Dream trip Day 117 Bus to Limerick, Irish dancers, submerged boat

Another early morning in order to hit the bus station before noon. 1 last Irish fry up courtesy of Pat and Mary.

We chatted with them a bit, thanking them for the great walking tip. They are quite lucky that walk is a daily option.

A short walk down the road and we were at the mall, bus depot. It makes total sense though, with shopping near by, it gives you something to do while you wait for your bus or pop into a shop if you forgot to pack something.

Standing outside with several people, all who smoked, it suddenly began to rain steady.

Everybody in Ireland had an umbrella within reach and this guy had a large golf style umbrellas to aid with retrieving people’s luggage.

We lined up under an awning and the driver sold us tickets. There weren’t many people going to Limerick today so we had nice window seats.

It doesn’t rain hard, but it rains steady for hours, never letting up.

Luckily, it had stopped raining about halfway through our trip. Ireland sure was pretty and green due to all this rain!

We were dropped off at a small bus, train depot in Limerick and walked to our hotel for the next few days across town.

We began in a busy area full of shops, restaurants and other activities, but soon we were in what I felt was not a great area at night.

I couldn’t place why I felt dirty, target like, but I did walking through a number of small multilevel brick houses.

Luckily our stroll through this part of town was over quickly as we crossed a lovely bridge to get to our hotel.

Rounding a corner we spied a boat in the water but it wasn’t sea worthy any longer.

20160919_115950.jpg

The boat’s placement blocking a narrow channel seemed deliberate. We noted its progress each day as it would rain, raising the water level.

We got a heap of info upon check in, from a dinner spot to purchasing a bus tour to the Cliffs of Mohr in the morning.

The Locke Bar where we were recommended was a bit crowded, but we were able to snag a table with a view of the dance floor.

As soon as you enter, to the left was a lightly colored wooden floor where a small band was set up playing Irish tunes.

The band was soon joined by Irish dancers, a couple of lads and lassies, terms they most definitely use here.

Irish dance is one of the most awkward dance style to behold in person. No arm movements it’s all feet tapping, crossing, hopping, a very airborne dance.

As I learned, Irish dancing isn’t ‘river dance,’ that is the name of 1 guy’s dance show but he is for sure the man who introduced this unique dance style to the world.

We got beers and watched the show, each song had a different dance including solo jigs or couples. A fury of feets flying!

Our night was settled, let’s take it easy. We had great seats, they had beer, food and live music so we stayed.

Fish and chips this time, I presume due to the proximity of the River Shannon I felt it to be fresh.

We raised our pints and said cheers, to which a couple next to us joined in, ‘Sláinte!’ they responded, to your health. 

I soon related my tales from my friend from Limerick to my mom. I couldn’t believe I actually made it to his hometown.

We headed back to our hotel after dinner and a couple of pints. It was spritzing rain which was annoying but not enough to soak us.

I had spied a pub across the river from our hotel so I split off from my mom.

Wow I’d stumbled into an extremely local pub. Usually at least 1-2 people will nod or say hello, but not here.

I even had to change places at the pub to get served. Maybe it was my long-ish beard?

It seemed there was a wedding reception or some other formal style event so perhaps it was just a family affair evening.

I had a couple pints, watching the footy highlights on the telly. At least it didn’t rain on my walk home.

Tomorrow the Cliffs of Mohr!

Beer: Stag Bán

Song:  Black 47  Fire of Freedom

Advertisements

Dream trip Day 114 Ring of Kerry tour, Dingle Bay, Killarney B and B

Another early bus call so a quick breakfast of porridge and coffee. I’d say porridge is more creamy and run-y vs the oatmeal I had back home. Filling for sure.

More people on the bus today. This was the tour of the big spots of the western island they named route The Ring of Kerry.

We’d head north to Killarney, on to Waterville, and Sneem each much more picturesque than the next. All were perfect film sets, some had already been used.

Our driver was a pleasant chap who also filled us in on the Irish language and people.

The 1st bit of knowledge, ‘so what’s the deal with all these towns called Kill- something? Well, in Irish, kill= church that way you’d know who has one if you’re traveling. You’re welcome!’ the driver explained.

He often took to explaining things and asking for a round of applause or for us to cheer his name. Very entertaining host as well as good driver. These were some narrow roads not meant for huge buses.

First stop in Killarney and it is truly one of the most pleasant places I’ve ever been. I was expecting to see a milkman walking around, waving or maybe a mail guy getting a cat out of a tree. It was a Norman Rockwell painting in real life.

We just walked up and down the main street during our hour layover. I think we were to pick up another group was the reason for this stop. It was now a full bus.

Our next stop was just outside Killarney and it was a strange place to stop. Just a stream and a guy with a donkey you could take you picture sitting on. We began to realize that these tours buses will stop anywhere so long as you paid.

kerry3

There were an endless stream of handcrafted goods, foods and other trinkets available on our frequent stops.

We passed through tiny towns and our driver told us that they still farm here like they’ve done for centuries. Sheep mostly for its prized wool.

Each farmer had a unique color mark that was sprayed on the backs of the sheep. All the sheep were let go to graze up the side of a mountain and once it came time to shear the sheep, they just separate based on this mark.

