Ireland – Killarney – April 20th

After a slow start (the night before was the latest I’ve been up in years) we had another big Irish breakfast before getting on the road back towards Cork. This drive was more inland and we didn’t make a pit stop until we got to Killarney. It was a lot more commercialized than the other towns we had been to – it is pretty much for tourists, but even so we enjoyed it. We had some coffee sitting outside and then had some ice cream while we walked around town. There was perfect weather that day, it made it so hard to leave! After a couple of hours enjoying Killarney we were back on the road and headed for the airport. We had such a fantastic time with Deborah and Shaun! The places we were able to see and the things we were able to do never would have happened without their hospitality. Who knew a chance encounter in Stockholm would lead to two new friends and a long weekend exploring the Irish countryside! Please come visit us soon Deborah and Shaun!

Ireland – Ring of Kerry – April 19th

Saturday we had an Irish breakfast (complete with Black Pudding – aka. Blood pudding)- at Foley’s before walking around Kenmare a bit. Kenmare has lots of colorful buildings and fun shops to look in. Morgan bought a really nice wool tweed flat cap; though we were told he shouldn’t wear it while in Ireland because he would just look like a tourist.  From Kenmare we hopped on the N70- the Ring of Kerry. We drove through Sneem and Waterville before getting off the N70 to stay closer to the water and go a little further out the peninsula on the Skellig Ring.  We stopped at the Ballinskelligs Priory which is a monastery built in the 15th century. The buildings are in ruins but from the dates on the graves they still bury people here even today. The information sign was in Irish and English and Deborah read the Irish section to me – I wish I would have thought to video it!  Many of the letters are the same as our alphabet, but the pronunciation was very different – ie. B pronounced like V.

We continued along the Skellig Ring and stopped at the Kerry Cliffs – from here we could see Little Skellig and Skellig Michael. Skellig Michael (the larger of the two islands) had a Christian monastery on it from the 6th century until the late 12th century (when they moved to the Ballinskellig Priory that we visited earlier in the day).  I can’t imagine living 12 km out in the ocean on a small (only 54 acres), very rocky, steep sided (highest elevation is 220 m) island. Talk about living in isolation! The 12 monks and 1 abbot lived in 6 clochans (beehive huts made of flat stones laying on top of one another.. no mortar!) on the island. We were able to see replicas of the clochans on the island at the viewing point we stopped at. The Kerry Cliffs were beautiful and probably the most impressive we saw on our trip. Hopefully we’ll get to compare them to the Cliffs of Moher someday.

We kept driving on the Skellig Ring, going out to Valentina Island where we took the ferry from Knights Town back to the mainland. Once back on the Ring of Kerry we stopped in Cathersiveen for lunch at QC’s Seafood Restaurant. Morgan had seafood chowder and I got the crab sandwich – both were yummy! When we left Cathersiveen we followed the Ring on around until Killorglin where we broke off to go up to the Dingle Peninsula. We drove down the R561 which runs right next to the water and has beautiful views – including Inch Beach (which isn’t the most accurate name considering how huge it is! – so big you can drive your cars out on it).  Our next stop was Dingle; which was where we stayed for the night.

Dingle is a really colorful fishing village that also has a fairly big university so there are lots of pubs and restaurants. After walking around the shops and harbor I showed off my terrible pool skills at Paddy Bawn Brosnan’s and we watched some Gaelic Football on TV. Fun fact – Pierce Brosnan visited at some point – his picture was on the wall with the bar’s owner! Next we went to Foxy John’s which is half hardware store (on the right) and half bar (on the left). Here we tried Crean’s for the first time (the local Dingle brewed beer) and I think it is my favorite Irish beer. Then we headed across the street to J. Curran which is also part bar and part shop. Here we talked with a few locals and hung out with Ted- a super sweet golden doodle. We had dinner from a local take out/ fast food place that had the best fish and chips we’d ever had. No frozen fish at Kanon’s Korner- they had just brought the cod in on a boat and battered and fried it for us.. it was delicious! We were so glad our “quick and cheap” dinner turned out so good.

