A weekend in Warsaw

My weekend in Warsaw started with a near death experience on my plane ride in. I was flying Ryanair, which is consistently very cheap so it’s the logical choice for a budget traveler such as myself. But I learned one thing about them a while ago on my return flight from Munich, that they don’t slow down much for landing. Our landing on our return back from Munich was a near-death experience as well because we landed incredibly fast, and it scared the living daylights out of me. After our return landing from Munich my friend Sarah turned to me and said, “Oh yea, that’s right, on Ryanair flights they don’t slow down as much for landing because they save fuel by landing faster.” Now, I obviously will continue to fly Ryanair (for several more trips to be exact), but our landing in Warsaw was the scariest yet. I’m pretty sure there are still claw marks in my armrests on that airplane from how hard I grabbed them!

Anyway….after this terrifying landing I tried to catch a bus, but the bus was full soooooo I did what any logical person would do, I got a cab with three total strangers into the city! It ended up being two French guys, a Lithuanian girl, and myself all cabbing into Warsaw’s train station together, and it was pretty cool. I mean, I certainly haven’t had that international of a cab ride in the States! At the train station I met up with my friend Brian who is studying in Warsaw and who most importantly speaks Polish (without him I would have been lost), and we took my stuff back to his dorm room, and while walking to Brian’s dorm, he pointed out a plaque on a wall of a building. He told me this plaque was commemorating a group of people who were murdered here by the Nazis, and he went on to mention that these plaques are all over the city. Just imagine walking down a street and seeing a sign that reads “32 people were murdered by the Nazis here”, it’s a very shocking and grisly thing, but at the same time, it is something that the Polish have choosen to stay strongly connected to, as evidenced by these plaques all over. As dark as the history behind these plaques may be, I think they are necessary both to remember those who were murdered, and to remind us of our history. After putting my stuff away we went out that night to a couple bars, which was really interesting, cause for a while we are at an area of bars that are located in the old communist market building, so the interior of these bars is this really plain concrete (communists apparently hate beautiful architecture), which has since been covered up (mostly) with wallpaper.

The next day we got up and went to one of Warsaw’s many cafe’s, where I was able to enjoy a great cup of coffee. And it wasn’t unique to that spot, Warsaw has a great cafe and coffee culture.

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After enjoying our coffee we went to Łazienki Park, where we saw a statue of Chopin as well as many views of a park well into it’s fall beauty. The leaves were all sorts of orange, yellow and gold and it was absolutely beautiful.

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We spent a good amount of time in the park before heading downtown to the Palace of Culture and Science, which is historically, a very interesting building. The Palace was gifted to Poland by Stalin, and people in Poland aren’t exactly his biggest fans, ya know with the whole communist control of Poland and all. I asked Brian if they had ever considered destroying the building and he said no, but that there was talk about building other buildings around it, but that was decided against because some people argued it would be as though they were making a crown around the palace, which they didn’t want to do. Also, Brian told me that in Warsaw, there have been several instances of people buying land and starting to build/develop it, when a person comes out and sues, claiming ownership of that land, and many of these people have won. The reason, because they actually do own the land, it just happened that their house/building was destroyed during WWII. Considering almost all of Warsaw was entirely destroyed under the Nazi’s there have been several lawsuits like this. The point of this, is that surrounding the Palace are massive parking lots, because nobody wants to buy them and start to develop buildings and have somebody come out of the woodwork and sue for ownership and win, causing the entire investment to be worthless. Anyways, we went up to the 30th floor terrace of the Palace to look out over the city and it was an amazing view. Many in Poland even joke this is the best view you can get of the city, because the Palace itself isn’t obscuring your views! Below is the Palace, which has been described as an Elephant wearing Lace (ie a big building with only a few decorative aspects to it).

