The Time Traveler Blogger

To journey across multiple countries is an incredible feat, but to travel across time is a far greater accomplishment.  Unless your surname is McFly you probably haven’t spent much time traveling back to the future. No worries! Neither have I.  Those with a keen eye have noticed a discrepancy with my blog.  It is July, yet the date reads April.  The simple truth is that I am blogging about my past travels in the present. I change the date of each blog post to somewhat reflect the time when I was abroad.

Clock

Picture Taken by Jill Crotty

There’s a few reasons for my jumps in time.

 Long Days of Travel

 When I was backpacking I found that I was too exhausted to blog. After a long day of new sights, sounds, and people I crawled into my bed at whichever hostel I was at and promptly fell asleep.   In the mornings I would sent a quick email to family and friends letting them know my location.

 Hitting the Books

 Since I was studying abroad I was focused on academics for the majority of my trip.  I would go to write a blog post only to remember a text book chapter I had to read or a tutorial session that I needed to prepare for.   My blog had to take the back seat unfortunately. My time management has gotten better, but I still am a full time college student.  Priorities remain!

 The Full Experience

 The biggest disadvantage to blogging about past events is the potential to forget things thought in the moment.  Having pictures of all the places I’ve visited helps considerably though.   There are advantages to blogging after the fact. Reflection for one.  When we think of experiences we think of a single moment, or day, but that is not the full experience.  Sometimes the  greatest part of any experience is the hindsight we take away.

Other time traveler bloggers please comment below!

Along the Hidden Sea

I’m leaning against the cold metal railing. The smell of salt and seaweed fills my nostrils and the child-like caws of the seagulls echo in my ears.  I know the ocean is just a few foot drop, but I cannot see the waves. I can only hear as they crash against the rocky shore below. I squint uselessly into the fog.

When I arrived yesterday in the coastal town of St. Andrews, known for being the birthplace of golf and its crumbling castle ruins, I could look out at the sandy beach from the street.  Not today. Today a persistent white mist has cloaked the town.  I have never seen a fog like this. It is so dense I could be a foot away from someone and not see them.

Picture Taken by Jill Crotty

 Picture Taken by Jill Crotty

 Since my time in St. Andrews is short, I decide to continue moving. For a while I walk.  My face is soon moist from the mist. The railing and the path are the only clearly visible things.  The fog abates slightly about a half a mile later.  Opposite the side of the hidden sea I spot a grey stone tower with a cemetery.

 Curiosity getting the better of me I amble over.  To my left is the  tower known as St. Rule’s Tower, and to my right is a solitary stone archway.  Between these two weathered marvels is an expanse of green grass with rows of flat lying stones. On each a faded inscription of a person’s name and their birth and death date along with a word or two more. I pass the tower and go further into the cemetery. Here are more elaborate graves carved into the walls.  Just a bit further I tell myself.

A note to my readers:  If you ever find yourself in a seemingly quaint coastal town in Scotland covered in a white mist, and looking like something out of a Scooby-Doo episode, do not wander aimlessly around ancient graveyards.  

 It’s after I’ve visited the last couple sections of the graveyard that I decide to go back to the tower.  It’s about then when I see a couple of figures in the mist ahead of me.  I watch the figures drift around a bit.  The fog’s still thick and their silhouettes seem fuzzy, like people on an old antenna television screen. After a couple of minutes I realize they are saying something. I inch closer, avoiding a headstone jutting up out of the ground.  I make out the words “lunch” and “harbor.”   Not ghosts, just a couple of fellow (hungry) tourists!

Yes I know it’s a rather anticlimactic tale.

Photo Taken by Jill Crotty

Photo Taken by Jill Crotty

If you’d like a true ghost story  about St. Andrews there is the story of the White Lady.  Two stone masons were fixing part of St. Rule’s tower  in the late eighteen hundreds. They entered into one of the chambers and found a woman lying there. She was dead and dressed in a white dress and leather white gloves.  A few have reported seeing such a woman floating around this sleepy town.

 

 

Feathered Men Don’t Fly

Royal births, gruesome deaths, elegant banquets and bloody sieges. It’s hard to imagine that the calm grounds where the tourists  now stroll was once home to such events.  As I walk through the stone arch entrance of Stirling Castle, I enter a small courtyard area. To my left is the Great Hall with a warm yellow exterior and a surprisingly simple facade. Ahead is the sloping stone path to the royal kitchens. However, my eye is on the incline tucked away between the Royal Palace and the archway.  I make my way up the slight hill to the relatively flat look out area.

Photo Taken By Jill Crotty

Photo Taken By Jill Crotty

It is one of the castle workers who is flapping his arms, and pointing towards one of the castle’s ledges that catches my attention.  I move toward the group that’s listening intently.  I’m instantly intrigued.  The story goes like this:

James IV, was one of Scotland’s great kings, who was known for his incredible abilities. He spoke six languages fluently, and amazed his people with his knowledge of everything from literature to dentistry. The idea of alchemy, or turning basic metals into gold,  sparked this young king’s interest as well. Meanwhile  John Damian, a foreign alchemist, was looking for funding for his research.  It was a perfect match. James eagerly invited Damian to work  at Stirling Castle. Damian accepted the invitation that included funding and plenty of whisky.

 However Damian’s interest turned from precious metals to the secrets of flight.  One day Damian strapped chicken feathers on himself with the intent to fly to France.  He launched himself off the rampart… and then fell. Fortunately, he only suffered a broken thigh. Damian later explained that the problem was the hen’s feathers. Hens don’t fly so eagle feathers should have been used Damian concluded after his failed attempt.

As I walk towards the Great Hall, I consider mankind’s stories of flight. From Icarus’s flight to close to the sun to  Leonardo Da Vinci’s brilliant drawings to Damian’s attempt at Stirling Castle, the idea of flight simply makes our hearts flutter.

 

 

 

 

The Falkirk Wheel

The locals knew what I was talking about.

For the small town of Falkirk  the wheel has become a heavily discussed topic. And it’s obvious why. The Falkirk Wheel is a miraculous feat of mechanics. Engineers based the wheel’s design on the Celtic double headed axe. It’s pretty slick, and surprisingly modern looking for a structure that resembles an ancient weapon of war. When I first saw the structure I felt that it would have fit well into the movie Stargate. This is no movie prop though, it’s a massive rotating boat lift. The Falkirk Wheel is said to be as high as eight double decker buses on top of one another.  The half moon shaped visitor center seems relatively small in comparison.

Picture taken by Jill Crotty

Picture taken by Jill Crotty

After purchasing my ticket at the visitor center, I snap a few pictures before the boarding the boat.  The barge slowly makes its way onto the gondola. Our very cheerful guide tells us that the wheel is able to rotate using minimal power because of Archimedes principle, which states that floating objects displace their own weight in water. Basically, the water leaving one gondola is equal to the boat’s weight.  Both gondolas, the one with only water and one with the boat, are then equal in weight.

Incredibly, this enormous wheel only takes the power of eight boiling kettles. Quite impressive. Even to an American who has never come close to putting on the kettle. Our guide continues to answer questions about the mechanics. I glance up at the clear ceiling of the barge. I can see the little droplets of water that bead off the plastic tarp and run down the window.  As we go up the view of the snow capped mountains comes into sight.  The rest of the ride is smooth. Before I know it the boat is sliding back into the gondola. The water level is adjusted, the arms turn, and we are against the small wooden dock.

I grab my backpack and exit with the other passengers.  It truly is awe-inspiring.