Archive for the 'Ireland' Category

A relatively calm birfday, yet more rain and a somber tour with a bright future

The Wandering Nerd August 4th, 2007

Traveling yesterday kind of sucked. 8 hours on a bus is too much, from now on 3 hours is my max. Especially when it’s packed full for a large duration. The upside, I got to practically finish The Fountainhead, just about 50 pages left. I suspect there probably should have been some sort of injunction or restraining order preventing me from learning about Objectivism. You people thought I was insufferable before… Fantastic book, here’s to hoping the ending doesn’t ruin it.

Arriving at the Derry Independent Hostel, which is more like a house than the other places I’ve been in. A group of people from here went out to a pub where some Basque people (also staying in the hostel) were playing. I’d never heard of the place. They have been identifying with the Irish for a long time due to their similar rocky relationship with the Spanish. Similar occupation has been occurring there. Makes for interesting reading if you have some time. The music itself is haunting and moving, you can listen to some samples there.

From there a few of us broke away and went to a place called ‘Sandinos‘ where they had another live band. I suppose it’s only fitting that on my birthday I was in a bar in Derry, listening to a band fronted by a guy in a Ramones t-shirt, playing an electric fiddle, with the culmination of the evening involving me actually dancing…yes…me…dancing. It looked like a chicken with amoebic dysentery, but by god I danced. They ended the evening playing ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, man…DDR has nothing on Irish dancing set to that beat.

Luckily, I’d been informed about Magner’s Cider. I kind of turned my nose up at it to start, but here’s the thing, it’s only 2 pound 80 pence…(yeah, need to get the pound symbol, I’ll get to it later, I’m telling a story, stop interrupting) and it’s about 4.5% alcohol and it comes in a 568ml bottle. That makes for 2 drinks actually. Now that’s drinking responsibly. :) So with a certain number of Magner’s in me, apparently I like dancing. Since it’s made from apples, it’s healthy too, fortified with vitamins and such.

Surprisingly and delightfully free of a hangover this morning, I actually took some time and just slept in. I leisurely made my way over to the tour of Derry. It’s a walking tour that starts at the memorial of Bloody Sunday. The guide was a Derry native who actually participated in a number of marches back in the days of ‘The Troubles’ as they are referred to here. Northern Ireland has had a long and tumultuous past. More so than I really perceived. Derry has a walled city (historically the Protestant/British point of presence) which is more pristine than the Bogside, where I’m staying. Here though, everything echoes the violent and tragic past. Barbed wire and spiked railing rest quietly shops and fences. Playgrounds are surrounded by high fences, windows are shielded by wire meshing to protect them from stray projectiles. People keep rubber bullets as souvenirs, and paint and burn marks still dot the walls of Protestant/British public buildings. The pavement is quite literally speckled with pieces of broken glass, from bottle or window. The Bogside has the feeling of a large but run down coal town in eastern Kentucky. Little if any energy or monies have been spent on keeping the Bogside cleaned.

For all that, the people are vibrant, laughing and cheerful. As dreary as it is, or perhaps in response to it, everyone here seems in high spirits. The British have recently pulled more troops out of Northern Ireland, and peace seems to be settling over the area. John, the tour guide, pointed out those walking around in the tour had grown up in peace, and had no idea what the feeling is of the weight to be lifted when peace comes to someone who’s only known war. He was very eloquent about it, and for my part, I’m hoping Derry does get to enjoy a long respite.

Hope you enjoy the pics:

and its true we are immune
when fact is fiction and tv reality
and today the millions cry
we eat and drink while tomorrow they die

Go on, go on, go on, how boats flirt, and Oliver Cromwell (*spit*)

The Wandering Nerd August 2nd, 2007

Spent much of the day of the 2nd on the Aran Islands, the small island Inisheer. The bus drops you off about a 20 minute walk from the pier and by the time I got there the main ferry had already departed. Though primarily I had just wanted to see Inisheer, as it was the most traditional of the three. Though the one pub on the island did have a giant plasma screen in it, technology permeates all. While waiting on the ferry to depart I met a couple of women from the states, Michigan and New York; Susan and Linda respectively.

