I have been back in Prague a little over a week since my trip home to Edinburgh, a renegade flurry of seeing friends, avoiding paying any money for drinks as Prague prices have ruined me, shady dealings, going to a poetry thing, and imagining what kind of life would actually be possible there. Important to say I think I’ve made the right decision in coming back.
Besides the obvious facts of missing my parents and friends, and the incipient start of that glorious Festival, there is one more thing I missed about the capital of Scotland. In a world where stuff gets bigger and bigger, villages become towns, cities become mega-cities, Edinburgh retains a kind of small-scale charm. It is far wider than it is tall. Though it has several dominating natural features, these are not overpowering. The buildings gracefully curl around the edges of cliffs and perch gently atop the ridges and hills left by volcanos which were torn apart by glaciers. Anyway, awful for tangents, what I miss are the stars.
There are no stars in central Prague. There is a well-run public transport system. But no stars. There is a wealth of culture and entertainment. But no stars. There are hundreds of churches, museums, gorgeous squares. But no stars. There is a river and a castle. No stars.
I’d taken this for granted until one night back in Edinburgh. Walking back from the centre, the chips in my hand smothered in salt n sauce, I took a trip by the canal. It is dark. The path is moderately lit. As long as no dickhead cyclists act like idiots on a mission in the dark with no lights on, it is perfectly safe for a tipsy traveller to make their way. The canal waters are still. They reflect the streetlamps on the bridges above, the lights attached to appartment buildings, too. But the stars to which I referred were not merely a reflection of this image, no. I looked up, and there they were.
An uncountable number of stars forming patterns above.
I stood a while and thought a bit. That Edinburgh sky. The position of each of those ever-burning fires, which would take us millennia to discover were gone, as they would nevertheless shine. Those stars which made the deep-fried-potato-with-chippy-sauce-eating author stand still. Where less than a mile from the deserted but fully lit city centre, on a weekday, there is not enough light pollution to blot out those celestial… diamonds.
But a single incidence of shock at being able to see the spheres is not enough to keep me there right now. I must move forward. I must stabilise my life here. I must try everything I can to make my way in the world and prove that I can do it, and that my choices are not vain fancy but actually meticulously plotted points on an upward trajectory. If I cannot find the Prague stars, I must become one.