Thursday, May 21, 2015

Eurotrip - Dublin to Germany - May 6th - 8th


I hate traveling via airplanes. This is hilarious, because this trip requires me to fly on 7 planes in 15 days.

Surprisingly, the trip to Dublin from St. Louis was not bad. Security went quick, the flight went faster than scheduled, and even though I didn't sleep at all on the plane, we landed in Dublin and hit the streets immediately.

Most of the airports for these cities are fairly far away since you know... the cities in Europe were all built several hundred years before we had airplanes. So there's no way to avoid at least 45 minutes of travel after you get off the plane. Luckily Dublin's bus was incredibly easy to figure out. You hop on and it drives south to all the major spots you would want in the city.

The Adventure 

I have always had a romantic view of Dublin Ireland. One where everyone seems happy. Everything is green. You watch out for your fellow country men and have great pride in it.

This was not what I was greeted with. It was dreary and rainy. Everything was a shade of gray or brown. And there were more Americans and Englishmen than Irish.

It was as if they were trying to be a miniature England. "Yeah, we have castles and cathedrals... They are a bit smaller than those guys over the sea, but its still pretty good."

Irish drinking is a true thing. Every street is lined by shops, and every other shop is a full pub. Its not the sort of drinking Germans do (more on that later). Germans drink to celebrate, the Irish seem to drink to cope with a tough life. There's thousands of years of rough history behind the eyes of every blue collared, stumbling Irishman we came across.

It's easy to orient yourself in Dublin. The River Liffey runs straight through the middle of the city. Most of the spots you want to see are south of the river, but most of the local housing is north of the river. But as long as you could find the river, you could figure out where you were immediately. 

One thing we quickly found was that most the tourist destinations close at 5 pm sharp in Dublin. The first day, we were able to see Dublinia, a museum to the Irish Viking past housed in the Christ Church Cathedral

The next day was the tourist day. We woke up early and took the Jameson Distillery Tour. (Yes, you can drink early in Dublin, and yes, we did a whisky tasting at 10:30 am.) 

The tour was incredibly interesting, but my favorite part was the tasting. They lined up Jameson (Irish), Jack Daniels, (Bourbon) and Johnnie Walker (Scotch), the top selling brands of each of the types of whiskeys. They wanted you to taste the difference between kinds of whiskey. Man, did the Irish hate Jack Daniels. Everyone of them scrunched up their faces in disgust. 

We then went to the Guinness Storehouse tour. I was most excited about this and then most disappointed in it. They don't actually brew here. So really, they built a huge museum to how beer is made 101, which I already knew. I will say the ending of the tour was great. Top of Guinness tour, you're handed a pint of the black stuff, and you have a 360 view of all of Dublin. 

We then circled back to the Christ Church Cathedral and took a tour of the church proper. It was a very beautiful building, but felt cheapened by tourism. As we went into the crypt, a place where you should be solemn as you look onto people's graves, we were greeted by a cheesy gift shop, a mummified cat and mouse, and loud gawking tourists. 

After eating a disappointing lunch in a former church that was recommended to us, we went to the north side of the river and saw the Dublin Writer's Museum, Dublin City Art Gallery, (where we discovered that Francis Bacon was a crazy man) and Garden of Remembrance, we settled in to have some food and drinks as the 5 pm closure of Dublin attractions quickly approached. 

Food and Drink

Sal and I had done some research before our trip trying to find the actual Irish places rather than the tourist Ireland.

Our first order of business was to find food. We ducked into the first dark pub/restaraunt we walked into once we crossed the river, which happened to be a great spot with homemade Irish food called O'Shea's Merchant Temple Bar.

We drank at the famous Palace Bar, founded in 1823 and Hogans. One thing I was slightly disappointed by is the lack of a beer scene in Dublin. Everywhere had Guinness on tap. Most places had Smithwicks. But the craft beer scene was lacking.

Most of the food we had was very typical of British food. Heavy meat (either roast beef or sausage) or fried fish, and potatos and cabbage. All of it was surprisingly good as the British don't have the best reputation for cooking.

Leaving Dublin to go to Germany

We woke up at 4:40 am to catch our cab and get to the airport in time. Both we and John and Leslie had flights before 7:30 AM. And as a perfect send off, we left Dublin airport at 7:45  where a 30 Irishman bachelor party was drunk as can be in the airport bar.

The flight was easy. I would highly recommend Aer Lingus if you can fly them. The seats were spacious and the crew was incredibly nice.

The problem came when we landed in Hamburg. As it turns out, our train tickets that we purchased in advance were completely in German. We couldn't read them. After we found someone that spoke English and figured out where we needed to be, we waited for our train for 90 minutes.

Then the train changed platforms and we didn't know. You know why the train changed platforms? Because the train conductors were on strike and roughly 75% of all German trains were cancelled. So not only did we have to figure out what train we were on with only 5 minutes left, it was overcrowded to the point of where people were standing in the stairways, up against the doors.

Add the fact that we had all of our luggage, didn't speak the language, were incredibly tired from waking up at 4:40... we were stressed.

Then, after the first stop, some seats opened up. Sal and I sat down.

Something else that wasn't explained to us is that you can pay extra money to reserve seats. There are little LED signs above the seat that tell you if it's been reserved and from what stops.

Sooooo... we sit down, put our luggage in the racks, and Sal puts in her ear plugs, kicks off her shoes, puts on her eye mask, and passes out for the rest of the 3 hour train ride. And then in two stops, there are roughly 6 Germans yelling at us and the seat next to us, in German, because they reserved the seats as we were riding and we were in them. I didn't know what they were saying, finally one German said a word that sounded like reserved, I figured it out, woke Sallie up, she quickly got back into moving mode and we tried to vacate the seats, on this full train, with all of our luggage, with 24 German's crushing us. I have to lift our luggage over everyone's head and we finally find a spot to stand next to the bathrooms.

And then Sallie informs me we left her luggage. So I fight my way back, grab her luggage, and do it all over again. We finish out the last 2 hours in silence, tired and stressed.

Next Episode - Onto Osnabruk.