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After departing the Palace, which holds countless things inside of it, including a Cinema, opera halls etc., we went and got some Polish food. We started by getting some paczki (donuts) with rose filling (yea, they literally mash up rose petals and put them inside), and they were delicious! We then went to another cafe where we grabbed lunch before heading to Old Town. Old Town is interesting, because besides the Palace, it is the only real main tourist attraction in Warsaw. Brian was telling me that there was one particular shop in Old Town advertising itself as the best noodles in Poland for 200 years (or some long duration of time…I don’t quite remember), but in actuality, it only opened a month or two ago. Oops. The ironic thing about Old Town, is that it’s actually not as Old as it sounds, for it too was almost entirely destroyed in WWII, but it has been meticulously rebuilt. Regardless of how old it is or whether it’s a reconstruction, Old town was filled with beautiful buildings, and it is in fact located where Old Town originally was before being destroyed, so it was cool just to walk there.Image

We found this little street art while we were walking around Old Town and it shows Marie Curie and the two elements she discovered. Brian was telling me that few people know Marie Curie was Polish, so in this particular street art, they included her Polish name, Skłodowska, so you would have no doubt how Polish she is.

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On Sunday, we woke up and headed out to the Jewish Cemetery, which was originally located outside the city, but has since been enveloped by the city as the city limits grew. The Cemetery itself was started in 1806, so it is quite large. The strong connection to history continued here, for several graves we passed there had the colors of the Polish flag (red and white) wrapped around the headstone, and a small Polish flag with the symbol of the Polish uprising printed on it. Brian thought these graves were of people who perished in the Polish Uprising. As the ribbons and flags were in great condition, I believe someone consistently replaces them, showing again, a great respect to those who fought on behalf of Warsaw. We walked further around the cemetery and Brian pointed out many things to me, most notably the stones marking out the mass grave containing the bodies of those executed by the Nazis there, and even a spot in which a bunker was dug up, for it was in this bunker that a Jewish man in Warsaw and his family successfully hid during WWII. It was a place that was again, filled with a somber and often dark history, but one that was darkly beautiful amidst the leaves of Fall. We also passed several tour groups, who were from Israel, as there were speaking Hebrew and they all head Israel logos on their jackets, showing how much of a connection the Jewish community still has to this place.

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We then headed out to meet two other Georgetown students (one studying in Poland one working at the embassy there) for lunch at a restaurant in the park. It was a great restaurant with a casual atmosphere. After another delicious Polish meal, this time I opted for the Kielbasa, as I had Pierogis the other night with Brian, we all left. Brian went to a hardly known cafe called Starbucks to get some work done, and I went on my own to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. I mentioned it earlier with regards to some of the graves in the Jewish Cemetery, but I’ll explain more here. The Warsaw Uprising was an uprising by those living in Warsaw in 1944 against the Nazis there. The uprising was crushed, mainly due to the overwhelming numbers and weapons of the Nazis and due to the lack of aid from the Soviets. The plan was the uprising would occur as the Soviets neared the city, so the Polish would soon get help from the Soviets, but that help never came, as Stalin ordered his troops to stop. Many believe he did this intentionally, so that when the war was over, Warsaw could be easily taken under Soviet leadership without the Polish trying to re-establish their own independent state. All of this is interesting, since it was the Soviets who not only air-dropped guns to the Polish so they could revolt, but it was the soviets who encouraged them to revolt. It seems Stalin intended the Polish to revolt, and get massacred all along, just so he could take control of the city in the post war period with ease. This stance is further evidenced by the fact that in the post-war period it was the Soviets who arrested and jailed the leaders of the Uprising. Altogether, the museum was fascinating.

Here is an example of some of the communist artwork that can still be seen all over the city. As you can see it’s very blocky, and is focused on glorifying the average worker, in this case a drill man.

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After the Museum I returned to met up with Brian, and we went out and hung out at another cafe that night, and we did the same the next morning. Like I said, Warsaw has a great cafe culture. From the cafe that morning I left for the airport to catch my flight back to Dublin.

I realize this post had a lot of history to it, but it’s hard to visit a city like Warsaw, which was and still is incredibly affected by both the Nazis and Communists without talking a lot about its history. As horrifying as much of the history surrounding Warsaw is the town is incredibly inspirational. Charles Dickens, though in A Tale of Two Cities he is writing about Paris after their bloody Revolution, his words can easily apply to the character and resilience of the people of Warsaw after facing such grave atrocities under both the Nazis and the Communists.

