Cork, Ireland — Today is a good day. This may be the first blog I am writing that will be semi comprehensible, because I’m not writing at one in the morning. The original plan was to head to Blarney Castle today but things changed. After talking to Fidel this morning (Fidel is the older Irishman in the reception with an affinity for all things Castro) we found out that the city of Cork was playing the city of Kerry in a final round of Gaelic Football.
Gaelic Football can only be explained as American football, meets soccer, meets basketball, meets rugby. It is one of the most brutal sports you can imagine. Two teams play on a soccer field with what appears to be a volley ball. You may dribble, carry, kick, or head butt the ball. You get 1 point for getting the ball between a pair of goal post and three points for getting it in a soccer goal that is set in the middle of the goal post.
While you can’t use hands you may batter your opponents with almost every other part of your body as long as they have the ball. The ball stays in play through almost the entire game, even when a player is receiving medical treatment on the field. Oh… and did I mention that the only padding they wear is gloves?
We decided that we would root for Cork’s team (Corcaigh) for two reasons; first because they were the underdogs, and second because we were in Cork and didn’t want to get beat up. We walked almost two miles in the pouring rain, all the way debating whether or not this was a good idea. When we got to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Corks main stadium we found out the tickets were €15 instead of the €10 euro Fidel had told us.
We still pressed ahead. Halfway through the game things were not looking good. Cork was down 3 to 9 and the crowd had become a grumbling, swearing, mass of put off Irish. I had a Kerry fan standing behind me and I was looking for an exit should a brawl break out. The halftime show was a young girls Gaelic Football match and a sheet of raindrops so big that they actually hurt when they hit you.
After the halftime Cork reentered the field and as almost a sign from above the rain stopped and the sun burst through the clouds. Corcaigh could not be stopped. Brutal play after brutal play, the crowd was wild with excitement and cheers. Final Cork tied Kerry at 11 to 11. A few more moments and Cork had taken the lead, the crowd burst into an uproar and we did too. By the time the game ended half of the crowd was already at the gates or climbing the fence, ready to rush the field and congratulate their team. This has to be one of the early highlights of the trip.
Cork, Ireland —There have long been havens of socialism in the world; Russia, Cuba, China, and… Cork? The Peoples Republic of Cork is another name for Cork city in southern Ireland. Apparently the idea of The People’s Republic of Cork (TPRC) was started by “some guy”, according to our hostel keep.
This “guy” started making t-shirts featuring the words TPRC and various communist propaganda style icons. It became popular and evolved in to a website that is a library of Cork-isms. According to the hostel keep, the county of cork has always been very nationalist. Nationalism in Ireland is much different then it is in the US. Nationalism in Ireland is a sort of liberal socialism.
I felt this was a good story to accompany my photos of Irish graffiti. Ireland’s particular style of graffiti has a unique branch of stenciling. The graffiti in Ireland is often of the political bent and bears the scars of the war for independence. It is odd to remember that we are in Ireland just a few years after gun fights would break out in the streets between the IRA and the police. I thought I would include these photos not only because I find theme artistically pleasing but because they are also an interesting look at the culture of Ireland.
Cork, Ireland — I hate to give into stereotypes but it’s true the Irish drink like fish and are the friendliest people on earth. We landed at the ferry port and took a bus into Dublin. We checked into our hostel and noticed a completely different atmosphere from London; friendly people who wanted to talk to you and a completely relaxed environment.
We headed down to the local pub and had some of the most delicious beef stew that I have ever had. The hostel is the kind of hostel that has all night reggae parties and the beer flows like water… come to think of it there is most likely more beer then water. So far there are only nice drunks. I have learned that there are a few general categories when it comes to travel. One of those categories are people who can’t drink in there own country so come to Europe to get wasted. I can’t tell you enough about how glad I am that we are not in that category. The drunks are tolerable except when the stumble into your room at three in the morning and shine a light on your face looking for there bed.
The atmosphere in Dublin is such that there is almost nothing to do but drink, even the main tourist attractions are breweries, on our first day in Cork the atmosphere seems much better and the country side is right outside your door. The train ride was beautiful. The Irish country side is one of the most amazing things that I have seen in my life. We met up with a guy named Tom who traveled with us from Dublin. He is a well of historic knowledge and a great guy to hang out with. Meeting people while traveling may be one of the best parts about this life. I’m still having a great time and finally beat the jet lag.
