Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Always Doing Something

Funny how the more I do, the less I find time to write about it. I am now in Austria, staying with my host-family.

While I was still in the Netherlands, my friend there showed me around his town and told me about some of the history. I also made a day trip to Brussels, where I had the intentions of visiting a brewery, but it was closed, and when I asked around I was told all other breweries were far out of the city. So no brewery, but I did buy some fine Belgian Chocolates.

I have been in Austria since Saturday, I arrived after an 18 hour bus ride from the Netherlands. The most exciting part was some kid from Hungary getting arrested by German border patrol for trying to smuggle drugs. The rest of the time I pretended to be asleep while taking up two seats so no one would sit next to me. It worked, and I had plenty of space for the entire ride.

My German is going easier than I expected. It has been 10 years since I first came here with only two phrases, and already I feel like I am speaking the language better than the last time I came 3 years ago. I probably don't speak enough to get around entirely on my own, but with more practice I could definitely be there. If only I could drop the American accent, maybe it would be easier for people to understand what it is I am saying.

Of course I do have more pictures, but the internet connection is slow, so they'll have to wait once again. But, it'll give me a good reason to sit in front of a computer again later, as lately I have been avoiding them except for quick email checks, just to make sure I'm not missing anything important back home.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Kissing Stones and Other Pics

Another slideshow:

Seven Churches on Inis Mór. This was the first place I went on the island (in the Aran Islands) on my rented bike.

Dún Aonghasa. This is the most visited ruin on the island, perhaps because it is the easiest to get to. It was impressive to walk up to the ruin from below.

Looking down the coast line from Dún Aonghasa.

Finally, a more current picture of me on my blog. This was the point in Dún Aonghasa that I laid down with my head over the edge of the cliff. The wind blowing up the wall made me feel like I was on a rollercoaster. Talk about a head rush.

The coast line at another ruin, Dún Dúchathair. This one was harder to access (especially since the sign had been taken down at the main road) and therefore had fewer people visiting it. Actually, there was only one other person when I went, and he was on his way back into town.

Looking at Dún Dúchathair. The most amazing thing about these forts to me is the fact that they have little or no grout to hold them together. In most places there was none to be seen, but in a few places, it looked like someone had tried to reinforce the structures.

Inside Blarney Castle. I'm sure this used to be a fire place in a room, but it is now a fire place in the middle of the wall, half way up to the ceiling, where it cannot possibly be used.

Kissing the Blarney Stone. After how many other people I wonder? At least it had rained hard through the night and most of the morning before I went. Hopefully that washed enough dirt off.

At the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam. Not really my favorite beer in the States, but I have been known to drink it from time to time. I wonder if that will change now that I know what a real Heineken is. Because it isn't that watered down lager stuff we find in green bottles. Here it comes in a brown bottle with a green label, and it is a pilsner.

The cube apartments in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. I had read about this in my guide book, and today I was taken there by someone who knew where it was.

Looking up at the cube apartments. We even paid the €2 each to go inside the visitor cube. Though they look small from the outside, the are actually quite large, and the third floor inside would be perfect for a small get together. If you feel like buying one, you don't even have to worry about furniture, since they come fully furnished (good idea, since you would need specially built furniture to fit the slanted walls).

That's it for this slideshow. Hope to have more good pics for sharing soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Okay, so I've been a few places before finding myself here, but I was waiting for a USB port so I could upload photos in this blog. Still hasn't happened, but I'll write anyway, and then give another slide show when I get the chance.

The Aran Islands in Ireland were incredible. The ruins there were even more impressive than the ruins in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Hard to believe people could build such things, you'll see what I mean when I get to the pictures. They are built entirely of stone, but there is no grout to hold it all together.

I also had my first bike-riding experience in the Aran Islands. After 7 hours on a bike, I could hardly sit down. And since it used a whole new set of muscles, my legs were really sore too. But it was totally worth it, since I got to see more of the island I was on that way.

After Aran Islands I found myself in Cork. Pretty small town, but again, pubs are easier to find than anything else. The Irish really seem to value their pub time.

While in Cork I visited the nearby Blarney Castle. And yes, I kissed the rock that claims to give you the gift of gab - along with thousands of other tourists. I had to hang a bit upside down to get the job done, but there is a guy there to help out us rock kissers. I made the visit with two other Americans, and we picked up a (self-proclaimed) Kiwi along the way.

From Cork I took a cheap flight into Amsterdam, and I have been here for 4 days now. I have done a couple of the cliche tourist things: visited a coffee shop and checked out the redlight district. Neither were as fun as just wandering the city, without a map, and getting lost. Of course I could have rented a bike, but I am starting to wonder about the bike thing. I see them all over the city, but they are always locked up, and almost all the people are walking. So I walked as well. At least that way I didn't have to check to be going the right way in traffic; I only had to watch out for people who wanted to run me over (both bikes and cars).

In my random wanderings I found the Heineken Experience, so I gave it a go. It was quite fun, and Heineken off the tap in the brewery is much better than all those green bottles in the States.

That is about it for this entry. I found a great hostel out of the city on the beach, and though it is too cold for swimming, getting bundled up and watching the stars is great fun. The people here are awesome, both the staff and other visitors. This is definitely one of the more friendly places I have stayed (go Flying Pig).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some Photos and an Update

This here is a shot of the Necropolis in Glasgow, Scotland. These are some of the smaller monuments erected to dead loved ones.

Dublin was a great city, but a little overwhelming. There are people everywhere, but I suppose that is to be expected, after all, it is a city. I went on a long walk through the city on my second full day there, through Phoenix park. It was really nice, but I didn't find much to take pictures of. I even got lost along the way, but it was okay, I just had to go a little further than the guide said to get to the small village I found lunch in.

