Edinburgh's Twins and Sister Cities
One surprising thing I learned about Edinburgh this week is that it is formally twinned with the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv - an arrangement that dates back to 1989, just before the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
Historically these twinning associations between British cities and global counterparts goes back to the years after the Second World War, and was intended as a way of showing a sense of international cooperation, a sense of the shared cultural and social values, and to promote a sense of community between separate nations.
In the current international climate, such values are more important than ever, and the connection between Edinburgh and Kyiv has led to a significant outpouring of support for those living through the current conflict in Ukraine.
But the twinning relationship with Kyiv was actually Edinburgh's eighth such connection - and since 1989 other 'sister city' arrangements have been established. So here is my brief introduction to Edinburgh's international family of twins and sisters...
Perhaps surprisingly, given the 'Auld Alliance' and the historical connections that Scotland shares with France, Edinburgh has only one French sister city.
Nice on the south coast of France has been twinned with Edinburgh since 1958, and we'd like to borrow their climate a little more often, please. :)
Dating back to 1954, Edinburgh linked to the Bavarian capital perhaps because of the shared love of beer which has been a feature of both cities for centuries... Edinburgh's main heavy industry at one time was beer, a commercial enterprise dating back to the 12th century, and it's perhaps no surprise that the city continues to host a traditional 'Oktoberfest' celebration of all things beer every autumn.
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND
The geographically most distant sister city to Edinburgh is also the one with the most direct connection. Founded by nineteenth century Scottish migrants, Dunedin takes its name from Dùn Èideann, the Gaelic name for Edinburgh - and the original settlers sought to recreate several elements of their homeland, including Princes Street, George Street, Hanover Street, and their very own Water of Leith!
Dunedin has been a sister city to Edinburgh since 1974.
Like New Zealand, Canada also has strong links with the Scots diaspora, including several former governors general who hailed from Scotland. So Vanvouver, on Canada's west coast, was twinned with the Scottish capital in 1977. Like Edinburgh, Vancouver frequently ranks highly in global surveys of quality of life and happiness among its residents. The city also hosts an annual festival of Gaelic music and culture.
Like Edinburgh, Krakow is a UNESCO City of Literature, and has been linked to Edinburgh (though not formally 'twinned') since 1995.
Scotland as a whole enjoys a number of cultural and historical connections to Poland, including Wojzek the Bear, whose statue can be found in Princes Street Gardens.
Home to the iconic Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an is one of the oldest cities in China and is at the eastern end of the historic Silk Road trade route. Today the city if Xi'an has a larger population than Scotland as a whole, and continues to exhibit the more than 8,000 members of the Terracotta Army, which were discovered in 1974.
Edinburgh became twinned with Xi'an in 1985.
Edinburgh twinned with Florence in 1964, and just as Edinburgh is protected by UNESCO World Heritage Site status, so the centre of Florence is another UNESCO site.
Thanks to its historic association with Rennaissance art and culture, Florence became known as the Athens of the Middle Ages - Edinburgh, similarly, was described as the Athens of the North, thanks in part to its connection to the Scottish Enlightenment!
SAN DIEGO, USA
A second city that Edinburgh was twinned with in 1977, San Diego on the shimmering west coast of California would appear at first glance not to have much in common with cold, dreich Scotland...
The twinning association found one connection though - our love of dogs! Just as Edinburgh has Greyfriars Bobby, San Diego had their own vagrant dog, called Bum. Statues were exchanged, and today you can find the statue of Bum tucked away in the churchyard of St Cuthbert's church in the New Town.
Alphabetically the leading twin city that Edinburgh enjoys, Aalborg in Denmark hosts a festival each year which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors. It has been twinned with Edinburgh since 1991.
Edinburgh's newest international twin is another Chinese city, Shenzen. Twinned in 2019, Shenzen has a population over over 17 million, over five times that of Scotland as a whole, and is the port which looks out from mainland China towards Hong Kong. It is also a UNESCO City of Design, creating a cultural link with Edinburgh, and hosts an international branch of Merchiston Castle School, one of Edinburgh's most prestigious private schools.
So Edinburgh continues to be proud of its international connections, and in particular the cities with whom it has forged such cultural connections.
Explore more of Edinburgh's international connections and influences with my private city walking tours!
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