The rams were just left on the mountain, free to roam and have their way with as many sheep as they could during season. You cannot contain a ram as easily as a sheep.

Before too long we had finally hit the coast, though I doubt they had many surfers, swimmers here.

kerry4

We backed into a spot on a narrow curve atop a hill, it was lunch time, though I wasn’t too hungry. The long line aided in my decision.

I’d often joked that there was a sammich in every pint of Guinness, so that is all I had. My mom ordered a barley soup, I believe.

We were served by a beautiful lass and actually got her talking about the area. She said most people here worked the summer tourist season months and survived the rest of the year off that money.

She says it gets very cool, rainy during the winter so no one really goes outside. Still seeing all the tour buses and traffic we were causing, it seemed like we were in someone’s living room with dirty shoes.

During the coastal part of the tour our guide brought up a move shot there: Ryan’s Daughter, a 1970 film starring Robert Mitchum and directed by English titan David Lean.

I had to laugh as our driver pronounced it fil-uhm, ‘Have you seen the fil-uhm Ryan’s Daughter…” haha.

Growing up, my dad quoted, ‘give me the fil-uhm!’ to me, from a Three Stooges episode, but I’d not encountered anyone who actually pronounced it this way in person until this moment.

You can still pick up souvenirs about the film along the Ring, it is quite popular here and brings in a lot of ladies who have seen it, wanting to reminiscent and see the lands. I’d never heard of the film much less seen it but it is on my list.

My family has always been film watchers and it is nice to see where something was filmed. Sometimes we tried to guess where it was shot as the credits roll to see who knows their countryside the best.

Another film shot around here was the Star Wars, The Force Awakens. The final scene on the tiny island with stone stairs and dwelling was filmed on Skellig Island.

kerry5

This view was rare our driver told us as there is usually fog obscuring these islands. The small one on the right foreground is where Star Wars scene was filmed.

Our driver told us that centuries ago, monks built stone structures on the island so they could live simply and meditate. They worshiped the sun.

Catholic missionaries showed up and found the monks in their tiny stone dwellings.

They really loved the sun so they couldn’t convert to anything not sun related. No problem the missionaries told them, we will add the sun to our cross.

And that is how the Celtic cross was created. Well at least one story anyway.

20160830_141152

We hit the tiny town of Sneem, a town square really. It was sadly memorable due to an eccentric man who owned a friendly goat.

Goats have a distinct odor on them, in them, it is all-encompassing and will stay with you if you touch them. I’d say the smell extended a few feet in all directions from the goat and man.

Goat was pretty cool looking, long curled horns, a blank look on his ever chewing face.

The man looked like a guy who hangs out with a goat, long dishevled hair, long beard, grin on his face. He sat next to his goat, stroking its beard and petting it. He charged a bit for a photo, that was his racket.

Goats just seem dumb but they will sneak up on you, mess you up. Watch out for goats, why do you think they put bells on them?

Continuing our film centric part of the tour, we arrived to Waterville where Charlie Chaplin kept a house close to the sea. There is a statue of him dressed up as the Little Tramp with a clear view of the shore.

True story, while staying in Waterville he entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest and took 3rd! Haha the judges really got it from the press!

My mom was quite taken with the thatched roof houses we passed by. Our driver informed us that the neighbors took turns helping each other thatch their houses as it had to be done yearly and completed in 1 day.

We had a very tense moment when a tour bus going the opposite direction approached. The drivers had a protocol as the roads were very narrow.

You could reach out and touch the other bus, maybe 2 feet between us, 1 slowly driving while the other bus waited. We waved, some took pictures of the other bus as it passed.

Buses aside, everyone here drives like they are late as well as having no concept of bodily injury to themselves or others. Cars flew by in each direction, passing the bus even with an oncoming traffic ahead.

For sure driving in rural Ireland is a test and not for everyone. We were pleased several times that we didn’t have to drive.

20160913_145350.jpg

The ground was very rocky here. Most of the land was squared off using rock walls. Our driver explained these were famine walls.

During the Irish Famine of 1847,  there was a disease on potatoes. Most people lived off a ration of potatoes and grains, simple foods.

The English landowners still expected the crops grown on their land to be exported rather than used to feed the people harvesting these crops. It was also forbidden to shoot wild animals either as those also belonged to the landowners.

Stealing food was punished by pulling up rocks from the ground to build walls. This made the land farmable as well as giving the peasants something to do while they starved or as a form of punishment. Seemed any reason was suitable to work the rocks out of the land.

Resentment remains high amongst the Irish, that the English exploited their land, labor and food using the famine as a means to get native people off the land.

History is often grim and bleak, but it is needed to know what others have done, good and bad, so we can learn what to do and what not to do if faced with a similar situation.

You have to hope for peace, that everyone figures out a way to get along fairly. It seems that last fair bit has always been tricky.

Our bus continued on the winding road, rolling rocky hills and sea. At this point, no matter how gorgeous the view, we were a bit tired of getting on and off the bus for sometimes as few as 15 minutes.

We paused at Torq Waterfall, accessed via short walk through a rainforest.

20160913_172905.jpg

Always funny how doing nothing all day on a bus wears you out. I suppose it was an all day adventure beginning by 830am and it was now 6pm.