“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.” – Charles Dickens

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A Weekend in Cork!

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while, things have gotten pretty busy between all my classes and activities. I mean, one of my classes is a Charles Dickens course, and if you haven’t read anything by him you should fix that, but the main problem is that all his books average 700 pages! So it definitely takes a while to get through them.

Anywho…. my week was pretty standard, just had class, went to a couple of investment banking events, fun right? Haha, but actually they were really interesting. Tonight I went to an event put on by the Trinity Cycling club, where Nicholas Roche, an Irish pro cyclist, spoke to us and took questions. It was a phenomenal event! Roche was incredibly passionate about cycling (I mean kinda obvious, it is his job…), but he was also a super nice guy, and very interesting, plus he made quite a few good jokes! The event just reignited my desire to have my bike over here though….soooooooo dealing with that separation right now.

Last weekend was probably more interesting than my classes and events, as my friend Julia and I went to Cork! We left on Saturday evening, so when we arrived we instantly set out for food. We ate and went back to our hostel to get ready for the next day, not exactly a wild or eventful saturday night.

Sunday we woke up at about 8, caught the bus to Blarney Castle and Gardens and proceeded to explore that for several hours. A photo of the castle is below.

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The Castle itself was pretty cool, and seeing it brought my castle count up to 5. That isn’t saying much though, I mean if you are traveling in Europe I think it’s harder not to see a castle than it is to see one. At the top of the Castle Julia and I both got to kiss the Blarney stone, which is actually pretty intense for kissing a rock. You have to lay on your back, bend backwards and kiss the stone, all while holding onto some iron poles. If you kiss the stone it supposedly makes you a more eloquent speaker.  A photo is below

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One interesting thing for me was all the graffiti in the castle, we found one name carved into one of the windows that was incredibly ornate, and it was from 1827! Just goes to show even the Victorians weren’t above a little graffiti, picture is below.

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We kept exploring the grounds, got some photos of cows, almost got murdered by some swans, walked through the poisonous plant garden, saw the lake located a few minutes from the castle, and even got to see the Victorian manor that was about a minute from the castle. While the Manor was closed, it was still an incredibly beautiful building.

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After all this exploring at Blarney, we proceeded to get some wool sweaters, successful shopping? I think so. Then lunch, and it was off to the Old Jameson Distillery just outside of Cork. The tour there was pretty interesting, we learned all about the Whiskey making process. After getting through all the buildings we had a Whiskey tasting, in which a few of us (Myself and Julia included) got to taste a Scotch Whiskey (Johnny Walker Black Label), an Irish Whiskey (Jameson, duh…) and an American Whiskey (Jack Daniels). The main difference between them is that Irish Whiskey is triple distilled (i.e. the alcohol is separated out from the other liquid three times – I think that’s distillation…), the Scotch whiskey is only distilled twice (and it also a lot smokier due to the peat, as opposed to wood, burned to stop the germination of the barley), and American whiskey is only distilled once, sometimes twice. If I had to rank them, I would say the Jameson was the best, then the Scotch Whiskey and then the American. I liked the Johnny Walker and the Jameson, the Jack Daniels was ummmm…. palatable, I guess. After this we got our “Certified Whiskey Taster” certificates and proceeded to catch the bus back to Cork so we could catch our bus there back to Dublin. All in all, it was a pretty successful day of tourism. Below is a photo of the Old Distillery tour entrance (just one of several buildings at the Old Distillery). And then tomorrow it is off to Warsaw in Poland to visit my friend Brian from Georgetown!

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Crew, Arthur’s day and Cashel

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while, I meant to sit down and do a blog post earlier, but to be honest I haven’t really done too much. Anyways, this post will cover the main three things I’ve done these last two weeks.

So one of the main things I’ve been doing with my free time is rowing for the boat club. I’ve been going to practice on the rowing machines (called an erg) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then on Saturdays I’ve headed out to to the boathouse to get out on the water and row in an actual boat. Now, since we are all novices we are focusing mostly on learning proper technique, but it’s still a lot of fun. Below is a photo looking out over the Liffey from the boathouse.

