May 29, 2006
First Istanbul Image Gallery
I've added the first lot of Istanbul photos to the gallery. You can see them by logging in at here. Username: eurup, Password: eurup.
May 27, 2006
Back home, safe and sound
Well, I landed this morning at 1:00am and was kindly picked up by my brother Nick who took me home. I didnt end up going to bed until about 4am, but boy did I sleep well.
To kind of round of this blog, I'm planning on a Turkey wrap up and an annotated selection of my favourite photos.
Work on Monday, yay.
May 25, 2006
Fire at Istanbul Airport
We're back in Istanbul now, and as we've already spent some time here, I decided the other day to bring my return flights two days forward. I'm due to leave Istanbul at 7:20pm on the 25th May. However I've just checked CNN.com and apparently there has been a huge fire at the airport...
It doesn't appear that passenger flights have been affected. Fingers crossed.
May 18, 2006
Well, the sun was setting quite nicely tonight as we had our last dinner in Canakkale. Tommorow we're getting a very early bus to Selcuk. Enjoy the view:
View west from Canakkale promenade over the Dardanelles to the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Gallipoli - Part 1
Our second day in Canakale saw us with a 12:00pm tour of the Gallipoli battlefields; one of the fundamental reasons for wanting to come to the country in the first place. We arrived at 'ANZAC House' shortly beforehand and were met by our guide, a couple from Australia and a guy from Slovenia (he was researching Turkey I think, other than that I couldn't dream of why he would be interested in it). Our schedule for the day would firstly take us across the Dardanelles to Echeabat in the hostel's private boat, where we would have lunch and be joined by a bunch of other tourists who had just made the journey from Istanbul.
After the choppy trip across the Dardanelles and average lunch we set off on our tour in a small bus. The guide was a Turk who spoke excellent English and had even developed somewhat of an Australian accent. Along the way to the intended landing spot of ANZAC forces, our guide explained some of the background about the campaign and what the history of the area means to Turkish people. I kind of always thought it was a weird Aus/NZ thing, this interest in Gallipoli, but I was surprised to learn that Turks treasure this area just as much as we do, for a number of reasons:
1. It was a launching pad the career of the ubiquitous Mustafa Kumal Attaturk - an officer in 1915, Attaturk made many of the important decisions that helped the Turks resist the allied forces.
2. 1915 was a time at which Turkey was forging its nation state, and success at Gallipoli was an important factor in this.
3. It's great for tourism.
These important factors are reflected in the way the peninsula has been organised and managed (mostly), and in the way that every Turkish secondary student must visit the area as part of his/her curriculum.
Therefore, many hundreds of thousands of people visit this area every year, not just at ANZAC day (25/4) but also at another important date for Turks, the 18th March 1915, when their navy sank 3 allied naval ships in the Battle of Cannakale.
This inevitably led to the Gallipoli landings on the part of the allies as it was seen that the guns on either side of the Dardanelles would need to be silenced if Istanbul could be captured and Turkey taken out of the war, access granted to The Black Sea, and assistance given to the Russians. Anyway, enough of the history lesson.
We arrived at the intended landing spot, pictured below:
You can see the large open beach there and the slope off the left is fairly gentle. However the point of land you can see poking out had some Turkish guns on it which would have made the landings somewhat of a bloodbath. This small bay is just south of the actual landing spot, what we now called ANZAC Cove.
We drove the short distance north to ANZAC Cover along a very tight, mostly broken road. This is the road that caused some problems for the Australian government earlier this year. It turns out that the road always existed, it just needed to be widened to cater for the massive amount of people that frequent this area on ANZAC day. Fair enough, however the workers cut into the cliffs off the bay and dumped the sand on the beach... the ANZAC landing beach, making it somewhat smaller than it should be. Apparently many of the guides in the area came and protested the actions of the workman to have it stopped, but not before a few truckloads of sand had been dumped. You can see the road on the right hand side of this shot:
From this point we were also able to walk along a small track to the Australian Memorial just next to ANZAC Cove:
The memorial is very well kept, but small, much too small for the ANZAC Day service. The service is now held on the other side of ANZAC Cove at another Australian memorial. From this memorial you can see the cliffs the troops had to conquer on the first day of the campaign. The striking feature in the center of the shot is called 'The Sphinx':
The photo's don't capture it of course, but these beaches are very moving to look at and study.