We were the only ones who got off in Killarney, our bus driver wishing us well. Paddywagon Tours does a fine job, entertaining drivers.

It was a short walk to our bed and breakfast, a couple blocks from the city centre. The main road had pubs, shops and restaurants we looked forward to exploring.

Our main priority now was to get rid of these backpacks and then figure out evening options.

Ah yes, rain! Of course, rain, rain happens a lot in Ireland. Tried waiting it out and realized that there were levels of rain and this level was ok for walking.

Eventually as it does, the rain won out so we popped into a pub. Thus began a run of Irish lamb stew for dinner which made sense as it was coolish outside. Nice to warm yourself with a hot meal.

We finished the night after a couple pints, running home in the pouring rain, but it was foolish, we were soaked. Doesn’t drying out in bed makes for a good night’s rest, I should think so.

We’d checked off a big one-off my mom’s to see list today. We had a couple of days to explore the charming town of Killarney!

Beer: Kinsale Pale Ale

Song:  Hothouse Flowers   Don’t Go

20160913_15171520160913_160827.jpg

Dream trip Day 111 Irish wedding party, bus to Cork, Irish BBQ

An early bedtime makes for an early rise. Time for breakfast.

Our room came with 1 meal at the pub. They didn’t have a very extensive menu so once again, Irish fry up it was. A sturdy way to start the day.

I think my mom was able to order scones here which precipitated a discussion on pronunciation. It seems quite regional as to whether one says scOHn or scOWN.

How ever you say it, with a smear of butter and some jelly, they were good eating!

A couple of the tables were full of people, a wedding was happening soon. Of course they were already drinking.

The wedding may have been rescheduled from the day before due to the rain.

We made a bit of small talk with some of the party. Soon it was photo time.

One of the ladies asked us to join their group for the photo. We were the only other ones in the pub so why not.

‘Sorry we are so loud, we’ve ‘ad a bit of drink.’ she explained. They were a nice group and we wished them a good day and happy wedding.

According to Eriann, they had a 2 buses daily from Kilkenny to Cork, about a 3 hour trip.

The only problem for us was they don’t put up a bus stop sign indicating the area the bus will arrive, the arrow on my map was off the main road near a mall.

It was quite maddening situation, the bus would block a lane of traffic if it were to stop where indicated, I guess that is how they do things here.

We hung around the general areas for a while hoping to see a bus. We saw a couple of buses pass by,  none stopping.

Finally a bus did stop right where the map said it would, traffic, what little there was, merely went around the bus.

Another difference over here was the fact that the driver could sell you tickets, cash or card with cash being king for most of the Irish.

We settled in and once we were out-of-town, it began to rain. Perfect timing, we had thought to hang around Kilkenny, see the castle but that wouldn’t have been possible in the rain.

Buses overseas do have free but extremely spotty WiFi so I was able to write a bit and watch a TV show. It seems pretty easy to me to figure out how to get internet island wide.

At least Europe, UK had figured out that using 1 cell technology made things a lot easier for customers and presumable cell companies since they could share towers and building expenses.

The rain had subsided upon arriving to Cork. Our route was alongside a river with huge freight ships waiting their cargo.

Our research indicated there was a tour bus that would show us some sites around Cork as well as a stop in Killarney.

On our way to our hotel, we stopped by the tour bus company to confirm several things about our trip, mainly if we could just leave a bus in a city that wasn’t the end point.

My mom really wanted to go on the Ring of Kerry tour along the western coast. The best way or rather the way to do the tour in 1 day is to start in Killarney.

Also on her list, Blarney Castle, just outside of town. On my list was the real Jameson Distillery, also outside of Cork.

The guy at the tour bus office was very nice and answered all our questions and concerns. He agreed with our assessment that staying in Killarney was best option.

We’d be seeing him in a few hours as with any bus tour, early morning is the time they depart to maximize the sunlight.

Our hotel was very nice, it even had a waterfall near the outside patio. Inside it had a small elevator that I had to take my backpack off to fit inside with my mom.

Still early, we took a walk back to the River Lee, crossing over to the other side.

cork river

We just walked down the street until it ended in a line of shops, currently closing for the day. Nothing opened on this side of the river, it was back over to the north side of town.

Now we were walking down a narrow, one way street our hostel was on, a row of shops separated us from the river road. A surprising amount of traffic on this road too.

Tee buildings were very cool around here,  doors between businesses as people lived above the ground level shops. Some of the buildings had 4-5 stories of rooms above them. How cool to be able to walk out your front door to a coffee spot or food option steps away?

Feeling a bit hungry we stopped into the most unlikely place for a couple of Texans in Ireland, a BBQ joint. White Rabbit BBQ, no rabbit on the menu.

Happy to report it was good Q. Tasty sides too, they got cornbread game. There are literally as many different styles of this type of meat cooking as there are US states , so I feel it is hard to say which is truly the best kind.

Texas is mostly beef, sausage, not too sauce-y either. There are good things about both sauce and no sauce. Just roll with it, enjoy where you are and have a taste of how they eat there. Foodcation, haha.

What was interesting about this spot was it fast became more of a bar as the night wore on. Trays of food and beers passed by frequently. The sound of the room grew louder as the tables filled up.