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Arthur’s Day took place two weeks ago on Thursday, and it was a lot of fun. Arthur’s day started in 2009 as a way to celebrate the 250th anniversary of of the Guinness Brewing company. Guinness drinkers are supposed to raise a glass to the memory of Arthur Guinness at 17:59 (5:59 pm), as a reference to 1759, the year the Guinness Brewery was founded. Though I didn’t have a guinness at 17:59 because I had crew later and didn’t want to go workout with a beer in my stomach, I did go out later that night for a Guinness and the city was absolutely crazy. It seemed like everyone in Dublin was out. Alley’s were packed and music was blasting everywhere, not to mention a ton of bands were playing all over the city. It was a pretty fun night. A lot of people have criticized Arthur’s day, including an article that was in the New York times that damned the day, and one of my professor’s who made a comment about how much he disliked it.

Last weekend I didn’t travel much, except on Sunday I did a day trip with a friend of mine to Cashel. Cashel is a small town centered around the ruins of a twelfth century monastery. Before the monastery Cashel would have been where the Kings of Munster (a province of medieval Ireland) would have ruled from. So it was a pretty awesome day trip. While there we also saw the ruins of a Cistercian Abbey located just below the main ruins of Cashel. Below is a photo of the ruins of Cashel (which were under restoration) and a photo of me sitting on the wall around the ruins.ImageImage

 

This weekend I really haven’t done much because I didn’t travel anywhere. One of our friends from Georgetown is visiting us from Scotland so we’ve just been hanging out with him. I went rowing again on Saturday and that was a lot of fun, but like I said, other than that I really haven’t done much. Today, we did go and walk around Dublin Castle, and we got to see the ruins of the original walls of Dublin that the vikings built, which was pretty cool for me since I had an entire Vikings class last semester.

Hope you all enjoyed the updates even though they aren’t too exciting!

Oktoberfest in München!

Going to Oktoberfest this weekend has not only been the highlight of my study abroad experience thus far, but it was also one of my favorite weekends ever. Saturday was absolutely amazing: I was fortunate enough to travel to an absolutely beautiful city – München – and I got to go there with my friends to one of the largest festivals in the world. But I won’t gush anymore over last weekend, instead I will just let you know what all we did!

Our trip started Friday morning with us getting up at five thirty so we could be get out the door and to the airport to catch our flight. While it was definitely an early morning, it wasn’t long before we were in the air and on our way to Memmigen, a small town about an hour and a half by bus outside of München, which was way cheaper to fly into. I won’t bore you with the details of the airports and bussing into München, but I will tell you how cool it was landing in München. As soon as we walked off the plane it was clear we weren’t in an English speaking country anymore (though most Germans speak fluent English). I know that is a really obvious thing to say, but it was absolutely surreal to see countless phrases written in a language I’ve been learning. In all honesty, even just reading the simplest ads in German was exciting for me. It’s cool for all those hours studying a foreign language to pay off when you actually get to use it.
The real fun started when we got into München. The bus dropped us off at the train station, and it was clear right away that we were in Germany. Pretzel venders were everywhere! And there was lederhosen displayed in every shop window! We knew right away, that we were in for an amazing weekend. After we got off the bus we found our hotel, which was only a block away, and we checked into our room. Our room was incredibly nice. After we checked into our hotel we decided to go exploring. We walked from our hotel to the Marienplatz, which is the central square in the city, and has been since 1158. While in the area we were able to see the Jesuit Church of St. Michael, the Frauenkirche and the Neues Rathaus and Glockenspiel tower. We also tried to find the Hofbrauhaus but we were unsuccessful, though we did stumble across a farmer’s market near the Marienplatz. This farmer’s market was huge and incredible, and apparently it happens everyday, which is pretty cool. When we were in the farmer’s market we heard someone calling our names, and sure enough, it was a fellow Georgetown classmate of ours! She is studying in Italy and without even knowing it we all ran into each other in the center of München. Below is a picture of the Neues Rathaus.