May 16, 2006
Quite a view
I've taken some shots of the view from my hotel room in Cannakale:
May 15, 2006
Our bus wasn't scheduled to leave Istanbul until about 12pm, so we had a relaxing morning at the hotel. The bus ride was mostly uneventful except for the speeding fine our bus driver got about half way through the trip. The whole bus was peering out the window staring at our bus driver argue with the 'Trafik Polis', the exact words used were lost on us, but needless to say there was much hand movement and loud, presumebly colourful, Turkish language.
After some 5 hours we ended up at the small town of Eceabat, which sits right on the Dardenelles; the throughfare to Istanbul, and the Black Sea. It's not much of a town to look at and seems to be focused around the buses and cars waiting to cross the Dardenelles on a car ferry to Cannakale (pronounced Chanakali). Unfortunately for us there was a very, very long queue of buses and cars waiting for said ferry, in order to make the crossing.
We waited outside the bus for a while and eventually one of the bus company people (who spoke no english, and was frankly in dire need of some customer service lessons) motioned to us that the chances of getting on the next ferry were slim, and we may as well proceed on foot and jump on the ferry as people, rather than as part of a bus. You understand that this communication took some time as we used a combination of sign language, facial expressions and hand waving in order to eventually, get too the point. So we unloaded our bags from the bus and ran the gauntlet of tauts selling food and crappy Anzac WW1 souvenirs, towards the ticket box.
With tickets in hand we jumped on and made the short trip across the famous Dardenelles, with russian and turkish tankers slipping by us on the way to the Aegian Sea and beyond.
Upon landing at Cannakale we found a small party town where Turks go to sun themselves and have picnics and, it seems, watch soccer matches. The town was buzzing as we pulled into port, hundreds of locals and tourists strutting along a sea shore boulevard with tens of cafes and restaurants facing the impressive view back too Eceabat and an exceptional sunset.
We found our hotel - The Akol Hotel - 4 star, but dirt cheap in this part of the world, and checked in.
It was late in the day, but we wanted to secure some tours for our purpose in this little corner of Turkey, namely Troy and of course the Gallipoli Battlefields. Taking Lonely Planet's word for it we located 'ANZAC House Hostel', which amongst other things, offers exceptional guided tours of these two sites. After a week of having protracted hand gesture driven conversations with people who dont speak English, it was kind of nice to walk into this hostel and be greeted by the guy at the desk who spoke excellent english, was a Turk, but perhaps said 'No worries' a few too many times.
I had images of this town being basically a terrible collection of 'Aussie' hotels and drunken backpackers, but I was pleasantly surprised. The 'Australianness' wasn't too overdone and really just seemed to be trying to provide a helpful service to Aus/NZ travellers who are trying to get to the famous battle sites. So we booked into two tours, one to Troy tommorow, and another the following day to Gallipoli.
Next on the agenda was dinner. We found a restaurant that looked a little too empty, which worried us until the waiter pointed out that this was one of the few places without a TV. All the other bars and restaurants in the town were packed with Turks glued to some vastly important soccer game. Whilst chatting over dinner we were frequently drowned out by screams of delight or pain as a goal was scored or missed. Eventually, the good guys won and the streets and boulevard turned into chaos. A massive group, perhaps 400 fans roamed the town screaming anthems and chanting team songs - it was quite a sight. We grabbed a seat at a bar after dinner to watch the madness unfold and it became clear that this celebration wouldn't end early.