While looking for lunch I ran into a guy from the Netherlands. Turns out he was on the same walk I was, using the same guide book. We walked along together for a while, and then I left him so I could move along to the Guinness Brewery before it closed.

The Guinness Brewery was something else. I have done a couple brewery tours before, but this one was self-guided. They had the usual information on how beer is brewed, but the best part was the 3 floors that covered various parts of Guinness history. That was neat to learn about, other brewery tours I have done belonged to beers that have only been around for a short time compared to Guinness. At the end everyone (of age) gets a free beer, up in a bar from which you can see the city of Dublin from 360 degrees.

My last day in Dublin I had decided that I had seen enough of the city, so I went out to the Howth Peninsula, where things were supposed to be a little quieter. And they were. I thought I would hike to the highest point, but got rained out, so I walked around the small fishing town instead. Of course, then the rain cleared up.

Looking back on the Howth Peninsula from the piers.

At the end of the pier, taking a picture of the island just off the peninsula.

St. Mary's Church, found in Howth. It was left to ruins long ago, built even longer ago. What can be seen now was built around the 16th century. Now it is a cemetery, and there are even graves inside the ruin. I just happened to be walking down the street when I looked through the entrance and saw the rainbow.

I have now arrived in Galway, Ireland. People here are more than friendly, and last night I met great people in the hostel from Poland, among other places. We all sat around, drinking tea, coffee, or beer, chatting and listening to guitar music. People who could play took turns; it was an enjoyable evening.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Glasgow, Then Dublin

Glasgow was quite a bit different from the other places I visited in Scotland, though it was nice. The locals were very friendly, I had a great time with all that I met. Pubs were like fast food joints in the States: everywhere you look you could find at least one or two.

I made a visit to the Necropolis, and it was something else. Some of the monuments erected were so big they could be lived in. And as morbid as it might sound, I was a little disappointed at the lack of tombs. I suppose I expected something like can be found in some old churches in this part of the world. In fact, I found no open tombs, but that is probably okay. Even though I think I wanted to see it, it might have given me nightmares or something. Not a good thing to have in a hostel when the room you sleep in is shared with 9 other people.

Much of the city looks to be industrial. Sure, there are old buildings like seen in Edinburgh, but also a lot of factory-looking areas. Some places even look run down, like they could use a little pick me up. But, the city was much less touristy, and the general feel of the place made up for what it lacked in appearance.

On Saturday night I found my way to Dublin. My flight was delayed, so it was more like very early Sunday before I arrived. I had considered renting a car because I thought Ireland drove on the right side of the road, but then decided I was too exhausted to find myself around the city at night in an unfamiliar car. Boy am I glad I did that, because when I got into the cab I learned that they drive on the left side of the road, and automatics are hard to find. I just wish my cab fare would have been less than €30 - it might have been had I found a hostel in the city to stay in, but because of a Sting concert, all hostels had been booked far in advance, and I ended up staying at a B&B. Too bad the trains don't run that late at night.

Yesterday I came back into the city, found a cheap hostel, and now I am ready to explore Dublin. I can't wait to go on the Guinness tour. Lucky for me, my student ID will get me a good discount on this one. Hope to get some more pictures up soon, which should remind me to use my camera. Sometimes I get so involved in what I am doing I forget I have the camera in my backpack.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


So, I finally got onto a computer that could handle uploading pictures from my memory card. I considered putting the photos in with previously published posts, but decided they could go in their own.
This is another picture from Skara Brae. The place was really amazing. To think that at one time people actually lived in tiny little stone dwellings.
This was a ruin I found along my hike. The roof has caved in, and the back wall is nearly gone. I did climb inside, but it was not easy. More like crawling, the opening was very low. Not much to see inside though, but it was interesting to see how thick the walls were. This is believed to be a bit younger than Skara Brae, but still very old.

An awesome rock formation from along the hike. I'll have to fill in the name later.

The outside of the Italian Chapel. This was a prisoner of war site during WWII. The Italians were doing all they could to make their camp feel more like home, and the last thing they built was this chapel. Since it was war time, and they were prisoners, not much was made available to them by way of building materials. They used all they could get, but mostly it was scraps.

Inside the chapel. It looks like bricks, but don't be fooled. The walls are actually painted to give it the look it has. It was a very small chapel.

Edinburgh castle. I didn't go inside, it was too full of tourists. And the price was unreal. It was nice to view from the outside though.

This is an old castle that is in ruins now. I saw it from the ferry on my way to the Isle of Mull. It was on the mainland. Kinda hard to see, since it now has moss growing all over it. If I had more time in this area, I think it might be fun to go hunt it down, and see it from the ground.

Duart Castle from the ferry on the approach to the Isle of Mull. This castle is the reason I made the trip out to the Isle of Mull. It is owned (and still lived in) by the chief of the MacLean clan. There is some relation on my mom's side of the family, they were McLeans. This castle was nearly empty, and more affordable to visit. More fun too, since it wasn't a guided tour, you could just wander through at your leisure.

I really liked the color of this tree. It was at the Torosay Castle and Gardens, only down the road from Duart Castle. It is a short tree, only about as high as my waist. The gardens were fun to wander through, though in the summer the plants are probably nicer.

Torosay Castle, from the bottom of the gardens.

The stream that runs through the gardens.

That's it for pictures now. Today I take a bus to Glasgow, Scotland, and then on Saturday I fly off to Dublin. Hope you enjoyed the slideshow.