Back to the hotel bar, I had a couple pints talking with my mom. We had an early bus call tomorrow, 8am which meant we had to get up early in order to get breakfast.

Tomorrow on to Blarney!

Beer:  Beamish

Song: Sinéad O’Conner + the Chieftains  The Foggy Dew

Dream trip Day 110 bus to Kilkenny, rain, Billy’s Byrne’s

We woke up and sat outside on the small outdoor patio of our apartment for a few moments, watching the workers driving to work, shopkeepers opening the metal grates over their windows.

Our plan was to walk east to the bus rail station, buy a ticket to Kilkenney. No reason to really go to Kilkinney other than I’d had a beer named after the city as well as it being on the road to Cork.

Walking a couple blocks yielded what we thought was just a bakery. There were shelves of baked goods in the entry room, visible from the road, but further back, it opened up into a serve yourself buffet.

Tray after tray of eggs (poached even!), sausages, basically a fry up deconstructed and you were left to assemble it yourself.

I finally saw porridge but I elected to skip the mushy bowl o’ oats and instead savor blood sausage.

My mom elected to get Irish breakfast tea, which I’d seen her drink many times. It made me smile that she was in Ireland drinking this tea with me.

Following the river, we arrived to the bus station. Again, no matter if the conductor points towards a track, gives you the departure time, I methodically confirmed this several times. Look at the ticket, terminal #, bus name…still accurate.

Ireland is very green and rocky. It was gorgeous and surprisingly flat, not too many rolling hills or mountains.

It rained off and on during our trip, I sure hoped for a dry arrival.

We arrived to a small depot direct from a movie. It was a small, shed like structure,

I had the thought that since we were there to get our next day’s ticket to Cork, but I didn’t see a ticket agent, guess it was after hours or maybe they just relied more on internet sales these days.

It was lightly drizzling as we exited the depot, we hadn’t booked a room yet as we followed my travel style of just finding a place to stay upon arrival.

This was a horrible idea in hard rain, we ran down the main street of the city, stopping in a couple of places that advertised rooms, all full.

We arrived at what was an upscale hotel chain with a couple very pretty ladies behind the counter. They too were booked solid, yet one of them took up our cause.

‘Just let me ring a couple of places, luv, I’ll be back with ya,’ she said with a big smile.

Only 2 phone calls and we had a spot! As if it were a sign, the rain let up as soon as we exited the hotel, offering our sincere thanks as we left. She’d found one of the best places we’d stay on our tour of Ireland.

I’m pretty sure my mom took down her name to send a thank you to the corp office letting them know what a great worker they had at their Kilkenny location. If there is one thing I know, writing letters and thank you cards is what my mom does.

To my shock, it was a pub, Billy Byrnes, but they had ‘rooms in the back.’

The place had a very cool vibe to it, almost out of an old Western, though clearly we were in a small town in Ireland.

We were greeted by the absolutely most beautiful lady I’d seen. Long curly black hair was tied off via scruncy, the bit of hair past her neck poofed out a bit.

She was wearing yoga pants and without getting too creepy, she clearly was fit and had to have yoga’ed and any other activity to chisel her frame into near perfect form.

Of course this lady’s accent was thick and sexy, like buttery syrup. I did what I could to not stare as well as make some sort of joke.

If ever I encounter a pretty lady, the realist side of me says just make her laugh, don’t try to hit on her or anything, share a laugh, that’s always a win.

Happy to report I succeeded in making the lass laugh, mission accomplished.

After stowing our things and watching the still hard rain for a while, we had laid out a plan of action to Blarney, Cork and beyond.

Still early, we headed out looking for a dinner spot as well as to see this wonderful city.

If there is an Irish equivalent to Norman Rockwall, this would be one of the town’s he would likely have painted. It just felt like everything great about Ireland.

rainbow

We paused for several pictures once we arrived to a bridge over the River Nore.

river

There was, of course, a castle, because that’s just a thing over here no matter the size of the town. Or should it be towne?

 

castle.jpg

We located an Italian restaurant a short walk from the bridge. It smelled great, like fresh-baked bread.

I had forgotten how close we were to the sea, seafood pasta would have been great here.

Alas, I was still in land lock mode and opted for pasta with meatballs. My mom ordered a fish with pasta dish, the fish served on a wooden board.

She won tonight’s meal battle for best dish by far. Whenever I go out to eat, I strive to order the most appetizing looking food at the table. It keeps things interesting.

We ended the evening at our pub’s hotel. It looks like we’d just missed a show, singer songwriter guy.

This place seemed perfect to see an ethereal lady singing. In fact, this place seemed like a destination for a lot of locals ready to have a pint, a laugh and a show.

It had been a wet but fun day. We were tired and needed to rest up.

Cork tomorrow!

 

Beer: Costellos  The Red

Song:  Clannad   Theme from Harry’s Game

Dream trip Day 92 Plane, bus, hello Edinburgh, hello UK…

Travel day yet again! Couting all the flights, this would make lucky 7:

DFW to London

Bordeaux to Lisbon

Porto to Madrid

Barcelona to Brussels

Brussels to Barcelona

Barcelona to Budapest

I flew easyJet, Ryanair whatever was cheapest, really. I knew having a backpack and a satchel, both qualified for carry on. So no surprise fees as long as you remember to eat  and fill up your water bottle before boarding.