As I sit here in my hotel room, overlooking the Darndenelles and main street, I have hundreds of people and cars, all screaming and blowing their horns simultaneously, down below.
There was a loud, familiar noise in our hotel room this morning at about 5am, it was my mobile. It hasn't rung for a while, but in my half aware state I was sure I knew what the call was about. My sister jumped out of her bed, also half awake and picked up the hotel rooms phone convinced we were being called from that direction. I answered the mobile to be greeted by the happy and relieved voice of my friend Jon Eaves. Sue had given birth to a healthy boy named George, and more importantly, everyone involved was happy and healthy.
Congratulations guys! I so wish I could have been there to follow the action from closer to home, but alas, such is life. There is no one I know more destined and deserved of being new parents than Jon and Sue. George will undoubtedly have a wonderful and fulfilling life with such caring, loving and fun parents as yourselves.
May 13, 2006
A trip out of town
My sister and I decided to leave the hurly burly of Istanbul today and head for some islands just off Istanbul called Prince's Islands.
We purchased our tickets and jumped on the next available ferry out there. It was packed, mainly with tourists, but not the usual mix of Americans and French. These groups were Iranian, Japanese, Syrian and a few others. We sat next to this large group of Iranian girls who seemed to be having a great time, babbling away in Farsi. They were all very well dressed and seemed fairly sophisticated, and ,for want of a better word, western. It was certainly not the image of Iranian people we see on CNN or whatever. These girls were clearly out to party a bit as they had no head scarves on and would break into song every now and again. It was quite a fun trip.
There are 4 islands in the group but we chose to head for the biggest one as we only had a day to explore. The largest island is BŁyŁkada which is the kind of place Istanbuller's go to get away from the heat in the summer months.
BŁyŁkada has seen better days, it's rackety unsealed roads are full of huge old weatherboard Ottoman houses, mostly in a state of disrepair. There's not a hell of a lot to see here other than the a fantastic view from the highest of its two peaks. Most tourists were securing a horse drawn buggy to get to the top of the first peak and then either walk or get a donkey to the higher peak. Feeling energetic Cazz and I decided that it would be a nice walk.
After a decent walk to the first peek we were greeted by some sort of French/Turkish school's friendship music festival thingy. The loud speakers were blasting what sounded like Eurovision Finalists, think synthesised versions of Axel F and such from the Beverly Hills Cop sound track. Teams of teenagers were milling about causing trouble amongst the horses and carts. We tentatively set off for the second peak after seeing the incredibly steep ascent that awaited us.
Once we got to the top, a little weary, we were met with a spectacular view of Istanbul and the urban sprawl around it, as well as a much earned cold beer. Also up there was a small 6th century monastery which was still in use.
We made the decent soon after and caught the next ferry back to Istanbul, very tired and ready for bed.
A quiet day in Istanbul tommorow before we head off for Cannakale on Sunday.
May 12, 2006
Just a taste
Another day in this strange, beautiful city passes. Today we got up later than usual (well I got up late, my sister had to drag me out of bed), and headed to the Topkapi Palace. This is the palace of the Ottoman's, a much more Turkish experience compared to the quasi-european thing we saw the other day.
It was damned busy, bus loads of tourists everywhere. First up was the Harem, which much to my surprise (dissapointment?), wasn't a place of endless orgies, but rather a private place for the Sultan, his 4 wives and up to 300 concubines(!) could exist in privacy. This was a fairly rushed tour so you couldn't really stay too long in there. After that we grabbed some lunch then toured the rest of the palace. As I mentioned, its a much more authentic Turkish Palace, none of the trappings of exclusive French and Italian furnishings here; more like what you'd expect from, well, something Turkish.
As an added bonus I've cropped and reduced three images from my growing collection to show here:
This is the view from our hotel in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque:
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul:
Gap of Dunloe:
Newgrange, north of Dublin:
May 11, 2006
Wanna buy a rug?
