Put a Cork in it

Trip Start Apr 25, 2006
Trip End Apr 25, 2007

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Flag of Ireland  ,
Friday, July 21, 2006

Ready to give the Irish Eireann Bus system a bit of a bash, I wandered down to the terminal and jumped on a bus to Cork. I had already received my daily wake-up call from the morning trains passing the hostel window at their usual ungodly hour, and had already endured a searing blast from the wonderful showers. The bus left on time, but was over an hour past the prescribed arrival time thanks to traffic, roadworks etc. I would later learn this is actually the norm.

I'd arranged to stay with Franzi in Cork - a German girl working there who I had met on the fantastic couchsurfing.com website. Essentially, you let travellers stay with you in exchange for it being reciprocated when you travel. She showed me the sights around town (which admittedly wasn't much), and I met her friends and chatted over a few beers.

It is unnervingly simple to look like an idiot when pronouncing seemingly simple Irish names. Believe me. Luckily when I caught my train to Cobh I remembered an Irish girl I used to work with called Niambh (pronounced "Neeve"). The poor American chap in front of me wasn't so lucky, and was employing the patented "keep saying it louder and they'll understand" technique, before finally spelling it out.

The next day I made tracks to Blarney Castle, easily the most famous sight in the region, and once again I had slept in so was starting on the back foot. As it turns out, this enabled me to continue my flawless sunny run in Ireland as the sun broke through literally as I stepped out the front door. Unfortunately, my limited edition Canadian Club sunglasses had become the latest casualty of my travels so I was forced to use my crappy fake Adidas ones I picked up in Thailand. They are crappy.

Blarney Castle itself is sort of endearing in a round-about way, probably due to the hands-off approach to preservation (which I prefer). No patching up, no replacing bricks, no added safety "features". The disclaimer sign stated something like "to maintain the authenticity of this site...", which roughly meant it was falling apart a little and you may injure yourself - for example, if you were the old American bloke I saw struggling up the narrow, slippery, spiraling staircases. The surrounding gardens were super green and enjoyable enough to meander through. The comical names given to what seemed like rocks and caves were bordering on cheesy: "Witch's Kitchen" is an unimpressive cave, "Witch's Stone" is a rock, and "Fairy Glade" is really just a few plants.

With an hour to kill before my return bus to Cork, I naturally headed to the nearest pub for a Guinness and some pub grub. I caught wind of a "hurling" final being shown on TV so decided to buckle down and watch it for a cultural experience. Cork vs Limerick, pretty fierce rivals apparently. How do I describe this sport? Well, it's sort of like soccer, but instead of kicking it you have a big stick and the ball is like a baseball. It's a fast, flowing game to watch which was a good change from the last time I saw AFL. I must say I don't envy the goalkeepers having a baseball belted at them from almost point blank range.

Classic Irish Moment: while having lunch at the pub, the barman snuck up to me suspiciously and then announced "Can you believe it! Will you look at that!" I had no idea what he was on about, but it became crystal clear when he continued "Someone has poured your Guinness wrong, I'll fetch you another one" right before he necked the entire pint in one go and went back to work.
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