I mainly used skyscanner.com a site that shows you the daily flight costs for any route out of any airport by month. I had the luxury of waiting for the cheapest week or day for a flight to my destination.

I’d also check flights on hipmunk.com where you can select flights based on agony, or a combination of transfers,  flight time, layovers etc.

Edinburgh came up really cheap from Warsaw. I think the flight was really just had a layover in Edinburgh en route to London.

I’d also taken into account hostel check out time this trip so I wouldn’t walk around aimlessly for a couple hours.

I had time to pack up and hit up the corner coffee shop one last time. Free wi-fi, too. Had to update my family so they’d know where I was, so I dropped them an email with pics.

This was my last chance for moderately priced food as well so I picked up a sandwich and apple for the trip.

I opened my Uber app and had a car take me to the airport. It was accessible via public transportation. 2 buses and at least an hour, mainly waiting on the transfer bus to the airport.

Only 20 min via car so why not go out in style?

The Warsaw airport was a bit confusing, it had a lot of gates, over 50, but for some reason the block to my flight wasn’t along the main walking route.

My routine is to walk as far as I can throughout the terminal before boarding, in an effort to tire myself out a bit as well as explore airports.

It was down to about 15 min before my board time before I realized I may not find my gate in time.

One more pass and there it was, down a hall and some steps, to the basement, were 10 other terminals for smaller flights, I guess. Not sure why they did it different, but I was happy to see it was going to be a pretty empty flight.

20160823_203504

I selected an empty row and was rewarded by a guy who sat along the aisle, no one in the middle. Score!

No close inspections on my entry date. Nor when I landed in Scotland. I correctly stated I was ultimately en route to Dublin, but I had to see Scotland, since it was along the way and all.

The passport girl smiled, “You’ll luv it here. Welcome to Scotland!” She stamped my passport and waved me through.  I was the UK’s problem now.

Luckily I still had some £ in my bag so I was able to afford the bus from airport to my hostel.

It was raining here too! Confounded rain, always following me!

I understood people here! English and with great accents, too.

Our bus turned and stopped, people got in, people go off. No matter if I remembered the name of my stop, I compulsively checked my map app to once again verify. Like, 10x while the bus was rolling.

My stop was doubly easier as it was also the final stop so I don’t know why I was so concerned about missing it.

Bonus: my hostel was maybe 2 blocks from the bus stop, something I didn’t plan for but due to sprinkling rain, I was quite happy about.

It was cold, actually cold here, even with my long sleeve shirt and raincoat on. I was going to have to do some shopping.

I was warmly greeted by the hostel receptionist who had dreads wrapped up like a crown on her head.

No one in my room but I do see bags. I’d see them later.

My hostel was next to a pub so I decided that was best option to end the evening. I am not sure why travel, flying makes you so tired, but it does.

A couple pints, light conversation with a few people asking for another pub. At least I understood them though I couldn’t help.

Hearing different languages does mess with your mind a bit. It takes some time to adjust but then you start picking out a word or phrases soon.

It’s strange, I don’t know any languages well, but hearing a couple words, context, tenor of the conversation I was able to figure out the gist of what people were talking about in each country.

Conversation is the same wherever you go: weather, girl problems, funny story, what’s up with our government?

I finished my pint just as the rain began the fall harder. Night rain is the best rain and best way to fall asleep.

 

Beer: Edinburgh Gold

Song: Mogwai   Travel is Dangerous

20160823_225047

Dream trip day 79   Train to Kraków, catching up with friends, Polish food

No issues checking out, just drop your key in a box, doors lock behind you.

Hardly anyone walking around the streets early in the morning, quite a change from the crowds I’d usually seen gathered.

Soon I was at the Praha hlavní nádraží (man do I enjoy all the accent marks on these letters!)

Rail, bus stations are always active and usually crowded no matter the time of day.

I located my train to Ostrava, a small city close to the Polish border and where I was to hop a bus to take me the rest of the way to Kraków.

Ah sweet relief as I fell into my window seat and watched the city disappear into countryside.

I was soon asleep.

Woke up to very beautiful, green countryside that soon gave way to the city.

We stopped and I had maybe 15-20min to find my bus, a process that is always tense, but especially so when all the signs are in Czech.

Whoever decided to add images to signs will forever be my hero.

Fortunately this was a small depot and I quickly found the bus area.

I stood at where I thought my bus would arrive based on the sign only to see the Krakow bus pass by and stop further down the street.

Buses overseas usually don’t have their destinations lit up on top, but rather they hang a sign on the lower right corner of the windshield with the destination city.

Sometimes the bus made you stow backpacks and this was such an occasion. This is one of many reasons why you need a small bag or satchel on trips.

You can carry needed items like say a water bottle as well souvenirs, snacks, etc.

Not many people heading to Krakow this day so most everyone got seats to themselves.

Gorgeous views as we exited the city and soon we entered Poland!

After awhile we entered the city at a huge rail, bus depot that after walking awhile, I realized the depot was connected to a mall.

That is such a great idea, get off your bus or train to find food, clothes, most anything a person could need after or before a trip.

