Tag Archives: Ireland

The most awesome weekend trip I ever had, Part II – Ireland, the small European country I had the most fun in

Last week’s story ended as the brave Belgians decided it was time to let me be the Irish’ problem for a while. As it turned out, going through Irish customs was not a problem at all, until Dave decided it would be fun to make a picture of me at the counter. The “extreme ironing on the Ben Nevis project” was very close to failure. Fortunately, we got off with a warning. But not before I have had a most fascinating conversation with the immigrations officer:

– What is the purpose of your visit to Ireland?
– No purpose.
– How long are you planning to stay in Ireland?
– As short as possible.
– Where are you going to stay in Ireland?
– I don’t know yet.
– Do you have sufficient means for the duration of your stay in Ireland?
– [showing my bank card]
– Welcome to Ireland sir, have a nice stay.

I knew right then and there that I loved Ireland. Every word of what I said was true, and the guy didn’t even blink. Maybe he was used to Ryanair tricks. But the whole 12 hours we spent in Ireland were marked by such conversations, so I guess its just Irish nature. Like the conversation with the guy who approached us right after we went out of the terminal. He was obviously just off the plane, like us. Looking a bit confused, he asked us where he can find the pubs. He asked us where he can find the pubs. In Dublin, Ireland. I couldn’t quite find the words. There are some 10 000 pubs in Ireland, and some 1000 in Dublin alone. That’s one pub per 500 people. The answer to “where can I find a pub in Dublin, Ireland” is, of course, “everywhere”. Trying to be polite, I suggested that taking the bus downtown would be a good first step. At least, that’s what we were going to do – get to town, find a hostel and go to a pub. As we were getting into the bus, the conductor was a bit startled to see us carrying an ironing board.

– What’s that?
– An ironing board.
– What for?
– To iron, of course.
– What, in Dublin?
– No, we’re actually on our way to Scotland. We’re going to do extreme ironing on the top of the Ben Nevis.
– That’s just marvellous, marvellous! Welcome aboard!

At that point, the pub-seeker boarded the bus, asking the conductor the same question – “where can I find the pubs?” To which he, unsurprisingly, got the same reply – “downtown, mate”. As the guy was making his way upstairs (it was a double-decker, of course), the conductor turned to us and said in an Irish accent I won’t try to reproduce and with the sadness of many years of experience: “where do they keep coming from?” We couldn’t agree more. The whole way to town he’d look at our ironing board from time to time and repeat “marvellous, marvellous”. We were appreciated in Ireland, that’s for sure.

Finding a hostel was not very difficult, especially since our demands were simple – all we wanted were two free bunks. After a simple meal, we sat in the TV lounge for a beer before going out. A few locals were watching football, and asked us where we were from. Dave, the Dutch guy, they let pass. But me, the Israeli, one of them enquired with a grave face as to when are we going to have some peace done down there. Now I am an open-minded person and I am ready to learn from those who can teach me. But having an Irishman teach me about conflict management? That was just not going to happen.

– And what would it take to have peace in Ireland?
– Well, they should take a lot of those really big bulldozers, and dig huge ditches between all the 6 counties.
– That’s exactly what we’re trying to do down there, mate.

His friends roared with laughter and that was the end of the political discussion for that evening. It was time for us to find a pub. Fortunately, it was not a difficult task in Dublin. I have no idea where we ended up, but it was one of the best nights out I ever had. It was just one of the many pubs in town, but there was live music, good beer, a jolly crowd and a talkative barman. The band consisted of a guitar, a violin, an accordion and a bagpipe. We weren’t prepared for a bagpipe on a random night out, but it was awesome. Somehow, in Dublin, it makes perfect sense to have a violin and a bagpipe to be played in a pub. We weren’t staying long though as we had to get up at 6 (again) to finally catch the flight to Scotland.

This is Part II of the story about the most awesome weekend trip I ever had. Next week – Part III – finally, Scotland.

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Filed under Europe, Just another small European country, Travel

The British Isles

Of the bite-sized regions I’ve divided Europe into, the British Isles are seemingly the least diverse. Just two coutries (UK and Ireland), one language (supposedly, English) and a uniformly depressing climate don’t appear too varied. But appearances can be deceiving. The countries of the British Isles may have only two embassies, but they do possess 5 national football teams, and national pride runs high, especially among the Scottish. Not to mention Northern Ireland. While everyone on the Isles speaks English, there are countless variations of it, to great frustration of the tourist who thinks he or she has mastered the language of Shakespeare yet can’t understand a word that’s being said. And oh, the climate. While some of the wettest locations in Europe are in the highlands of Scotland, London actually gets less rain than Rome. Let’s just say the climate adds variety to the British life. Never a dull moment – that’s the motto of the local weather.

 

  • Why go there?
    Americans and Australians favour the Isles as they offer a “soft landing” – culturally and linguistically speaking. The harsh reality is that the differences turn out to be rather noticeable, as this blogger found out. But experiencing these differences has a charm of its own. Plus there’s really a lot to see and do here. Like top-notch surfing sites in Ireland, superb hiking in Scotland, some of the world’s best beaches in Wales and, of course, London.
  • What’s it best for?
    To me, the greatest attraction of the British Isles is not the history, not the culture, not the drinking or the football, although all of these are generously offered. I go here for laughs. Seriously, this is the most humorous corner of the globe I’ve ever been to. This is where Monty Python, Rowan Atkinson, Douglas Adams, Lewis Carroll and many more come from. And it shows – the locals appreciate a good joke and are always prepared with one of their own. I occasionally do extreme ironing. In Belgium I was ignored, in Switzerland I was mocked, but here people genuinely appreciated me coming with an ironing board, and cheered me up all the way to the top of Ben Nevis.
  • When is the best time to go?
    July and August are the warmest, but May and June are the driest, so make your bet. Be warned though – London has seen summer temperatures over 35 degrees in the last few years and the tube is really no fun in such weather.
  • How to get around?
    British Railways are not famous for comfort, precision or speed, and the highways are rather congested. Plus fuel prices are ridiculously high (as pretty much everywhere in Europe), so driving 1000 miles to the Highlands may be pricey. Fortunately, this is where budget airlines have been invented, and all the major cities are well connected. Fly, but remember to read the fine print!
  • Why is it best to avoid?
    Some have difficulties distinguishing the British summer from the winter. Not the place to go to if you’re looking for weather guarantees.
  • Where to go if you just have one week?
    Stick to London. Hell, you can spend a year in this city and not ever be bored!

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Filed under Europe, Europe by region, Small European things, Travel