Well here we are in Turkey. Istanbul to be precise. My sister and I arrived on seperate flights on Sunday afternoon; we met up and headed for our hotel, the Ararat Hotel, deep in Old Istanbul directly opposite the Blue Mosque. The view from the rooftop bar of our hotel is, to be blunt, fucking amazing.
The mosque is HUGE; you can sit there on the balcony sipping a beer and staring at it for hours. On our first night here we were sitting on the balcony chatting and the call to prayer blasted out from the loud speakers perched on the spires of the mosque. It gave us such a fright we spent the next 10 minutes pissing ourselves laughing. After the initial shock of the these loud speakers crying "Allahu Akbar" across the city it actually becomes quite poignant on a still night as you can hear all the other mosques in the area, slightly out of sync, blasting their own neighbours.
Today we caught a ferry over to the other side of the city and visited the Dollmabahce Palace - which is where the Sultans of Turkey perched themselves to impress western leaders about how powerful and "western" they are. The tour guide took great pride in explaining where all the bits and peices in the palace were from: Italy, Paris, London etc. It dawned on me half way through that there wasn't alot of the contents of this place actually from Turkey. Besides that the palace was fairly impressive; think Palace in any other part of europe, then completely over do the inside with the most ornate stuff you can find - paintings, furniture, carpets, light fittings, cornices etc etc.
The tour group we were with were pretty horrible to be honest. The most annoying being a group of Arabs from Syria who were pooncing around in their designer clothes, too much gold and mobile phones taped to their ears. We were basically just extra's on their tour through the palace as they pushed their way to the front of any group of people to photograph everything on their new minature digital cameras. We left the palace an hour later, thoroughly annoyed.
We then made our way up too a bus company's ticket office nearby in order to buy tickets to our next destination, Cannakale, which typically serves as a retreat for people visiting Gallipoli and Troy. We leave here on Sunday morning for our 6 hour (oh joy) bus ride down south.
Walking around Istanbul can be patience testing. Every man and his dog are selling everything from carpets, shoe shines, souvenirs, even the opportunity to be weighed. We've become pretty good at just marching through them and avoiding the half english conversations that ensue. One of their tricks is to engage you in conversation about where you're from. I've been asked if I was from: England, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland even Lismore New South Wales, I think he had a cousin there.
May 10, 2006
The missing photos
I've had a few people email me about getting some photo's online for you all too see. Sorry about this. I have taken a heap (300 or so), but their all at very high quality (1.5mb) and so take time to convert and upload.
I'll convert some choice ones tonight and put them on. I dont think i'll get the time to do a bulk photo posting though. I'll also do a turkey post detailing the last few days.
May 07, 2006
Heathrow is a zoo
I'll post the rest of the Ireland series later on (when I write it), but just wanted too fill you all in on where I am now. I've just flown from Dublin to London and am waiting in transit for my flight to Istanbul. So im sitting in the wi-fi area with about a billion people around me. It's funny I still get a gee wizz feeling about connecting to the net wirelessly in a weird place.
Heathrow is a zoo, in fact Dublin Airport is a zoo as well. I arrived at Dublin Airport at 5am (!) and it was absolutely packed. Heathrow, as you'd probably expect mid sunday morning, is chaos.
Other than that, not much to report; I'm very tired and sick of looking in duty free stores. I'll be glad to have some downtime in Istanbul I think.
May 04, 2006
03/05/2006 - I crawled out of bed at 8:30am and headed downstairs for breakfast. I'm about to run out of superlatives to explain this breakfast, so bear with me. My table was waiting for me in a corner, seconds after I sat down a basket of delicious breads was placed in front of me, with toast, croissants, scones and fruit bread. I grabbed a bowl and spooned out some chunky home made museli. When I got back to my table a steaming pot of coffee was waiting for me. Also on offer were various fresh fruits, yoghurts, salmon, cheeses etc. After quaffing the museli a nice old lady asked me for my breakfast order... I was already pretty full (but when someone offers you a buffet breakfast and you're travelling on a budget - stuff yourself). I ordered some scrambled eggs and mushrooms. After finising that and 4 peices of toast with some really, really good marmalade I was almost ready to vomit; but damn, it would have been a truly tasty, healthy vomit.
