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.
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.
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.
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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