I felt that that London deserved a second blog after my nap. We slept for around two hours but it felt like the next day when we awoke. We were still dead tired and the hostel was a muggy as a swamp. We were planning on staying in this hostel when we came back but now I think we are going to opt for one with an air conditioner.
After we booked our ticket to Dublin we were out of energy and tired. It was seven o’clock at night but it felt like 6 in the morning because of the time difference. We then bought a tourist map from a vending machine and headed into the historic section of London. As soon as we popped up from the underground rail we saw the Tower of London. I think this is when the trip really started for me. I can’t say enough about the beauty of London. Traveling for our hostel to the center of London is like going from east LA to… well nothing really compares to London.
It’s clean, cool, and has the most spectacular architecture that I have ever seen. We had a very good dinner at the Wetherspoon pub right across the street form the tower of London. I had a mint and lamb burger and a pint of Guinness all for £4.99 which is good in London. Then Caleb thought we should ride a double-decker bus. So we hoped on one with no idea of where it was going.
We ended up at Big Ben and Parliament. After getting our bearings we headed back to the Hostel and got our first good night of sleep. Now I’m sitting on the train to Dublin and enjoying the English countryside. As a side note the photo of the bottles that I included is what was propping our hostel window open. By the time I reached a place I could post this we were in Dublin but that is another story for a another day.
Pack light. I can’t say it enough 25lbs or under. Best would be one bag you could fit in carry on. It will save you a ton of time and back ache.
No Matter how funny it may be, it is impolite to snicker every time the announcer on the Tube says that you are going to Cockfosters.
Around 7:00am we cleared customs. Caleb arrived a few hours later and by 10:00 we were on the tubes headed for our hostel. There are so many things to talk about I don’t know where to start besides the start. Long distance air travel may be the single most unpleasant experience know to mankind. Perhaps all of mankind is too broad a statement (I must pause this blog to inform you that a cowboy just rollerbladed past the window of the bar I’m sitting in) back to mankind being a broad statement. It may be that it is the single most miserable experience for mankind over six feet and 200lbs. The only redeeming thing was the food. Yes, it was so bad that airline food was the redeeming factor. They gave us enough food to hold us over until dinner tonight. Ben and Caleb both got Hindu meals and Luke got a kosher meal, how this happened I’ll leave up to your imagination. I may have also packed too heavy. The bag is already stating to feel like a burden. I may have to revaluate my packing plan. The first really great part of trip was riding the Tube. We found out that for seven pounds (14 dollars) you can ride all day. We made it with in a few block of the hostel but finding it took around an hour. Finally in a last ditch effort we looked at a map and found the hostel in around five minutes. Everyone is very tired; I have slept less than 6 hours in the last to days. We will probably grab some dinner tonight and hit then hay early. The hostel is nice; we are staying for around 16 dollars a night. It has a nice pub on the bottom floor that provides a room to write from. London itself is almost depressing not because it’s not fun but the city seems like it is crumbling. To be fair I have only seen the airport some of the suburbs and the area around Hyde Park but it still feels like the city is in a state of plugging holes in a breaking dyke. Houses and industrial area smoke stacks tilt to the side. The famous gardens of the English country side seem to overwhelm the houses in London rather then add to them, almost as if nature was reclaiming the land. I guess London feels like a once great city rather then a modern center of civilization with. That could be the layers of history or it could be the fact that everything is built from brick and seems unchanging like it will be there forever and never improve. However I feel the depressing vibe I’m getting from London is a combination of Sweltering Humidity, Sleep Deprivation, and only seeing the Airport, train, and the semi-sketchy neighborhood our hostel is in. Luke thinks we got the cold shoulder from the locals on the Tube but I think people were just upset because our bags were so large. The only person I heard say anything negative about us was another American who we may have hit in the face, accidentally, with a backpack. Don’t let the first part of this blog make you think that I’m not having a good time. London is really awesome and being with the guys is great. The first moment I really felt like this was going to work was when the plane tipped its wing and I saw Big Ben. I think getting over jet lag and having a good meal will put everything right.