I managed to stagger back up to my room and resist the urge to fall asleep again. I jumped in the car and headed towards Blarney. Blarney Castle is situated in the town of Blarney, about 30km's north west of Cork. At the top of the castle is something called the Blarney Stone, kissing it apparently gives you 'the gift of the gab'. I arrived at Blarney, parked and headed on foot towards the castle. The place was packed with middle aged/old aged American tourists; all dressed in those cream coloured weather proof pants and jackets. This was tourist hell in my book. The tour coaches were arriving by the minute brining lots of US dollars into the horrible massive souvenier store strategially placed near the entrance of the castle 'park'.
I paid 9 euro (yikes) to get into the grounds of the castle. At the entrance there is a sign stating the desire of the park authorities for visitors to take care of the place and ensure it remains 'authentic', clearly the electric flood lights and security camera's clamped on the side of the castle don't fall under this rule. I climbed to the top and was greeted with a fairly impressive view of Blarney and the surrounding landscape. A staff member was assisting people kiss the stone at the top, as it requires you too lie on your back and extend yourself over a 50 foot drop. The thought of kissing a peice of rock that has been slobbered on by thousands, nee millions of tourists, made me want too bring back up my breakfast. I politely declined the staff member's offer to let me kiss the stone; he seemed to be having more fun 'assisting' young women kiss it anyway.
I made my way to the bottom and headed out of town. At this time, the rain had started again.
My next stop was Cobh (pron Cove). Cobh used to be called Queenstown and was:
1. The last port the Titanic stopped at on it on its way to the bottom of the Atlantic.
2. The Lusitania was sunk just off the coast by a German submarine - assisting the US in getting into WW1.
3. A principal port for the millions of convicts and emigrants to leave Ireland in the 19th century.
So Cobh has seem some important history. To exhibit these events there's a 'Heritage Center' that is itself a reconstruction of the original port building with a walk through explanation of all these events. There was lots of mention of convicts and migrants headed for Australia leaving from this port which was good to see.
After the exhibit I had a quick drive around Cobh. It's a beautiful little town with lots of little multi-coloured buildings facing the coast. By this stage it was 3pm, so I headed into central Cork once again to check my mail and have a last look around.
Tommorow I head for Kilkenny - the last town in my tour of Ireland.
02/05/2006 - I got up early with the intention of completing the rest of the Ring of Kerry and making the 10am ferry to Skellig Michael... until I looked out the window. What I saw was much like one of those ferociously windy wet Melbourne days where the temperature doesnt rise above 9c. The rain was heavy too; not weak drizzle, but sheets of rain, falling at a sharp 'in your face' angle. Not good. To be blunt, the weather was really, really, shit.
I checked out of the hotel and headed towards Kenmare - the first town you hit in the ring going the opposite direction that I used yesterday. By the time I got there, the weather was much worse, getting out of the car involved getting drenched immediately. What were once awesome views from the road became just mist and fog. There was not much I could do so I headed towards Cork instead.
A couple of hours later I arrived in Cork. Cork is a very old city, slightly larger than Killarney, and more 'city like'. I made the mistake of going straight into the center of Cork city. Irish cities, with the exception of Dublin, have this annoying feature they call a city loop. No, its not a train route, but a road that traces through the center of town, one way. The entrance to the loop is also typically the only place where you can make the decision to enter it or exit it. So if you miss this split second decision you are sentenced to another 20 minute loop of the city center. It's 20 minutes because the traffic in small, old Irish towns is really really horrible. I'm sure they're all just lost tourists like me who missed the last chance to leave the loop. Eventually I found a place to park the car and explore the center of town on foot. The rain had not subsided at all, in fact it was probably heavier. I found an internet place to check my mail and catch up on some Australian news. After that I grabbed a coffee to warm me up and headed back to the car. I now needed to find my B&B. I had already booked a place that Lonely Planet had recommended, in addition to being comfy it went on and on about the awesome breakfast you get. Sounds good.