I ducked into a burrito joint, I know, why there right, but I didn’t see a kielbasas r us or a pierogis haus, nothing that was decidedly Polish.

Happy to report that the burrito I had was very fresh and tasty. I only wished this and other places that try to interpret Mexican food would ease up on the beans.

I ordered a chicken burrito, not a bean burrito with chicken, you know. Had to stop the lady from spooning yet another scoop of what appeared to be ranch style beans.

At least know that if you use beans, they need to be wet, in a liquid vs the pile of dry beans that was my option here.

I walked the mall afterwards and they are very similar to the US malls I’d grown up going to, sometimes willingly, most of the time clothes shopping or worse, for portrait pics.

Clothing stores pumped out modern dance music here, as did shoe stores. No arcade, but they probably don’t have any in the US anymore either.

On one end of the mall was a theater, cinema so that was a universal thing.

About the only thing that really stood out was the amount of coffee kiosks. For sure, there was no reason to wait in line for a coffee, just walk a bit further.

I stopped at one and was amazed at how many employees worked in such a small, not busy kiosk. Every girl did 1 job: take your money, make the coffee, or serve it to you. Plus another girl showed up to pick up the trash and was probably around to help if it got busy.

Made me think about the hectic US places where there was a long line and 1 person doing all the jobs.

Once outside the mall, I entered an enormous courtyard. At the far end was a salt mine tour.

For sure if you want to see an abandoned salt mine, Krakow has you covered. I saw many ads for this one as well as larger mines outside of town.

I located the main road to my friend’s apartment which lead under a bridge then opened into a wonderful park road.

It’s always a good thing to sit on a bench covered by trees to watch car traffic, walkers or in this case, a small girl trying to catch a squirrel.

She was not successful in her endeavor. Her mom chain-smoked on a nearby bench while loudly talking on her cell in Polish.

I followed the wonderful tree-lined road as long as I could before I had to cross the street.

I knew one of my days here would be spent walking the whole garden road, wherever it lead.

There were castles and fortresses on both sides of me on this part of the walk. More exploration options.

It was hot in Krakow, I was sweating. Make fun of me if you want, but I wore hiking pants that unzipped at the knee so I paused on a bench to removed my leggings.

My un-stylish pant option served me very well on this leg of the trip. It was August after all, it was supposed to be hot.

After passing over the tram lines, I was on a business lined street full of coffee shops, convenience stores and food options.

Soon I was at my friend’s apartment where I was buzzed in, took the lift to the 3rd floor and saw my friend.

Earlier in the year one of my former corporate work friend had messaged me about her new life in Poland. Come for a visit if you can she wrote. Haha little did she know 6 months after that invite I would be there.

She was traveling this week, but I knew her husband and he was cool.

We chatted and I filled him in on my trip. I was in a corporate supplied and furnished apartment.

It was super modern place, sleek, exposed pipes, dark hardwood floor. On one wall was old black and white photos artfully arranged into a unique, somehow still in a square pattern.

These photos were totally random shots of fashion models or movie stars. Seemed odd in a family residence, but they couldn’t change it.

They had another room for their son they let me sleep in, and I was super grateful for a bed, especially a bedroom with a door for privacy.

I had arrived around their daily call time so I was able to talk to my friend who was very excited I was there. She was in the US at the moment.

I soon learned they were going to meet up Paris in a few days. To my shock, she said I should just stay there in the apartment for the week. I could house sit.

The husband nodded approvingly, better to have someone here. They were so generous, I was flabbergasted and humbled.

Talk soon turned to food and off we went to a local spot the family frequented.

While tempted to order pierogi, I was assured those indeed were everywhere, including fresh ones sitting in the fridge in the apartment.

I opted for my first taste of white borscht, a soup that is very Polish as it also included kielbasa sausage. Most borscht was beet red outside of Poland.

My entree was pork served with potatoes or latke. A hearty gravy was poured over the dish along with cream. It was very good and rich.

Throughout the course of our dinner I discovered my friend’s family was of Polish decent, his grandparents immigrated to escape the Nazi’s and settled in Ohio.

He had grown up with many of the dishes he ate here regularly and even spoke Polish when he was little, but had forgotten it. He remembered enough to get by, but couldn’t hold a full conversation like he had growing up.

I was shocked when the check came in under 20$. That’s with 2 soups, entrees and beers for 2 people! Dang that’s affordable.

We stepped outside to light rain and I inquired about a neon sign I saw on a couple of apartments.

Turns out those were the massage parlors, aka prostitution rooms. Guys could pay for the company of women. It was not highly recommended for me to check them out.

We popped into a small convenience store and picked up some beer which we enjoyed on their balcony.

The balcony overlooked a courtyard with a couple of churches on either side.

My friend had an early morning at work so he soon retired, but not before inviting me to taco Tuesday with his co-workers the next evening.

I sipped a beer, watching the rain fall from the balcony before I retired for the evening.

Song: Władysław Szpilman   Little Overture

Beer:  Tyskie Gronie

20160813_141309.jpg

Dream trip day 69 goodbye Vienna, bus to Prague

I woke and collected my things, still only a backpack of all my possessions.

From previous travel days, I knew it was best to eat a big meal before hopping on a long bus ride.