Arriving at the island one is presented with numerous options of touring it, from tractor pulled wagons, jaunty horses, horse drawn wagons, bikes, etc. I decided the best way would be to check out the islands only pub first. One must prioritize. They charge €15 per person to get in the carts. While I was there for the course of 3 hours I saw the same cart with at least 3 different runs of 4 people each. I’m not rocket surgeon, but that strikes me as being about €60 per hour. To hire a bike for the day is €10. Not bad if it was for the day, but I was only there for 2 hours… There was no budging, it was flat rate 10 and that was that. I was sorely tempted to just catch some guy coming back with his bike and offer him a fiver to let me have it for a while. No wonder the economy over here is booming, they’re practically printing the money. I decided to just hoof it around the island. That way I’d save the money and burn off the calories of all the beer that money would, in time, purchase. Planning for the future.

The island itself is a maze of stone cattle pastures. Crawling around the shipwreck was pretty interesting, and just west of that was a patch of rock along the beach that was very similar to the planet at the start of “Chronicles of Riddick” except without the blowing snow…and the twin planets visible…and I wasn’t being chased by interstellar bounty hunters…moving on.

I’m quite serious about the maze thing, I was able to find a secret setting in Google maps for the island, here is the area I walked around:


After sorting my way through all of that to get to the lighthouse, it was off limits. Bastard…features. I had to double time it back to catch the ferry and the subsequent bus that was leaving from Doolin at 15:45. I made it back in plenty of time to catch the ferry, but the ferry was slow in casting off. Luckily the two ladies I’d met from earlier offered to give me a lift back to the bus stop since it was on the way.

After the captains of the two boats were were spread across got finished playing synchronized sailing - I’m serious, I have no idea what the hell they were doing. We sat outside the peer and they just kept the ships backing around one another occasionally nudging one with the other. For all I know the damn things were mating. Something I don’t want to think about what with the spray and all. I guess you could say they were ‘lovecraftian’, I’ll leave it at that. - after the mating dance we finally got back to land at 16:10. The astute of you, and those that can count without taking off articles of clothing, will note that that is past when the bus was scheduled to leave. Susan and Linda dropped me off at the stop and there was another bus scheduled for 17:45, so I bid them goodbye and thanks and headed to where everyone in ireland goes when they have some time to kill…that’s right the pub! Glad you people in the cheap seats are catching on.

Spent some time getting my damn cell phone sorted out to cancel. It turns out that I’ve been unable to recieve calls for 2 weeks, not even to voice mail. But the charge to use the damn thing is $1.29 per MINUTE. At that rate someone on the other end had better be telling me what they’re wearing. Got that sorted out with enough credit to cover the bill for the next month, so I’m gonna’ keep it, just in case.

A couple of guys from Denmark and I started up a conversation about the EU and the differences that are and could be coming along. Had a couple pints with them, caught the bus and made it back to Lisdoonvarna. Grabbed a bite of food and a shower, wrote all of the above and then headed out to see if there’s any real nightlife in this bustling metropolis. Though I suspect I shall call it an early night, got an early bus to Derry tomorrow.

I walked around a bit and stopped by a few of the pubs, felt really restless and just kept moving from one to the other. Finally landed at a small bar with a few Irish guys sitting out front. Barry and Sennen (sp?), we got in a long discussion about the politics of the region and the differences between Protestant/Irish Catholic/Roman Catholic. Also the timeline of the country and discussing the reasons that the UK wants to keep its interest in Northern Ireland. The reasons ranged from the classic ‘follow the money trail’ to ‘they just want to irritate the Irish.’

this is an odyssey to freedom
a journey for a name
for one who is only a number
-powerman 5000

A break in the break, irish hostility, a big drop…and the rain is back.

The Wandering Nerd August 1st, 2007

So it’s been a couple days, the 31st was spent mainly relaxing and trying to get my legs to quit their bitching. I’m not much of a cycler at the best of times, and I’ve never been good at ‘pacing myself’ so between the two I was in some massive discomfort….not the least of which involves the stupid bike seat being made out of concrete. I think I jarred my ovaries right out of their socket…er…pouch…or wherever they are I’m not a phisiocologynolist. In any event, unpleasantness ensued.

I’ve booked out places for the next week via Hostel World. Saturday nights are always a pain in the ass to find a place to stay, so I’m going to try to at least figure out where I’ll be on that night and reserve. At worst I lose the booking fee. *shrug*

I don’t think I’ve commented on Hostel travel yet. Though I am still very new to it, it’s basically like living in a dorm. Each room has X number of bunk beds (though for more money you get fewer bunks, up to a room with one bed for couples). There are shower facilities but they are dorm style again. I’ve seen both male/female water closets as well as co-ed ones. I prefer the separate ones, girls are way too messy…you think I’m kidding. For the money though, it’s actually pretty sweet. For 20 bucks a night essentially, you get a room and everyone else there is traveling just as you are, so it’s instant conversation. For instance last night I ended up talking to one of the German girls I had met before, Nadine, and another German joined us, Katja.

