that time I learnt a lot about the Scottish. I have learnt that modesty, for example, was a Scottish habit, because if the Scots would not be as modest as they simply are, they would be busy all the time telling the rest of us that they have given the world the bicycle, Sherlock Holmes, x-ray, pneumatic rubber tyres, the telephone, a solid theory of political economics, Whisky, the separate condenser for steam engines, road surfaces, the first use of chloroform, the mineral oil industry, the discovery of the connection between electricity & magnetism, penicillin, television, radar. With the exception of Dolly the Sheep I like to ask you: where would the world stand without the Scots?
John Boyd Dunlop (5 February 1840 – 23 October 1921), born in Scotland, was the inventor who was one of the founders of the rubber company that bore his name, Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company.
All this, of course, did not go down unnoticed: Although the
Scots comprise less than half a percent of the world’s population, 11
percent of all Nobel prizes have been awarded to them.
I would like to give a personal Nobel Prize to the people who are working at The Caledonian. They have made my stay most delightful, and I thank them for their kindness.
Historic view (and cover illustration) of the Caledonian Hotel
Willy Blattner is the general manager of The Caledonian, a Hilton hotel: “We present our Caledonian books to our ‘first time’ VIP visitors and we sell it at the concierge desk. But all readers have one comment in common: “I had no idea that this grand building had such an extraordinary history. Guests have also said in the lobby that the book is a great way to celebrate the history, a great gift for a family member, and a great momentum of a wonderful time had in Edinburgh! And of course our long-serving staff is in the centre of attention, too.”
Go to the book’s page