There was a local chain bakery a few doors down that I knew was good as I’d had a croissant and coffee from another location in town.

This time I selected a substantial cinnamon roll like pastry and coffee. So good!

It always takes awhile to point at an item on a shelf and for the server to automatically select not what you are pointing at several times, each new wrong selection eliciting a curious eyebrow raise.

There was a grocery store on my walk back so I bought some fruits and nuts to snack on during the long bus trip.

Sometimes the buses stopped for breaks, sometimes they didn’t, I guessed the length of drive time was a factor for when buses stopped so it was best to be prepared.

Having time to plot my days I realized I had a lot of time until my bus left, but not very much time before I had to check out of my hostel.

I needed to shower, too, so I was going to have to chance it and shower after checkout to kill some time.

On the way to checkout at the hostel, I stashed a fresh shirt, undergarments and towel into a shower area and hoped no one would take them.

Checkout was simple and they let me stow my bags for a couple hours in a locked back room.

I sat outside for a few moments, scanning around at the nature as well as the reception area.

Finally, as I knew it would happen, the receptionist had some odd job to do away from the desk.

Seizing my chance, I strolled up the back stairs and hit the shower.

I’m not certain if anyone really cared about my shower, I had paid for several nights so they had made euros off me.

I was also technically not staying there at that moment when the water hit me. I figured it was all a wash, certainly much worse things went on than a guy using some water.

My only burden was now I had to travel with damp clothes, a fair punishment.

Per my map app, I was well over an hour walk to the bus depot. Appropriately I called for an Uber.

A very nice man picked me up and we talked about the city.

‘I love Vienna. It is so pretty. Often I find myself staring at a building while at a light or returning to a certain street to look at the architecture.’ He said with a huge grin. ‘Where are you from, the States?’ He asked as he turned around while we where stopped at a light.

I told him about Dallas and Texas. He was curious and I saw something in him I rarely encountered, but was searching for: he loved where he lived.

I’d determined that Dallas was just a place people worked, not a destination.

Few dream about moving to Dallas from outside the state or country, I reckon.

In some way this trip was about seeing how others lived, why do people live where they do? Is there a place for me out there, somewhere?

I waved goodbye to my newest short term friend and looked around the depot for TVs.

There is a bit of consistency at train, bus depots as far as scheduling info goes in that there were TV’s or a display with all the arrivals, departures it was just the location of these info portals was different.

I had over a half hour til departure so my info wasn’t displayed yet.

Typically only arrivals in the next 15 minutes were displayed, then more info was added if a bus was delayed, which happens a lot.

Thankfully my bus wasn’t delayed this time plus it wasn’t packed.

Only a couple trips I had a neighbor and the seats were close so you bumped shoulders, which is tough for several hours.

I slid into my seat, unpacked my iPad, headphones and water. I also had my camera phone ready as we usually passed by cool photo spots when driving out of town.

Surprisingly to me, most cities had a camp site just outside town. So that’s where the real budget travelers stayed.

I saw so many people with enormous packs, like big enough to fit a human in sized packs, strapped to all genders. Made me wonder how they were able to carry them for very long.

I’d also read about a website that connected people who were ok with camping in their backyard or gardens in town.

When traveling as long as I was, I’d become jaded about all the beauty outside my window. Rolling green hills, bucolic towns, old cathedrals, all blurred into one.

For sure rural Europe is far more pretty than rural US. They had style over here in whatever they built.

I guess I’m being a bit judgmental as when I think rural US I think of west Texas, or Oklahoma so long stretches of no trees, towns or hills.

Occasionally you’d see a collapsing farmhouse or windmill.

We pulled into the bus depot, train station in Prague or Praha as it was displayed.

Out front of the depot was a small park full of homeless people in varying degrees of sobriety or fully asleep.

In the other places I hadn’t encountered many homeless, but for sure I saw less than I did in Dallas. Per city I mean, had less or I saw less homeless than in Dallas.

I waved no as I passed by to the many calls for money or cigarettes that I presumed they were asking me for in Czech.

The route to my hostel took me through an open air mall that had a side entrance to a main walkway that soon connected to the downtown square.

I had selected my hostel as it was located in the old town, near the main square that had most of the attractions.

It was also the most affordable room per person ratio as I’d slept in a room with upwards of 10+ people, but rarely interacted with my suite mates. It came down to just more people snoring or stumbling in late.

The best place to meet people was in the common area or kitchen and this place had a great kitchen area with 3 tables.

I stayed on a floor that had 3 rooms with each room containing 6 beds.

Each of the hostels 3 floors had 3-4 shower/restrooms, a kitchen and lounge areas with couches.

The smokers lounge overlooked an Italian restaurant.

A large wooden gate with a small sign pointing you to the hostel which was on the far side of the building so you had to walk through the restaurant to check in.

My floor was accessed via iron gate just before the hostess station which was occupied by a friendly lady who would ask ‘Food or hostel?’ And direct you accordingly.

It was confusing and most guests walked by many times or tentatively wander the restaurant convinced they were in the wrong place.

My bed was in the back room so I walked through a 3 bed room, then a door to another 3 bed room.

Fortunately there was only 3 others staying so 2 people in each room.

