TOP O THA MORNIN TA YA !
Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
147Trip End Jan 05, 2012
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I arrived early (9am) at County Cork Airport from Heathrow and followed the advice my kind and hospitable Couch Surfing host had suggested catching a taxi from the airport to his terraced home situated ontop a hill in the northern side of the city
The township or CBD of County Cork was gorgeous and everything I had imagined. Old styled buildings with the brick facades, cobbled walk ways and swinging signs advertising the myriad of small shops that lined the cute, narrow streets. The mix of old and modern architecture was cleverly orchestrated giving the area a historical feel regardless of the age of the building. As we left the town square the scenery suddenly became what I would consider ‘traditionally Irish’ with small homes all in neat rows basically identically designed with one picture window and a door on the front facing the narrow footpath
I met my Couchsurfing host at the front door of his home which, from the outside, was the same terraced front with one window and one door just as the remainder of the road was. However inside the home while quite small in comparison to Australian homes, the area was adequate for a small family or couple/single person. My host’s home consisted of a small kitchen, lounge and bathroom downstairs and a single bedroom upstairs. There was no driveway or garage and a very small terraced lawn area (9ft by 4 ft) completed his ‘sanctuary’. My home for the next three days would be the comfortable lounge/couch that occupied the living area.
I was really looking forward to learning all about Ireland from and Irish perspective but did I mention that my host was German? He moved from Germany and had lived in Cork for some years working in the public sector and we talked easily as we walked to the local shopping centre down the road to buy supplies and ingredients in order for me to cook a roast lamb dinner as an offer of thanks for hosting me
We shared wonderful conversations on varying topics whilst we walked and shopped mainly about his growing up in Germany and his experiences in Ireland and his travels to various countries in Europe. With the leg of lamb purchased (at a very reasonable price I thought) and a good look around the supermarket with its differing brands, labels, products and prices, we sauntered up the hill to begin cooking the roast with my host generously handing full access to the kitchen and its contents to me while I prepared the meal. He sat on the stool and gave me an amazing insight into Ireland’s tumultuous past and very unstable economic climate of late which includes almost forty percent unemployment and most of the unemployed native to Ireland. Animosity is brewing between the native Irish and the newcomers to the country with ’they are taking OUR jobs’ comments ringing in the ears of anyone who will listen. What I found amazing (as an outsider) is that its this VERY issue or mentality that was the catalyst for the great divide and eventual war between the north and south, Protestants and Catholics in Ireland not so many years ago
Dinner that evening was nothing short of FANTASTIC! It had been months since I had enjoyed a roast dinner and even longer since I had utilized my culinary skills. The red and white wine that accompanied the meal went down a treat. I had purchased a bottle of German RED in Boppard Germany especially for my host to remind him of home. It was a very pleasant Cab Sav and he was suitably impressed with the surprise and the selection which was a relief. The white wine was a gorgeous Irish drop which was very impressive and worthy of the addition to what was a really pleasant day and evening.
The following morning I rose early, showered and prepared for the 2km walk into town to find the Hop on Hop off bus so that I could explore Cork in more depth. My host did not own a car only a push bike so traveling in this city was entirely my responsibility and I was looking forward to it with gusto. The only comment I could make about the township was that although very old in parts it was mostly very clean however there was abundant amount of doggy do do on the foot paths EVERYWHERE which led me to believe that the residents were not responsible for cleaning up after their animals in public places the way we are here in Australia
I returned home to an extremely tasty pasta and chicken meal which my host had kindly cooked for me and we sat talking again for a while until it was time to go to the pub to have a ‘pint’ and a ‘yarn’ with his mate. I was particularly excited about going to an IRISH pub and when I arrived I was not disappointed. There inside a very small door in the wall of a building that resembled the terraced houses in the rest of the road only recognizable by the swinging sign outside above the doorway was the cutest LITTLE pub I have ever seen in my life. With possibly only 3 window box seats and small round tables and 4 bar stools this was IT in its entirety. The bar was no more than 6ft long spanning almost the entire width of the room. My host explained that random acts of musical talent were unleashed in this pub almost every evening from 7pm till late. Not so much a ‘booked’ or ‘organised’ event but an impromptu jamming session by one or many patrons with or without instruments. The idea of this happening excited me however there were only 4 of us in the pub so I wasn’t sure how great audience participation was going to be meanwhile we chatted to my hosts mate, our fellow patrons on the table next to us and I was in awe of the many business cards that had been taped, pinned or nailed to every available surface in the pub, including the ceiling. By 9.30pm there was still no sign of a ‘jam’ session in the making however the Publican having sensed this and put a CD of Irish pub music on which wafted through the air as we conversed with those around us. A tad disappointing to say the least but not my last chance to experience local pub culture, we wandered merrily home with the satisfaction that at least we got to go to that little pub before it too became a casualty of the right royal financial mess that Ireland was now experiencing.