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After this chance meeting, our friend had to leave and we we figured we had to go get some authentic Bavarian garb for the fest, so we found a cheap (compared to the stores) vender outside the train and bus station and got some clothes. We weren’t sure how many people were going to wear Bavarian garb, but it turned out to be a good call, because it seemed as though at least half of those at the fest were wearing either lederhosen or a dirndl (the girl’s dress). After our Bavarian garb shopping, we decided it was time to eat. We had all had a pretzel upon arriving in München, but now we wanted a real German dinner. The first restaurant we tried was totally booked, which isn’t hard to believe given the sheer number of people who arrive in München for Oktoberfest. The second place we went to had space though. The server sat us with an elderly couple, who were from München. How do I know this? Because I spoke with them in German, which again, was just amazing! It’s pretty awesome to be able to study a language and then go speak in that language to complete strangers. I had the Bavarian Sauerbraten which came with potato dumplings, cabbage, and cole-slaw. It was absolutely delicious. I finished most of my food (only the cabbage was left). Now, being totally stuffed, we walked back to our hotel to get ready to go to Oktoberfest on Saturday.

We woke up on Saturday at about 7 AM so we could get to the fest early to make sure we got into Schottenhaml, the tent where Oktoberfest starts. Schottenhaml is where by tradition, the Mayor of München taps the first keg, and right afterwards the servers begin to bring out the Beer Steins. It is precisely because this is where the festival starts, that we decided to go here. We were a bit worried at first because the line was huge! But we managed to get into the tent and sit down with our fellow Georgetown classmates, who had arrived from Italy, Hungary, Scotland and England all to experience Oktoberfest. We got into the tent by 10, and since the Mayor didn’t tap the first keg until 12, we started by drinking water and eating. The traditional white sausage was served, but I opted for the currywurst. A giant brat covered in a curry sauce served with a roll. It was amazing, which is a bit unnerving, because I’m afraid American brats just won’t measure up now. When the mayor finally did arrive the tent was incredibly anxious. It was clear everyone wanted their steins of beer, and that they wanted them now. The mayor kept his talk pretty short though and within about ten minutes of his arrival, the first keg was tapped. Soon, the waiters were each carrying about 10 steins out of the kitchen at one time. Each waiter seemed to be able to carry at least 12 steins. five in each hand, with one balanced on top of those five. It was nothing short of impressive. After this we really spent the rest of the afternoon talking, meeting new people, including Canadians, Germans (who I spoke in German with), Dutch, Australians, Italians and many other people. Everyone was very friendly and just wanted to enjoy the fest. We were kicked out of the tent at 3, because everyone without a reservation is kicked out at 3, because they want to give others the opportunity to come inside and sit down, as well as bring in new people to drink and spend money. After this we walked to another small beer garden which we stayed at briefly, and then we eventually got into the beer garden of one of the larger tents where I spoke for a while in German with a girl from München. After staying here for a while, we made our way back to our hotel to crash, as we had been at Oktoberfest from 8:30 AM until 9:00 PM, which was a long day, but an amazing day. Oh and on top of all the delicious German beer (Paulaner, Franziskaner, Spaten) we had even more German food! We ate candied walnuts, Bratwursts with Sauerkraut and of course, more pretzels! No words can do the day justice though, it was an absolutely amazing one of a kind experience.

On Sunday, we woke up at about 8 and proceeded to get moving, for we had to catch a bus back to our airport at about 11:45. We didn’t have too much time so we tried to go back to the farmer’s market for breakfast only to discover nobody was there. So instead we found a German chain store that had baked goods and coffee. I got an Apple Strudel and like all the other German food we had eaten, it was delicious. We all enjoyed our breakfast while just sitting overlooking the Marienplatz, which was a pretty cool experience. It was also drastically different compared to friday, because Friday it was packed with people, almost shoulder to shoulder at certain points, but  Sunday was a different story. The square was nearly empty because people were either at Oktoberfest or they were still sleeping off their visit to Oktoberfest from the day before! We tried to find the Hofbrauhaus again, but we couldn’t find it. Not due to a lack of effort though, but due to a parade running right in front of us! We were sad we had to go catch our bus back, because the parade looked like it would have been a lot of fun to watch. But, we had to make our flight, so soon enough we were back on the bus, and even later we were back on the plane to Dublin (for those curious, the flight from Dublin to Memmigen was only about 2 hours).