Navigating Cork is hellish. Most of the streets are fast moving, thin and one way. A nano-second's hesitation earns you a chorus of anxious beeping from the cars behind you. I love Lonely Planet, but the map of Cork they provided was inadequate to navigate with any degree of confidence. The best you can do is grab a street name from the map, then try and drive the car in the vague direction of that street; use that street as a base of knowledge, then use the map to navigate to the next landmark etc, until you arrive at the street of your destination. By a stroke of luck I managed to find the B&B and was welcomed in and invited to Scones and Tea. I gracefully declined, I just wanted to flop in my room for an hour or so.
In the evening I thought I'd walk into town and have dinner. It was raining a bit outside, but I didnt think it was too bad. I didnt get 200m down the road before I was compleatly soaked. So I turned back, got changed, then jumped in the car and parked in town. Lonely Planet recommended a steak pub/restaurant in Cork called Clancy's. Amazingly I found it without too much trouble. The steak was damned good, and washed down with a Guinness made it all the better. But to be honest, I hate dining in restaurants solo; I feel like such as loser.
Ring of Kerry
01/05/2006 - The next day I rose quite early, ready to explore at least half of the Ring of Kerry. The hotel lobby was empty as I guess all the other guests were sleeping off their hangovers.
My first, and unplanned, stop was something called the Gap of Dunloe. This is basically a very thin little road leading through some truly impressive scenery. The road actually cuts into the Ring of Kerry and is walled on both sides by large hills/mountains and a stream criss-crossing the road in places. Wandering onto the road are sheep and goats. This was Vista central. It was as though you drive along and at some anonymous command center there's a production team saying things like "ok, queue the cute lamb crossing the ancient picturesque stone bridge", just as you pull into the turn. Postcard shots everywhere. I think I took about 80 photo's as I spent 2 hours crawling along this road. Eventually I came to a valley with a long drop and a small village at the bottom. This was the middle, so to speak. I turned back and returned to the main road and continued my drive.
I passed Killorglin, which didnt really have much to look at, and began to make my way to Cahersiveen, another 50k's down the road, along some very rugged coastline. This coast is facing Dingle Bay. There are barely any trees, and the hills are rugged and windswept. Plenty more vista's here. Cahersiveen is a small town perched on the high side of an inlet. It faces, across the inlet, some very old (1 - 2000 years old) stone forts as well as the remains of a medieval castle which sits on some private land. Once I grabbed a sandwich for lunch I made my way to the castle. There were about 5 other tourists there with the same idea. From where I stood they were _in_ the castle, peering out 'windows'. This amazed me because, well, there wast much left of it, there must be a flight of steps still leading up to those windows. Sure enough the interior of the castle is kind of intact. The back of it had collapsed, but the exposed side of the castle still had a stair case leading up to the second story. I was nervous creeping around, i can see OHS consultants drawing short panicy breaths at the thought of anyone going any where near it. But I pressed on, I wasnt going to let this opportunity pass me by. After the castle I was a little 'ruined' out, but I went to the nearby fort. It was completely intact, even with inner steps to firing positions.
