343 days later and I am irresistibly close to home. The flight attendants have Scottish accents and I am on the verge of being overwhelmed.
It was hard leaving paradise. I had a 12 hour layover in Vancouver on my way to Germany from Hawaii where I met up with a couple of couchsurfers and went to the Aquarium. There happened to be a jellyfish exhibition; it felt like I was in Avatar. We also watched a show with a dolphin named Hannah. My second flight flew by, I watched four movies: The Hobbit, expectedly disappointing; Upside Down, a crazy movie about backwards gravity; Trance, really bizarre and confusing; Argo which was super duper fantastic, so surprised by Ben Affleck.
I arrived in Germany having had only one hour of sleep for the past two nights. The simple things really confused me, such as whether or not I am an EU citizen so as to know which queue I was supposed to join. Having travelled in English speaking countries for so long I felt like a bit of a fraud, a cheat, as how can that be real travelling? It was good to be in a country which spoke another language.
There were old buildings everywhere, a luxury that I had so longed for whilst in North America for so long. I stood gaping in awe at the Dom in Cologne. I managed to meet a friend there, from London, Canada, despite getting lost three times in one day and missing several trains… It was definitely one of those days.
Astronomy Camp was at the other side of the country, right on the border with the Czech Republic, in a town called Klingenthal. The scenery was utterly stunning, up in the mountains surrounded by lush green forests. This was my third year at the camp, I swear it just gets better every year.
My project this year was fascinating, I got to research ancient instruments and reconstruct them. My partner and I built a gnomon, basically a stick in the ground whereby you plot the shadow over the course of a day and do calculations to determine things like the direction of celestial north (which is different to the magnetic north) and the time with which local noon occurs. We also built an astrolabe, sundial, Jacob’s staff, teleangulometro, and a quadrant. Surprisingly, the instruments worked rather well and we got some pretty good results. We were also very fortunate to have lots of sunshine and clear nights to do our experiments. If you want to read my report let me know and I can send you the pdf.
Most nights the Milky Way was so bright that we could even see it when we had a campfire. One night there was a meteor, surpassing anything I have ever seen, it soared from one side of the sky to the other. As it neared its end it was oh so bright and split into three large noticeable pieces that came crashing down.
Since the camp I was in Prague with a few of the other participants. One by one they left, all of us emotionally exhausted. I now have epic new friends in exotic new places that I hope to visit one day.
Last night I planned on sleeping at the airport, since no one from couchsurfing had responded. I happened to receive a text in the afternoon with an offer of a couch which I gratefully accepted. Having couchsurfed so much now I find hostels rather dull and lifeless, there is nothing else that can compare to receiving such hospitality from a stranger, where you can get a real essence for the place in which you are visiting. We spent the evening talking on the balcony with a beautiful view of the city.