F*ck me that was loud!

F*ck me that was loud!

This sentence is uttered often under various circumstances. To give two examples, it was the cause for the fastest red card in a football game as a player reacted with these words to the opening whistle of the game and was promptly removed from the game for unsportman like behaviour within the first minute. The other example was my reaction to the beginning of that nights outdoor event.

Due to circumstances entirely under my control I didn't feel a particular need for early bird activities. So I decided to make a lazy morning.

I left the hotel a bit before noon to get to my first planned activity of the day. I only alluded to this yesterday in the most superficial way.

Edinburgh currently hosts two massive events, one for which I planned and one that caused me to reconsider some of the plans.

The first event of the day was a concert "007 Voices of bond". This concert of selected title songs of various James Bond movies, including some background infos in the narration is part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. While I was aware of this festival I absolutely misjudged the polularity and size of it. While it is hard to come by absolute visitor numbers, last year they sold 2,2 Million tickets to hundreds of concerts, comedy shows, acrobatic displays and other events across many venues (if I saw correctly, the venues are numbered with three digits).

With this it might be clear that Edinburgh Fringe was the event I didn't plan for.

After the concert I spent some time wandering through the city, marvelling at some street performances (also courtesy of the Fringe) and the absolute masses of people either going from venue to venue or doing the same as me.

After reaching my saturation for large crowds, I went back to the hotel to rest and prepare for the evening and the main event of this trip.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is the second massive event currently taking place and the one I did plan for (I don't think we need to cart Sherlock Holmes up here for this process of elimination).

This might take some explaining.

Let's start with WHAT. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual military display and show event. The name comes from the dutch expression "doe den tap toe" which translates to "turn off the tap". It is the historic signal given to barkeepers to stop selling beer in order to encourage soldiers to return to their barracks. The shortened version Taps and the german translation of Zapfenstreich have the same origin as Tattoo.

For the Tattoo it is a bit easier to crunch numbers. In total there are 23 shows over the course of 20 days (2 shows on Saturday). The number of visitors per shows took me a bit by surprise (i.e. I didn't look it up before today). From Videos and my own impressions of the stands in 2018 I would have guessed an attendance in the low to mid thousands. Turns out the arena holds 9700 people and is nearly sold out every  show. This gives the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo a total visitor number of approx 223.000 per year.

Edinburgh Castle with Tattoo Arena

Next, we consider the WHY. When I was in Scotland the last time I visited Edinburgh in June. The construction works for the visitor stands for the Tattoo was mostly done. So when I visited Edinburgh Castle I was rather confused why there were flipping huge visitor stands in front of the castle. After checking google and watching a few youtube videos I came to the conclusion that this is something I really wanted to see.

At this point you might be in the mindset of "all good with the theoretical description but what the flip did you do and watch?!?!?!".

As I booked the Tattoo in a package with dinner and some VIP perks the whole thing started next to the castle, just outside of the Tattoo Arena at the Cannonball Bar and Restaurant with a five course menu.

The seating arrangement was communal, so I shared the table with a six person group from Switzerland and a three person group from Germany. I am pretty sure that I had to give my country of origin in the booking so this was no accident (note to self, if I ever do something like this again try to intervene in the requests section against this language specific treatment).

During the dinner a small group (to precise 9 people) of one of the Bands attending the Tattoo, namely His Majesty the King's Guard band of Norway, came up to give a recital of two traditional norwegian songs.

Once dinner was finished all people in the dining room were lead to their seats in the tattoo arena and after a few minutes the proceedings began with the arrival of the "salute taker" (normally either members of the royal family, high ranking politicians or if one of the former two sign up for a show, these seats can be bought for rediculous prices), for this evening the First Minister of Scotland (definitely qualifying as high ranking politician).

Next came the slightly teased surprise of the evening and the reason for the title of this post. The Royal Airforce, the main military branch of the UK to perform at this Tattoo  did a fly-past. However they did so simultaneously understated and impressive as they chose to send over two Eurofighter in low flight with after-burners on. At that point anybody sleeping in Edinburgh by that time was definitely awake.

The rest of the event is easy to sum up but hard to describe by words in a way that does it justice. So I will sum it up and try to add in some impressions with photos and videos.

The title and main theme this year is Stories. While there is no plot behind the show, all music and performances were picked to envoke the theme of story telling on one form or another.

The performances included:

  • The massed Pipes and Drums (i.e. a marching formation of approx 180 bag pipes and various drums)
  • The United States Airforce Band (classic marching band + rock/pop band + singers)
  • Various bands of the Royal Air Force
  • The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Band (I was not aware that you can do a marching band with steeldrums)
  • The Swiss Armed Forces Band
  • His Majesty the King's Guard Band and Drill Team of Norway
  • And Electro Pipes (a crossover Bagpipe EDM band)

Basically  you can imagine one band entering the arena from the castle, doing a number of songs and choreography and then exiting the arena on the opposite end, passing under the visitor stands. This is followed either by the next band or a show interlude of the Tattoo Dancers.

(Off-Topic I can confirm that a marching band with two or three base drums 20 meters below a metal frame visitor stand makes for a decent foot massage)

This whole program builds up to a finale in several parts. After the last regular performance, the Royal Air Force Band plus Honour Guard takes the Arena and plays the National Anthem. Following that all bands and performers of the evening enter the arena and perform the grand finale with fireworks.

Next the Lone Piper plays a traditional tune to close the event and finally, the bands and performers in the arena march out in a long procession onto the Royal Mile again passing under the visitor stands being accompanied by the Massed Pipes and Drums playing Scotland The Brave and the thunderous applause and cheering of the audience.

After that it was back to the hotel and going to bed.