Friday, July 02, 2004

They're always after me lucky charms

June 30th

I just got back from Ireland a few hours ago, and I am quite knackered, but here I am, blogging again... lame, eh? I am munching on my last mini Bramley apple pie as I am writing this, because I can't even be bothered to cook...

Anyways, what can I say other than that Dublin was simply amazing! It's got a charm that is difficult to describe... it's too old to be called hip, and too fast to be called laid-back, but too slow to be called fast. Damn. I don't know... the best is always to find out for yourself.

Our flight there was pretty late in the evening. It's kinda funny, flying nowadays. 10-15 years ago it was something that I thought would never happen in my world. Flights were for rich people. These days you hop on the plane like you hop on the bus, and even funnier, coach tickets from here to London are more expensive than a Ryanair flight to Dublin... or Berlin, at that. Except that they don't do effin near-body-cavity searches when you board a bus. I mean, compared to the city that Chicago's airport is, Bournemouth airport is a closet in Barbie's garden shed. But the security there was almost unbelievable. In New York, they just took a few things out of my backpack, but here, the security dude put every effin dust bunny under the microscope. When I say, cleaned out my bag, I mean that he cleaned out. I mean, he found stuff that I had thought long lost. Which was also an urgent reminder that I really need to clean out my bag. It got a bit embarrassing... he pushed a hand into a side pocket and pulled it out, holding old candy, paper bits and a tampon (not used, mind you! bleh, mental picture... bleeeeeeh!), and he got a bit nervous at that point. And I didn't know how many AA batteries I had on me. I always take a pack when I go on a trip for my walkman, but I always forget to take them out. I could have provided electricity for a small African village with them... and now I am known not only as the Strange Retarded Monkey Girl (TM) (that's a different story), but also as Battery Woman.

Anyhow, our flight was great. We watched the sun set above the clouds, and had semi-clear skies when we flew in over Dublin, and got a fantastic view of its port which was glittering with lights in the dusk.
One thing that I found totally hysterical on the flight was that I found a bag along with the security instructions in my seat pocket. It was one of those mail-in photo lab paper bags. It wasn't until I looked closer that I saw the print: This is a dual purpose sick bag. Needless to say I kept one as a souvenir. Unused!
Hell, if I worked in a photo lab, I would think twice about opening a bag like this.

We caught a bus at the airport. Our hostel was the Globetrotter which is adjoined to the Townhouse, and what can I say other than that I really recommend it. It's fantastic value for money, the rooms are nice and the breakfast is gigantic... you seriously are stuffed for the rest of the day. The breakfast room, which is part of the Townhouse - Globetrotters are allowed to pig out in there and use the kitchen - is simply gorgeous, and I was happy to see that the TV room featured a big ass picture of my music heroes U2.
At checking in, poor Damien had to suffer through the old antichrist jokes again, and he bore himself bravely. One of the receptionists was Polish, and it turned out his aunt who he had visited often lives about ten minutes from where I used to live in Berlin. Crazy. The world is a village.

I went for a walk the next morning along the river, and ended up over at Temple Bar... yeah, what a coincidence. It was warm and sunny. A few kids positioned themselves in the streets, placed big buckets in front of them (hell that's what I call optimism) and started singing Irish songs. Aidan, a Dubliner on the Soapbox, told me that apparently one comes to hate them after a while, but I gotta say, compared to the off-key screeching one usually gets from untrained child voices (adorable as they may be), those kids had talent... incredibly powerful voices, and I had to punch myself not to get my camera out, cos that would be really lame.
One thing that I also noticed was that many street signs and stuff had both the English and Gaelic version on it. I have been speaking English for nearly a decade now, and I'm so used to it now that I don't have to consciously translate anymore whenever I see something written in English... but it feels really strange to see something in a language one does not understand.

I finally stopped at Quays Bar when I heard the sweet sounds of live music. It was only about noon, and I couldn't help feeling guilty when I ordered a half pint of black gold at this time, but apparently that's no biggie in Dublin. The chap who played was called Simon Gynn, a musician from Cornwall, and he told me in a chap that it is the early boozing here that helps him make a living. And he was bloody good! (Not to mention, CUTE!!!) People started streaming in, and within 30 minutes it was packed.