Both Oktoberfest and München were amazing! München was a beautiful city and I hope to go back there and explore more of it. As far as Oktoberfest, I only hope that I am fortunate enough to go back there one day.

Below is me in the morning at the entrance to Oktoberfest (you don’t have to pay to get onto the grounds or into the tents, you only have to pay for food and drink – though you can reserve a table in a tent for a few hours if you do so far enough in advance, and this costs money.)

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Below is our tent from the morning and afternoon, though I’m not sure tent is an appropriate term for it given its size! Schottenhamel can hold 10,000 people.

 

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Below is a photo of me with some steins!

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And below is a photo of the exit sign.

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Freshers Week

Freshers week, as I mentioned in my last post, was going on last week and it was very busy. Freshers week, is the week before classes start, and it is essentially a week of meeting new people and joining clubs. Every club on campus is out tabling in the main quad all week, trying to get people to join. Unlike at Georgetown though, the people are a lot more talkative, and everyone really wants you to join their club. Another difference is that unlike at Georgetown, you can’t sign up for free, you have to pay to join most every club (a few of the volunteering clubs you could sign up for free), thus you need to be realistic about how many clubs you want to do, and not sign up for everything, otherwise you will end up paying for everything. Unfortunately, with how persuasive everyone was and how interesting every club sounded, I somehow managed to sign up for way too many clubs.

I joined a good mix of clubs: sports clubs, academic clubs and even some miscellaneous ones. All together I joined a running club, a ski club (which has a winter trip to the alps), crew, the archaeology society and even a food club (I joined more, but I won’t bore you with each one I joined). I don’t think I’ll have time for every club, but they should provide me with plenty of things to do for the year.

The main club activity I did during the week was going to a comedic debate put on by the Philosophical Society, which is a debating society on campus and is one of the most popular clubs. The debate was on whether or not “This house would get famous or die trying”. Each side had professional comedians on it, so the debate was hilarious.

Beyond joining clubs and going to club events, we also were engaged in some academic events. I had more meetings to register for classes, which hopefully is all sorted out now. Beyond that, my week was pretty average.

I know this isn’t the longest post, but I wanted to give my weekend in München it’s own post.

Galway and the Cliffs of Moher

This post is a bit overdue, but it’s to catch you all up on my journeys from 9th-15th of September.

The week was less exciting than the others, as it was the last week of our start-up program so we were mainly wrapping things up. On Tuesday we went to the Hugh Lane Gallery, which is a gallery of contemporary art. We were there mainly to see works by the famous Irish painter Seán Keating. It was an amazing gallery, and my favorite work we saw was “The Eve of St. Agnes” by Harry Clarke. It is a stained glass window, which was absolutely incredible. The window was so detailed. The interesting thing about this stained glass window, is it wasn’t created by adding color to plain glass, but it was done by using colored glass, and then using acid to remove the color. The amount of acid used would determine the shade of the colored glass. The window is so detailed, that Harry Clark at times would use brushes with only one hair to apply the acid. A picture is below, but it does no justice to seeing the window in person.

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On Wednesday we were able to move onto our accommodations on campus (where I will be the rest of the year), which was amazing! Now we don’t have to walk an hour to campus and an hour back, or take a bus to get class. We are very fortunate, because the accommodations we are in are typically reserved for post-graduates and fourth year undergraduate students My new room is even better than my last one, and it has all the same amenities. I still have my own room with a desk and storage, and I still have my own bathroom.

Not much went on during the rest of the week, that is until Saturday when we left for Galway! We woke up early at about six so we could catch the bus at 7. Instead of the bus though, we were placed with two others in a van that was going to Galway. It took us about two hours to get to Galway, which was interesting cause it only took 2 hours to cross an entire country! Definitely a shorter drive compared to driving from Spokane to Seattle which is at least 4 hours. Anyways, we got to Galway, checked into our hostel, and met up with our other friends who got to Galway the day before us. Once we met up with everyone we got onto a bus tour going to the Cliffs of Moher and the Buren.

