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Éire – Ireland

Last year I befriended a lot of Irish people, supported Ireland at the European Football Championships in Poznan, saw Ireland get beaten by Italy 2-0, drank like an Irish man and yes, even sang like an Irish man (although mostly football songs). Having gotten to know the Irish culture a bit, I hadn’t had the chance to actually visit the green island itself, that is until last weekend.

It took me 2, not pleasant, hours on-board a Ryan Air aircraft to get my Finnish Ass to the land of Guinness and supposedly Leprechauns. Now, I could go on and on how much I dislike Ryan Air, but that seems to be rather pointless, but at least they’re affordable…  What struck me initially as I got off the blue and yellow coloured “cattle” carrier, was definitely the weather. I as a Finn hear often that I shouldn’t complain about it being cold somewhere, but in Ireland I complained like Dudley in Harry Potter(which is a lot). I already had a bit of a cold as I flew to the birthplace of Bono and sure as Summer follows spring, my flu didn’t get better…even with the help of Guinness.

I had the pleasure of staying throughout my whole trip at my friend Daragh’s place as well as having him as my personal guide to the city founded by Vikings in the year 840. Having met Daragh basically the last time at the Euros in Poznan (and a bit after that in Berlin) we had a lot of catching up to do, so the first day went by fast,  just talking about things that had happened in the past months. We had previously met in the Spring a couple of Slovenians who had now also traveled to Ireland to explore, like me, the Irish culture. It was no accident that I happened to arrive in Ireland on the 26th of September. The next day was a day that has in the recent years received a nearly national holiday status, due to excellent marketing, it was the birthday of Arthur Guinness.

On Arthur’s day we headed down to the downtown pubs to enjoy a drink derived from roasted unmalted barley, a drink that is almost synonymous with Ireland… Guinness. To be honest, before I moved to Berlin I wasn’t a big fan of the dark strong flavoured drink, but as I got to know the Irish, I got to know their drinks as well, and now I can honestly say that I am rather fond of the beer that is thought of as one of the original stout beers. “Sláinte!” Was heard on the 27th day numerous times as our Pints went up to knock on the pints of others as if to say “we’re in this together” and indeed that is how it was, from pub to club the dark pints found their way in groups onto our tables and as if by magic the content of the glasses vanished nearly as quickly as it had been poured into the glasses.

After a few “casual” drinks, we made our way to a bar/club called the Village, which had a nice atmosphere and seemed to be popping. Last year my friends had introduced me to an Irish comedy/rap group the Rubberbandits, whom I had been listening to also before I left for Ireland and as if by the luck of the Irish they happened to playing at the Village that very same night. I couldn’t have been more pumped, I was with my good mates enjoying Irish beverages and now I was even going to see the guys who’ve made songs like  “Horse Outside” “I wanna fight your father” and more!  (If you haven’t heard of these lads, at least peep them on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljPFZrRD3J8 , they’re grand!)  As we walked up the stairs to the room, where they had just started playing, I could already recognise familiar lyrics ” …I wanna fight your faaaather…”  and I knew that this was definitely a great night!

Those of you who might not know Guinness ,alongside having a strong taste, also contains alcohol, which can tend to cause “sluggishness” the following day after being consumed. Having slept a bit longer we decided to continue with the Guinness theme of our visit and head to the St. James’s Gate brewery, or as it is better known as, the Guinness Brewery. Our housing was rather far away from the brewery itself, thus it would take us sometime to make our way there, which meant we had to be swift with our moves and cut our “breakfasts” short and head towards the bus.

As we made our way to the brewery, I could see a clear change in scenery, from pubs and houses to more industrial style buildings with a main colour of gray. After numerous walked blocks, we made our way inside the brewery area, where we were greeted with the surprisingly friendly ticket staff. I have to seriously tip my invisible hat off to the whole Guinness brand for doing such a great job of ensuring that each and every guest felt welcomed to the brewery, as most transactions started with the phrases “where are you from?” following the staff small talking and even in my case switching to German to serve me (after which I did say that being a Finn, English’ll do).  As mentioned earlier, I had a ongoing flu which basically took a lot of my energy out of me and at times it was really hard to stay concentrated during the tour of the home of the dark nectar of the Irish. Having survived to the end of the self-guided tour my energy was restored by seeing the amazing view over Dublin from the Gravity bar on top of the brewery (whilst obviously enjoying a complementary pint of the Arthur’s world famous stout). We spent a good while taking pictures and enjoying the view from the extraordinary glass bar packed with other tourists after which we headed home like boring old men to heal up so as to still be able to do something the following days.

The last day we decided to go check out the seaside of Dublin (to be honest can’t remember what area it was), if I had thought the inner areas of Dublin were windy, boy was I in for a treat. Yes, I should know that on the shore of any sea it is going to be windy, but still, you never really are prepared for it. I felt like I had someone pointing a hairdryer at me constantly, blowing out nothing but chilly seawind, nevertheless I had a nice day with my friends and was able to take a couple of nice pictures as well, before heading back with the DART train to the city. As it was our last night in the Irish capital, we decided to go out with a bang and head to the clubs, ensuring that my flight the next day would be one of the worst in my life… I did indeed survive the flight and am now happily back in Berlin writing this blog. I will for certain visit Ireland again in the future, but I will first have to rest for sometime to recover fully from this trip to the island that is Éire.

Buda to the Pest: Part 2 – Quick Recap

Our Bus journey accompanied by the exotic movies and loud neighbours went surprisingly well, although at times it did feel like a never ending journey.  Alongside the rising sound volume of our fellow passengers we had the privilege of enjoying stunning views from the bus as we passed cities such as Bratislava and others that I cannot for the life of me remember at this stage.