Now I was at a juncture; I was very close to the end of the peninsula, half way through the Ring of Kerry. I had another day to explore the other side, and perhaps even get the early ferry to Skellig Michael, a protected outcrop of islands where there were some particularly old ruins. It was 3pm and the drive back was non-trivial; so I headed off. By the time I got back to Killarney the rain had settled in. As I drove into town I noted with satisfaction that all the B&B's were completely empty and earnestly displaying 'Vacancies' signs. The Bank weekend had ended and I was back to comparatively sensible accomodation costs. By sensible I mean the cost of a room now was around 70 euro, rather than 100 euro. This price seems pretty consistent across western Ireland for the type of room I needed. This is mid range, the step below is youth hostel, a step up is '4/5 star hotel'. Travelling as an individual is also expensive. 'Double' rooms are more cost effective; the cost can be shared, yet the footprint of a couple's room is the same as an single person's.
I had some dinner in the bar and collapsed into bed. Tommorow I would complete the rest of the Ring of Kerry, then head too Cork.
30/04/2006 - I woke the next morning and decided to try and get to the Aran Islands off Galway's coast. These are accessible via ferry from down the coast at a town called Rossaveel. The drive down there was quite picturesque, amidst the sheets of rain bucketing down. The weather had moved in big time. By the time I got to Rossaveel it was 11.00am, the sign on the door for the ferry place said the next sailing was at 12:15pm. Poor planning, sure.
I decided against the Aran Islands, considering the horrible weather and the time, it wouldn't be much fun over there anyway. I headed back into Galway and looked around the town center. Considering the masses of people that were here the night before, the town center was empty, wet and windy. To be honest there wasnt much here for me. I decided to leave and make my way to Kilarney, my base for exploring the Ring of Kerry. It wasnt quite as long a drive as the previous day but it was long enough in that weather. Driving in Ireland is much like driving in Australia except there are very few dual carriageways and the single carriageways are thin, whilst maintaining a 100kph speed limit. In sheets of rain, this is not for the feint hearted.
I eventually arrived in Kilarney. Kilarney is basically a hub for exploring the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a 200k ring of road, along the way there are various things to see such as castle's, forts, historical sites as well as truly impressive scenery. But that was for later, my immediate task was to find somewhere to sleep. Everyone who was previously in Galway had now magically transported to Killarney and had also taken almost every room in the city. This time I didnt dick around too much and just headed to the outskirts of town and found the nearest large chain hotel and asked for a room. Due to it being Bank Holiday weekend, the price for a single room was horrendous, but not as bad as some of the prices i'd been quoted in Galway. I also didnt care too much about the location. I had a car and wasnt really planning on seeing much of Killarney itself, I just needed a based from which to explore the Ring tommorow. So I took the room for one night with plans to get another night (Monday) knowing that it would be significantly cheaper as the weekend had ended.
The hotel was just a massive chain type place. And it was absolutely packed. The lobby also doubled as a snack bar, and there is no snack bar in Ireland without at least 20 beer taps. This resulted in loads of people all over the lobby drinking and eating, kids crawling all over the floor. After a long day driving in the rain, I didnt need this. Kilarney itself was a larger representation of this room, as every geezer in Ireland was trolling the streets from bar to bar.
Somewhere in Ireland
29/04/2006 - Well, I decided not to go to Belfast. For starters I havn't heard from Aiden and more importantly I have called around 10 hotels in Belfast and they are all full. Hmm, I wonder why? Bank Holiday, that's why. Everyone in Ireland was heading too, or was already at, whereever it I was I was planning on going.
So I've reverted back to my southern route. This will involve Galway, Kilarney, Cork, Kilkenny and back to Dublin for the final night. But before I headed off to Galway (a 200k drive west), Aidan told me about a pre-historic tomb half way between Dublin and Belfast called Newgrange.
