Cork and Blarney
Saturday, May 15th 2010
Last night at dinner I met up with a very nice German woman by the name of Claudia, we sat together at dinner talking and comparing travel notes on where we had been. She is 29 and has been traveling on and off different places since she was right out of college. She spent a year in Australia and some time in Asia and various other places around the globe. So it was rather nice to basically see myself in 10 years time and what I might be up to. Of course it is much easier for European citizens to attain visas to work other places than it is for us in the States. Believe me I looked into this and had a romanticized idea of working in a pub in England for 6 months or so and then taking the trip of a lifetime. However further research taught me that in fact I was not able to do this because of whatever laws our government has on people working abroad. I do believe that I may be able to get one for New Zealand and now I do believe that would be a good adventure here in the near future.
Anyway, we spent a good hour talking and finally agreed to go out on the city together to find some more or less traditional music. So we met up about 10 and off we went, granted we were informed Friday was not the night for such things but we found a great little place anyway. It was not traditional Irish music in the regular sense but a great and very talented guitar player doing traditional drinking songs and covers of U2 and Bruce Springsteen. For drinks I started with a pint of Guinness and ended with a local cider, both of which were excellent of course. We were also hit on by 5 different guys throughout the night but all were very respectful and kind and not pushy or rude. Even though they were heavily heavily intoxicated.
Now pubs unfortunately close up about 1am so the night was cut a little short, a quick stop at a kebab place where I munched on a veggie burger and chips and then back to the hostel.
This morning I slept in a little and after making myself breakfast and getting moving I caught a bus to Blarney to yes of course “kiss the blarney stone”. The bus ride was quick and painless once I found out where I needed to catch it; and I arrived in the small town of Blarney. Which is really about one main street, a large shopping complex, and some other very small random lanes. I immediately headed to the castle and paid the rather pricey 10 euros for entrance and off I went exploring this well known icon or Ireland. The castle is really in poor shape but considering age and neglect it had for many years; I learned it was even used to store cattle in the basement until about 60 years ago, it was still fun to explore.
Probably the most enjoyable seconds were stepping away from the hoards of tourists racing to the top to “kiss the blarney stone” and instead stand in the various rooms to the castle. One moment in particular was standing where the great hall was and listening to the way the voices of other visitors outside echoed off of the walls. I simply stood there for a moment to take it in and imagine myself there 500 years ago at some event or another. It was really spectacular to do this and extremely surreal as I felt in the whole of the castle, this unreal feeling on all I was seeing. I absolutely loved every minute of the climb up though it was a bit frightening due to the worn down and very small marble steps leading to the top. However when I got in line to “kiss the stone” I saw a woman that was 80 years old up there doing it and thought “well why the hell am I complaining at 19?” I give her a lot of credit for making it up there. This was not the climb for those with a fear of heights or are VERY clumsy (my sister Sarah) or one would be tumbling down a very long spiral staircase.
Now maybe you’ve seen pictures of people kissing the Blarney stone and maybe you haven’t however I must say that both are very inaccurate ideas of what all you have to do. Here are step by step instructions: 1. remove everything that may fall off and clunk anyone in the head at the bottom of the castle and that you do not want broken for example: glasses, purses, hats, scarves, large necklaces, and cameras. 2. place items with friend or on “floor” 3. lay down flat on your back. 4. Release any inhibitions on being manhandled by the man doing his job. 4. scoot forward as far as you can without smacking your head on the castle wall. 5. Grab onto black medal bars on either side of you attached to the castle walls. 6. Lean back as far as you can with man holding your waist. 7. see target and kiss. 8. hope the picture they just took that you can buy is decent. 9. raise yourself up and stand again with large smile on your face for what you’ve just accomplished. 10. Get ticket for daft touristy photo. 11. Walk away and wonder a minute, how many millions of lips have kissed that? 12. Hope HOPE HOPE!!! that no one that recently kissed it has herpes! 13. Walk down to the bottom of the castle. There you are 13 steps to kissing the Blarney stone!
After the castle I went on a brief walk in the woods surrounding the castle. It was again a surreal experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it making the expensive entrance fee worth while. After the castle I found a smoothie shop and sat for a while watching the center of the town which is a nice patch of green park. Then I went to the Blarney wool Mills a more or less tourist shopping trap that had great souvenirs but was way over priced and had little variety on colors and sizes which was frustrating. I finally decided on a red wool scarf and a workman’s shirt for my dad and called it good. However due to other absurdly slow customers I missed my bus and had to wait another hour and a half for the next. Though all was not lost I was able to sit in the park and have a picnic while watching some young kids play football (Soccer) and made friends with a two year old who wanted my crackers. I was thanked profusely by her parents for being nice and I did not in the least mind sharing, she was too cute it didn’t matter.
The bus came on time (Irish buses have it together) and I had a nice chat with a girl from North Carolina who was backpacking Ireland with her father for the next week. I’ve noticed the majority of people here in Ireland are only doing Ireland and barely have a week or two scheduled. Maybe I’m doing something wrong? I am regretting only getting a week here though. When I was at the pub the night previously I had this moment of sitting there and wishing I could just melt into the chair, become a piece of woodwork and stay there forever. Just to be in that moment was wonderful and I know now that I have got to come back to Ireland for longer and do a bit more out of the cities and tourist trail.
After Blarney I went back to the hostel and made myself dinner, where I met another very nice German by the name of Julia who is actually living in Dublin and working. We had a nice talk on this and that and went our separate ways. After dinner I was going to go get an Irish coffee but the pub that advertised them was out of cream so I settled for a cider, walked the town a bit more and due to exhaustion went back to the hostel to read my new “101 things to do before you die” and “Poems of Robert Burns” that I picked up at a local discount book store in Cork. Then it was sleepy time about 10:30pm
That was Cork a fun hip and upcoming tourist town; I enjoyed my time, but it’s very much a shopping town or stop over to do other things. Don’t expect too much for historical sights or fancy architecture but it was fun none the less and the people are just wonderful!