Before we got to the Cliffs of Moher, we saw plenty of sights. We saw some burial mounds, Dunguaire Castle (bringing the total number of Castles I’ve seen up to 4), another fairy tree, a bronze age ring fort (just a circular earthen mound, which would have had a house on the inside and wooden palisades on the earthen mound) , another portal stone tomb and the town of Doolin. We didn’t spend too much time at all of the above places, because we spent most the day at the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs were absolutely beautiful, and the day could not have been more perfect, the weather was warm and the skies were blue. We mainly just walked along the Cliffs all day, taking pictures and hanging out. Below is a photo of the castle, and below that is a photo of the Cliffs.

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The bus tour took up most of our day, so it was quite late by the time we got back. We went out to a few pubs that night and it was incredibly busy, Galway has a very happening night life.

On Sunday most everyone else left Galway earlier than us, so we spent our time exploring. We started the day by getting an Irish breakfast, which has become sort of a sunday routine for us. After, we just walked around Galway, seeing St. Nicholas’s Cathedral, the old Galway Castle (now a branch for the Allied Irish Banks), and we even walked out to a lighthouse (well, most of the way to the lighthouse as it was fenced off). We still had a few hours to kill so we went to a pub to watch the all Ireland Camogie final (which is just women’s hurling with a different name). Now in every all Ireland final there is both an under 18 game, and an over 18 game. In the under 18 game it was Galway versus Limerick, and in the above 18 game it was Galway versus Kilkenny. Galway won both games, which was very impressive. After the games we caught our bus and got back to Dublin that night. It was a great weekend, and it was very relaxing and beautiful to get out of the city.

Howth and Hurling

My weekend wasn’t too intensive. On Saturday we took the lightrail, called the “Dart” out to Howth. Howth is only 15 kilometers, about 9 miles from Dublin. The lightrail ride from downtown Dublin to Howth was only about 25-30 minutes. Howth was a great little coastal town. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great, it was a bit rainy and chilly, and considering one my friends had my backpack with my raincoat in it back in Dublin, I wasn’t exactly the most prepared. We didn’t do too much, we hiked around Howth right when we got off the train up until we had lunch. We were able to see some great sights, mainly the coastline and the second of Howth’s two lighthouses. Below is the second of the two lighthouses. And the photo below that is the trail we hiked on.Image

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We had some good food there, I had the chowder, and it was great, as to be expected from a coastal town. We didn’t stick around too much longer because of the weather, so we soon found ourselves back on the Dart to Dublin. It wound up being a good little day trip.

On Sunday we watched the Hurling game, which like I said, has similar rules to Gaelic football, but instead of playing with their hands, players use a wooden stick to hit around a ball. We went to the same pub we watched the Gaelic football game at, but this time we got there a little earlier to get better seats. The game was great, county Cork was playing county Clare. Most of the game Cork was behind, but in the last minutes Cork came from behind and got the lead. It looked like they were going to win, until in the last seconds of the game, Clare scored again, leaving it a tie game. Then time expired. We all were waiting to see whether overtime was up next or a shootout was. As it turned out, neither were up next. The game ended in a draw. Instead of a shootout or overtime, the two teams will play again in three weeks, and do the entire 70 minute game all over again. This was incredibly interesting to all of us, as in any American sports the winner would be decided that day, whether it be in overtime or a shootout. Attached is a video of Hurling.

I forgot to mention, that earlier in the week we made it to the Old Trinity Library. The Old Library was not only used as inspiration as the Jedi Library in Star wars, it is where the Book of Kells is located. The Book of Kells is considered one of Ireland’s greatest treasures, though it turns out it may have been made in England. The Book of Kells is an illustrated gospel book from circa 800 A.D./C.E. The book is stunning, the amount of detail in it is simply unimaginable. The artists who made it must have spent weeks making the book, as each page could have easily taken days. After seeing the book of Kells you enter the main part of the Old Library (below), and it too is stunning. It is filled with rare books, busts of famous men, and also pieces of history, such as the harp attributed to Brian Boru. The harp may be more recognizable now as the logo of Guiness. This weekend we are heading to the West Coast of Ireland to visit Galway! Stay tuned for how that goes.Image