I picked up the car after much waiting around at the hire place. It's a nice blue VW Golf. My first challenge was to get out of Dublin, I needed to find the M1 which heads north to Belfast. According to the bloke at the hire place I was 'a fair way' from where I wanted to be. He gave me some initial instructions which got me about 700m from the hire place, now I was on my own. I followed the signs to the N1, thinking it might be some inner city version of the M1 - bingo, I was right. Soon I was safely scooting up the M1 towards Newgrange. I arrived at the tombs and headed towards the entrance and was informed by the woman inside that I had to go to a Visitor's Center to buy a ticket, then catch a shuttle back to the tombs where there is a short tour. By the time the tour was over and I was back at the car it was 3pm. I had to get too Galway and find a hotel. The guide book said there were lots and lots of B&B's so I thought getting somewhere to stay wouldn't be too hard. The drive was mostly uneventful, some of the scenery along the way was impressive, but probably more striking were the hundreds of itty bitty towns dotting the country side, varying sizes, most with postcard 'cuteness' look to them.
I arrived in Galway at about 6:30, and it appeared that the entire population of Ireland had arrived some hours before me. Oh dear. There were lots and lots of B&B's but there were also lots and lots of people prowling the streets by foot and car to find a place to stay. There was also another problem - I was travelling alone. You'd think this would be to my advantage, I only need a small room. Apparently not, of the places I checked that did have a room, they were double rooms and the proprieter's wanted to charge me double room prices that would really hurt. After driving around for an hour or so, I was getting desperate. I had images of sleeping in the car for a night - this didnt appeal to me considering the number of 'lads and geezers' roaming the streets, already quite pissed. I retreated back to a series of hotels I saw on my way in. These were a fair way out of town in Oranmore, a few k's east of Galway. I eventually found a room at 'Oranmore Lodge' - a huge, 'haunted house at the top of the hill' type, restored 19th Century house where there was a wedding in progress. The lady at the counter offered me the room after a warning. She said the room was fine but it was still in the 'older' style and wasnt upgraded. She could have told me that the walls start bleeding at midnight and I would have still taken it. Considering the weekend, 80 euro wasnt too bad.
The room certainly had a haunted feel to it. It was located at the end of a very long dark hallway on the second floor. As the wedding was in progress there was virtually no one else around up there. The door to the room was very stiff and needed a decent shove to get it open, doing this made a huge noise which echo'ed up the hallway. Creeps factor = 10. The room itself had a small TV, double bed, a sit down do your makeup type mirror and chest, and a bathroom in this second tier to the room, accessible via 3 steps. The room also had a huge window with some creepy white flowing curtains on either side. By this stage it was late and I just wanted to crash. Luckily Godfather 3 was on TV to take my mind off the shaking bed and the crazy guy in the roof speaking latin to me.
28/04/2006 - After settling the hotel problem for the 6th it was time to go an see some more sights in Dublin. First on the agenda was the Book of Kells - a pre-medieval copy of 3 bible testaments (circa 800AD). It's housed within the grounds of Trinity University, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone. The book is strategically housed behind a massive gift shop, selling all things Kells and all things Trinity. So I grabbed my ticket and went in. There were some informative displays and factoids leading up to The Book. Once I got too it there was a small army of elderly tourists hogging the viewing spots. I muscled some pensioners out of the way and had a good look. The level of detail on its inscriptions are incredible.
Once done there the tour path led me upstairs to the Long Room. This is a very long single room that houses the very oldest books at the University. On special display were some of the original manuscripts of Samuel A'Beckett, the famed Irish author.
Lunch was in order so I went and grabbed a sandwich and sat in the St Steven's Green, a fairly large park adjacent to the University. It was filled with couples, tourists and school girls skipping school and sharing ciggarettes.
In the afternoon I eventually found the Guinness Brewery. This is like another Irish Catholic Cathedral to Dubliners. The Guinness phenomenon is as much a testament too good stout as it is too truly amazing marketing. The tour itself was so so. I've done the Cascade Brewery tour and that was far more interesting. At Cascade I actually got too see real brewing, the Guinness tour was a fairly bland and uninteresting collection of AV displays and information boards with moody lighting.
Tommorow is hire car day. I'll pick up the car at some stage in the morning and head north to Belfast.