One thing to do when you are in Dublin is to go to Carroll's, THE souvenir shop. It is the biggest, tackiest place ever, but so much fun. You can get everything from Guinness thongs to laminated shamrocks to Tshirts, posters, fluffy Guinnes slippers, whole Leprechaun outfits and whatnot there.
But remember, if you buy, there is a Golden Rule of Souvenir Shopping. Whatever you buy that indicates that you :heart: Ireland/Dublin/the Irish/Guinness/Leprechauns/sheep/booze or anything of the sort... it is solely meant to wear at home, to show off where you have been. Do not, EVER, wear it the minute you walk out of the store. Or anytime around that. Simply not until you leave town. Because that just has Lame Tourist (TM) written all over it.
This American tourist I saw a few hours later did not just break this rule, he killed it with an ugly stick. He walked around sporting a frog-green fleece saying in bold, hollering letters "I :heart: Ireland", wearing a matching hat. You could practically see the price tag still hanging from it. Meanwhile, his wife, wearing a similar outfit, took pictures of anything that didn't get away in time, pointing out loudly how quaint it was (and one thing I can assure you of Dublin, it is not quaint!) Don't we all love stereotypes! :D
Dom and I were really tempted to buy this wicked Leprechaun hat, but decided it was too pricey. So we just put it on and took pictures. I think I identified a bit too much with it. I also developed a great passion for flat caps - they are just too cool. Dom just thought I am lame... but he says that all the time anyways.
Another great thing about Carroll's is the Guinness ad Kodak point... you can make a complete idiot of yourself in public and have the picture to prove it.

The definite must-do in Dublin is, of course, to see the Guinness Brewery. Guinness is everywhere in Dublin. You can't get away from it. The brewery is HUGE. The actual bit to see for tourists is the Guinness Storehouse, (seriously, check that link, it is awesome!!!)but we had no idea where it was, and so we circled the whole brewery before we found it. But that was good, because we had fun on the way.
One not so cool thing was that the river just opposite the brewery is absolutely mingen. The stench is horrendously foul... and when you see it, you know why. I really don't know why it is that way, I just hope the Guinness has nothing to do with it, because then I would have to reconsider drinking it. Ah yeah, who am I kidding.
All the while we tried to find the entrance, and at one point nearly lost it and tried to climb in. The Guinness Oompa Loompas shot us down, so we followed this truck to one of the main gates, and we found ourselves in heaven!!!

Around the corner, we saw the exorcist! And some cool graffiti.

When we finally found the storehouse, we ran into this old chap and his buddy, a proper sturdy brewery horse. I guess he stands there for the tourists all day. I tried to have a chat with him, but it proved nearly impossible... I could not understand a word he said, and just vaguely figured out that he used to work in the brewery for decades. He was a cool chap.

The storehouse was amazing! We spent hours in there, the exhibition is fantastic.
You learn everything about the ingredients, the way it is brewed, the history, Arthur Guinness, the advertising, etc. Here we found proof that Guinness is indeed good for you. We saw some massive coppers and HUGE vats - I totally want one for my back yard.

We learned how barrels are made, and I was overcome with greed at the sight of all that black gold.

And I saw this Guinness-transporting vessel. I guess I will have to live up to that. :D
Some people say that's bollocks, but Guinness does taste different around the world. I always loved Berlin Guinness... it is strong and creamy and the flavor os poetry in your mouth. Compare to that the English Guinness - bleh. It is strong alright, but they went overboard with the "bitter". It seriously tastes like tar water, it doesn't have any flavor whatsoever.
The one in Dublin is kinda like the one in Berlin, but funny enough, the flavor varies even within town. The Guinness in the brewery bars tastes different from the Guinness in The Brazen Head just ten minutes down the road.

Ack, I really gotta go shopping for some food now, and this post is getting awfully long, so I will split it.


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