I said hello and waved at my new roommate who smiled and shook my hand.

Where are you from? Is always the 1st question you ask anyone at a hostel.

‘Italy!’ He replied. ‘You French, English ?’ He asked me.

Wow must be the hat. I don’t know but most of the time I was rarely pegged as American or from the States.

We chatted a bit while I stashed my bag in the locker provided.

The only one that didn’t have a lock on it had a large dent, someone was using 2 lockers for their stuff.

I never heard of anything being stolen whilst at a hostel on this trip, but I read reviews where that happened.

I presumed it was locals invited in by trusting guests who specifically targeted these places because most people travel with iPhones, iPads or other easily sold electronics, not to mention stacks of cash.

I always had cash on me or in my bag for this reason. If anything was stolen from either place I was not totally broke.

My roommate was a soccer player teaching for an exchange program between the countries.

He spent a few months teaching in Prague, then played in games on the way back home with a semi pro Italian club that sponsored his stay.

He told me to be sure to go to the square at night as that’s where lots of people congregate.

A brief internet search I discovered it was a short walk to the Vltava River and I recalled how great it was watching the sunsets from a bridge in Budapest.

Along the way to the river, I located a noodle joint for dinner.

Pretty cool concept and affordable too. Build your own box using different proteins, vegetables and sauces.

To my surprise duck breast was on the menu here and most places I’d go in Prague.

Duck n noodles with spicy sauce for dinner it was. Beer only cost 2$ too so had a Thai beer.

Total cost was under 10$ for the whole meal. Quite a relief from the high Vienna prices.

On the way to the river, I encountered a small store well stocked with all sorts of Czech beers so I picked one up.

I cracked it open once I was at the bridge and had a good view of the river.

After a few moments I realized why this section wasn’t occupied as someone had thrown up nearby, maybe into the trash can or street. No visible liquids or solids around but what a smell!

I walked away from the stench and over the river on the bridge where I saw an immense castle in the distance.

 

I finished my beer as the sun went down, pausing to help a couple get a sweet pic of the river and sun in the background.

I always help someone take a great pic as I’d seen some very poor framing in many people I passed, stealing a glance into their screen.

Typically I took more than one shot with the goal of having one candid and one posed shot per session.

My favorite were always the candid shots because it showed people laughing, preening or embracing in very real ways.

Following the river a few blocks in the direction of my hostel but taking a different route, my map indicated a small brewery.

These joints were all over Prague and they only made enough to beer to serve in the restaurant, never bottled or canned.

It was a small spot, slightly elegant I dare say. Most definitely more restaurant than brewery, with wooden stools and tables covered by red velvet cloths.

image

I spied an empty 2 seat table and sat down.

A bald waiter arrived and said, “Dobry den’,  hello in Czech.

I returned his hello and asked for pivo, beer.

He showed me their beer menu, only 4 beers, all listed in Czech with lots of accent marks over some letters.

‘Uh English?’ I tentatively asked.

He smiled and pointed to a beer then stating only its style: ‘lager, dark, red, eh monk pivo. Ah don’t know how to say style name. Is very ah high taste.’

I understood, it was an Abbey ale most likely with high ABV so that’s where I started.

It was great, dark beer served in a goblet glass.

Looking around I spied the vats in the back, not many and very small which made sense as they didn’t need too much beer. Maybe a few kegs a month.

I noted most people were eating and drinking wine.

Haha wow I sure stuck out drinking beer alone. It came with my goal of trying to taste the most local beer possible.

I attempted conversation with the waiter and bartender about what to see in the city.

They had a brief exchange in Czech then revealed they both lived outside the city.

‘We just work, no go out here,’ he said with a laugh. ‘We don’t know much, but this place.’

I selected a red ale and was informed they were soon to close so this was my final beer.

A couple staggered in and to my shock they were served wine, despite their obvious drunkenness and near closing time.

They finished their wines before I could settle my tab and off they were into the night.

It was a very cool walk on stone streets to my hostel, passing by very gothic buildings on either side, occasionally passing an open pub or restaurant.

I heard a low roar and was soon walking through the city centre.

image

Long tables full of people eating and drinking surrounded the path.

Soon the walkway opened up into a large square.

An imposing gothic cathedral lay directly in front of me, the famous medieval astronomical clock to my left but due to an enormous crowd it was very hard to walk through without bumping into someone.

I paused after navigating the crowd to get a glimpse at the clock.

Seemed like a just a clock, a couple statues surrounding it, I didn’t see the big deal at the time.

After looking at the gothic cathedral I heard a large commotion and gasps from the crowd I learned what the big deal was: the statues were moving!

It wasn’t just a clock it was a dang show, every hour on the hour these statues would perform as they had done for centuries only now people took pics and videos of the show instead of just watching.

It was now late, after midnight and I had a long travel day.

I had been given 4 keys to access my room in the hostel. Each key was colored and numbered sequentially.

It took time, but I got the huge wooden door unlocked, then struggled with the iron gate lock, then the door to my floor lock and finally, the old mortice key to unlock my room which was most upsetting to me as in my struggles I awoke my roommates who let me in and locked the door behind me.

Beer: Klášterní special sv. Jiljí no 1
Song: Ocean Colour Scene  the Riverboat Song

image