After dinner we met up with some of Shaun’s friends at McCarthy’s, where we added to their collection of foreign money with a $1 (one of a few Beth has given me for safe travels since we moved to Germany!) with “Go Tigers!”, a tiger paw, and “Morgan and Katie” written on it. If anyone stops by McCarthy’s be sure to look for our dollar bill!  Then it was on to the Dingle Pub (a regular pub on the inside with live music – the band sang Wagon Wheel!) and finally the Hillgrove which was a club with a DJ and waaayyyy too many people crammed inside! This was actually my first “club” experience in Europe – can you believe I haven’t been to Arlando (the huge club in Osnabruck) yet?  Hopefully we’ll get around to it this summer – maybe with Mathias (if we can sneak him in!)?

Ireland – Co. Cork – April 18th

Friday we left the city of Cork to drive around the western part of Co. Cork. During our drive around west Cork, Shaun and Deborah played us some good Irish tunes (ie. The Saw Doctors “N17” & “I Useta Lover” and The Pogues “Rainy Night in Soho”). We drove on the N71 passing through Bandon, Clonakilty, and Skibbereen. When we got close to Ballydehob we went out on the Mizen Peninsula through Schull and Goleen to the Mizen Head – the most south westerly point of Ireland. We didn’t go out on the Mizen Head – they have it all blocked off and make you pay to go out there, but we checked out the cliffs right on the other side of the fence. Here we had Tayto’s (“The Origional Irish Crisp”) for the first time. We had the cheese and onion flavor which was really good!

I can’t remember when exactly, but sometime before we got to the Mizen head Morgan and I got a shout out on the radio! Deborah had texted in to the station so they said something along the lines of.. “Doborah and Shaun are driving their American friends Katie and Morgan around west Cork today and Kerry tomorrow – we hope they enjoy the most beautiful parts of our country!”. We were completely shocked when we heard it – even Shaun didn’t know she had texted in. It was really thoughtful!  Then after this sweet moment, the boys complained about how the girls names were mentioned before the boys.. typical! (haha)

Next we headed inland and north, stopping in Bantry to walk around the farmers market and stretch our legs. Then we headed on the Beara Peninsula on the R572 passing through Adrigole and going all the way to the end at Coomasaharn where we could see the cable car that takes animals and people out to Dursey Island. On the way out to Coomasaharn Shaun had asked a local sheep farmer if we were on the right track (he was doing this part of the drive from memory) and after sheep farmer scared us by telling us we were 50km off track, he laughed and said we just needed to go 5km farther on the road we were on. On the way back from the point we passed the same man who was now hearding his sheep down the road a ways to a different pasture with the help of his sheep dog. We had mentioned to Deborah and Shaun that I wanted to hold a lamb (I really wanted to but doubted we’d get the opportunity) so when we saw him again Shaun asked if I could get a picture with one.. and he let us! After Shaun and Morgan failed to be quick enough to grab one of the lambs (they are really quick and seemed to bounce like rabbits), the nice man grabbed one and passed him over to us. He was really fluffy and cute, but he didn’t smell the best!  After we got all got a picture with him we put him down and he ran like the wind to catch back up with the rest of the herd.. bleating all the way! I think we scared him half to deaf… poor little guy! On the way to Kenmare (where we were staying this night) we drove through Eyeries, a cute and colorful little village before passing over into Co. Kerry.

We spent the night in Kenmare at Foley’s and had a delicious sea food dinner – Morgan had sea food pie (pieces of white fish and salmon, mussels, crab meat) and I had the salmon and shrimp. Since this was Good Friday most restaurants closed early and no bars were open, so we went to bed early to rest up for driving around the Ring of Kerry on Saturday.

Ireland – Blarney Castle and Cork, Ireland – April 17th

Thursday was a regular work day for Deborah and Shaun, so we were on our own for the day. Deborah dropped us at the bus station first thing that morning and we went to Blarney to see the castle and grounds and kiss the Blarney stone. When we arrived, I made Morgan do the castle/kiss the stone first because I know busloads of people go there every day and thankfully we beat the crowd!  This is probably the oldest castle we’ve been to – it was built in 1446. We toured the rooms and walked up the narrow spiral staircase up to the top level where the Blarney stone is built into the battlement. We each leaned back to kiss the stone, which supposedly gives you “the gift of the gab”- aka great eloquence or skill at flattery.  So I’m sure everyone will be very impressed with our new skills the next time we are home or a visit!  In addition to the castle, we walked around the property seeing the Blarney House, the Rock Close, the Witches Stone, the Wishing Steps, the caves, and the Poison Garden. This turned out to be a great time of year to visit since there were flowers blooming everywhere – though we were pretty lucky we didn’t have the typical April showers!  We were really lucky and had nice weather (even some blue sky!) the entire trip.