From the bus whilst crossing a river in Bratislava
Night falls for the travelers

As we began to get closer to our destination the foreign “adventure” films switched to children’s movies, which continued to baffle us, seeing that by glancing through the bus and its passengers there was nobody of that age who could have requested “the adventures of the random German speaking polar bear” (I’m guessing that was the title of the film). Not only had the movie selection seen a change, but so had the status of our neighbours. From that of speaking a hundred words per second, they had gone to the “laid back”- mode, meaning that they were leaning their seats on top of our knees, thrusting the seats to recline more, not seeming to realise that what stopped their seats from reclining any further were my bruised knees. It seemed as if they cared as much of our thumping on their seats as we had cared for the movies shown on-board.

After coming to terms with the fact that our fellow travelers had no interest in our well being, as if a sign from above we heard the on-board speakers tell us through a lot of words that we were indeed only a few short kilometers from Budapest. At long last, with bruised knees, tired bodies and minds we had arrived at some station in Budapest. Having thought previously that the station would be centrally located, we had not cared to browse through maps or make route plans….we should have.

Tickets Köszönöm
Local Metro/Ubahn/Underground/Subway

We found our way in the middle of the night to a metro station, hoping to find a map and clear guidance towards the center. After following a herd of people, we merely crossed our fingers in hope of jumping on the right train which would at the least take us slightly closer to our hostel. I am not a superstitious person per se, but I believe it was the luck of the Irish (or better yet my Irish mate) that enabled us to manage our way through all the crossroads and alleyways safely to our hostel, where our two Slovenian friends awaited us with cold beers, that we had most definitely deserved.

The first night went by quickly as we caught up on missed conversations and had a few pints at a local tavern. We did also have time to acquaint ourselves with the local law enforcement. It is pure commonsense that what goes in must eventually come out as well. As we were browsing around the city at night, one of our crew had the sudden urge to relieve himself and seeing that there was not an open tavern nor a portapotty in sight, he ran to the nearest bushes in a nearby alleyway as the rest of us waited for him on the mainstreet. We found a nice bench on the sidewalk and decided to hang there for a moment. It was not long as we saw our friend appear from the alley, hinting to us that “we should move”. We only realised what he had meant, when we saw two officers appearing from the alley with a batman like serious face on. “Passports”, yelled the older one of the partners, and as if trained dogs we did as told and whipped our proofs of nationality and identity out for them to collect our data. Once they had gossiped our numbers and info to their colleagues via walkietalkies, they left us with valid advice “this street, not a toilet”. Needless to say we kept their advice in mind during the remain of the trip.

The next day we decided to be true tourists, eating a continental breakfast (prepared by ourselves) and heading out to explore the city. Now as most people hopefully know, Finland is not a beach holiday destination ergo we do not have extremely hot weather, aside from the summer time. In Budapest already in the Hostel I had noticed that the weather seemed to be awfully warm, but it did not cross my mind that we would be seeing the sights of Budapest in 36 degree weather (Celsius). As I left Berlin, I had foolishly thought to not even pack my shorts with me. I tried to make the best of my situation by pulling up my pants, trying to desperately make them become the shorts they clearly were not. At this stage I have to be frank and admit that there was not a lot of talking done during the sightseeing day, everyone was merely trying to survive the hot weather, thus I will let the pictures do the talking for this day:

Shorts would have been nice..
Statues and Houses
View from Buda towards Pest
Going to Buda

We spent the entire next day laying motionlessly at a lake we had made our way to by car, only returning to Budapest in the evening to change hostels quickly (due to booking issues) and immediately embarking on a pub crawl as we arrived at our new party hostel. Before we had even really settled at our new residences, we were already enjoying beverages in numerous local bars and pubs, being led by a baywatch-style chilled out Aussie, who seemed as calm and cool as a Koala. Enjoying the comparably affordable drink prices we spent the night touring the nightlife of Budapest, which I have to say was extremely good.

Air conditioning, AC, whatever you want to call it – I love it. The first thing that hit me once I entered our room in the new hostel was the wonderful breeze of fresh COLD air, not coming from the window, oh no, but from our airconditioning. No, it did not remind me of home, being cold and chilly, but rather it gave me the possibility to enjoy a good nights rest, without sticking to my bed linen and becoming dehydrated due to the overwhelming heat. Apart from our room, we also took advantage of the round shaped balcony at our hostel, getting to know other travelers from all around the world, sharing stories and beverages with each other. For me the best thing about travelling and living abroad is the social interaction with other people from different cultures. It is always fascinating to hear about different customs and habits or personal experiences of the people I talk to.

The Legendary Balcony of the Party Hostel

We enjoyed one full day on our multicultural balcony, full of hockey,travel, lifestyle and other random talk. To cut things short I’ll just summarize the last few days with a few sentences. We continued to tour the night and day of Budapest (mostly Pest) for another couple of days, before embarking on our loooooong bus-ride back to the big ol’ B. We said our goodbyes to our Slovenian friends and hopped on the coach, with refrigerated coke bottles. My Irish mate was in luck apparently, since he managed to get a bottle that actually contained liquid, whereas I apparently got a limited edition coke bottle that was full of Ice, rather than cola in liquid form to quench my thirst. The journey back was as long as the way to Budapest, but far more enjoyable thanks to the numerous romantic comedies (not my favourite genre) that were played on-board for our enjoyment in English. As a combo breaker among the films was the more than fitting film “Hangover” which seemed to give a perfect ending to a trip that was to be felt physically for a couple of days to come.

Buda shines nicely
The same Palace without lights
Apparently they have some sort of arrangement in Budapest to turn off the lights at midnight…which was not such a good thing for my photography.