Nadine should be back in Germany now having finished a bit of travel, hopefully celebrating a belated birthday and the completion of her Master’s work (PhD for us stateside) in finance and logisticinary…I just made that word up. Katja was just starting her travels with a friend who may, or may not, have a concussion. Gravity and booze were both involved, though one with more immediate impact… We walked around and found some ‘authentic’ Irish music. Which in the first case involved a grizzled old woman playing the banjo and warbling off like Tom Waits in too tight underpants, and an angry accordion player. Walking on we heard Johnny Cash and Rufus Wainwright being played from various pubs, come to Ireland to meet the Germans and listen to American music. Finally, from a discreet looking pub of to the side, there emanated some more authentic tunes and we stopped in for a good pint and a good bit of music.

For something completely different, on the first night I was in Killarney when the two German guys (Martin and Valentine, dunno’ if I ever put labels to them) and I were walking back, we passed an old street musician. Martin apparently asked the old man if he could play his guitar and this burley Irishman jumped up from behind the older guy and started cursing at Martin that he wasn’t going to play the guitar and various, if unimaginative, curses in a sort of nebulous fashion. You gotta’ understand that this guy was probably 6′4″ 220lbs, and Martin was all of 5′9″ and maybe 120lbs… *grumble* I stepped between them pulled Martin away and told the guy that he didn’t mean any offense, he was sorry and we’d just go on. Then the guy started in on me. I calmly suggested that there was no need to be rude, no worries and we’d go on, getting hostile wasn’t going to do any good. About this point I’m thinking three things, first, am I really sober enough keep my damn fool self from getting hurt here, B, that I did indeed try to talk my way out of it…twice so technically I’m not starting anything, and fourth, could I throw Martin at him and make it to safety. About this point the old guy took the big guys arm and said, “Enough.” Then he walked with us aways and apologized about it all. We were all saying it was fine, we understood the big guy was just looking out for him, and there were no hard feelings on our part. We all shook hands and walked away peaceably, though the big guy kept mumbling shit at us the whole time.

I had originally not planned on sharing that story, it was just one little incident and I didn’t think anymore of it past when it happened. That is until last night when we were walking back to the hostel. We passed by one last bar and this Irish couple were coming in, the guy stayed outside and we struck up a conversation over some Johnny Cash, and how I lived in Nashville. Now somehow, from that conversation starter, he got off on a tangent about how the Polish were ruining Ireland. Perhaps ‘diatribe’ is a more appropriate term. After a very short while I just told him to have a good night and walked away.  I met some great Polish kids in Cork, so I wasn’t having it. On a whole the people I’ve met here are very friendly and kind, but there’s a male age group somewhere between 18-30 that really seems overtly aggressive. That’s most certainly an over generalization, but it’s what I observed as a social bias.  And as they say, ignorance knows no colour, creed or gender.  I’m willing to accept that people anywhere can be anything, good or bad.

Today was a travel day, a rather long one, and the customary rain. There’s one bus route that runs from Killarney to Galway via the west coast, as opposed to Limerick, which around here has the not so affectionate nickname of ‘Stab City’ due, I hear, to some rather unfortunate incidents involving sharp objects and soft abdomens. Beyond the excitement of some good lacerations, I’ve been told by some people who live there, that it’s rather dull. I figured if I was going to be on a bus that long I was at least going to have some interesting scenery. It actually was a cool trip, the bus drives up the coast and then gets on a ferry in a little town called Tarberet for a crossing. It’s amusing to see that big bastard on the ferry.

The Cliffs of Moher are…well, just look at the pictures and come up with some of your own adjectives. The bus stopped long enough for me to get a good wander around there, so tomorrow I’m going to the Aran Islands for the day. It’s a Father Ted thing, I’d totally be remiss if I didn’t go when I was this close. Lisdoonvarna, is the tiny little town I’m in for two nights before going on to Derry. When I say tiny, I’m talking 600 people, but there are still about 10 pubs, how is that for some Per Capita numbering?

Finally had some good Irish grub.  With it being a costal area I grabbed some seafood chowder, a bowl of irish stew, and a pint all for only €18.   After the rest of the country, that’s practically a steal.  Though in some strange wry sense of irony…everyone working in the bar was Polish.  So it goes…

it goes like this
the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall, the major lift
-rufus wainwright

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