When we finished up on the Blarney Castle grounds we walked around the town a little and stopped by Blarney Woollen Mill. It is a huge store that carries everything Irish (wool clothing, Waterford crystal, Celtic jewelry, etc). We would have loved another piece of Waterford crystal, but didn’t want to carry it around all day and have to worry about getting it home in once piece.. so I went for a tartan wool scarf. Now I just have to wait for the fall when it gets cold enough to wear it! We took the bus back to Cork and had lunch at the English Market. After that we walked around the city seeing: the Huguenot Quarter, St. Peter and Paul’s Church, City Hall, St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, St. Anne’s Shandon Church (where we got to ring the bells!), and finally the Cork City Gaol (the city jail). Between St. Anne’s and the Cork City Gaol we had a long (uphill) walk up Blarney street – the longest street in Ireland. Deborah’s apartment is at the top of the hill, so we definitely got our exercise for the day.

After our day of sightseeing we went back to Deborah’s place where Shaun fixed us all an Irish dinner – bacon and cabbage, turnips, and potatoes. It was delicious!  After dinner Shaun took us on a drive to Kinsale while Deborah went to choir practice. We stopped at two different points near the Old Head of Kinsale – one near a beach and one up on the cliffs, right near the entrance to the golf course. We also stopped by the old Charles Fort, an old star fort that used to defend Kinsale harbor.  After that we had our first Guinness of the trip at the Spaniard in town. Next we headed back into Cork to meet up with Deborah at Callanan’s – another pub that is popular with locals. Everything closed at midnight this night since the bars couldn’t sell alcohol on Good Friday so we headed back home after Callanan’s. Thankfully we took a cab so we didn’t have to walk up the hill to Deborah’s again!


Ireland – April 16th

After our trip to Stockholm we kept in touch with Deborah and Shaun – emailing back in forth with pictures from the trip, etc. They reiterated their offer to show us around if we ever ended up in their part of Ireland, so we decided to try to make it happen. We knew we wanted to utilize a long weekend (ideally during the summer for a better chance of nice weather) so Morgan wouldn’t have to take any days off of work and by the time we took out weekends when we’re back in the states or that they had things going on.. we were left with just one weekend – Easter weekend- and that was only a month away. But, thankfully we were able to get plane tickets and we were all set for our trip to southern Ireland!  They both live in Cork (though Shaun would be quick to point out he is from Kerry!), so we spent the first two nights in Cork before doing a driving trip around the coastline of County Cork, the Ring of Kerry, Dingle and Killarney. Rental cars in Ireland are really expensive, plus they drive on the wrong side of the road, plus the roads we were on were super narrow and winding- so this trip literally wouldn’t have happened without Deborah and Shaun’s generosity. We were able to see so many more cities and viewpoints with them than if we had been on a big tour bus- it was an amazing trip!  Hopefully we’ve talked them into a visit to Germany in the near future!

We had a late flight from Amsterdam to Cork, so when we got there it was already 9:30. We kicked off the weekend with a quick drink at Sin é (meaning “That’s it” in Irish – referencing the funeral home next door). Deborah and I had a shandy (a beer mixed with a soft drink/juice/etc) – in this case we had a Kilkenney and raspberry and Morgan had a regular Kilkenny. The Sin é had a really nice atmosphere and had live music so it was pretty packed. It was a great start to our long weekend in Ireland!

Enschede, Netherlands

Friday we headed to Enschede in the Netherlands for the day. The main purpose was for Morgan to apply for his passport renewal, but then we stayed the rest of the day walking around town, doing a little shopping, getting my hair cute, seeing an old wind mill, and ending the day with dinner and a movie (in English!). Enschede has a well known flea market on Saturday mornings  (a lot of Germans go there just for shopping on Saturdays), so we’re planning on going back before too long. Thankfully Morgan didn’t run into any trouble applying for his passport – other than the agent giving Morgan a hard time about not speaking Dutch.  Everywhere we went we were offered coffee – at the city office while Morgan was applying for his passport, in a nice men’s shop where Morgan bought a new dress shirt, and even in the hair salon while I was getting my hair cut. I think the Dutch like their coffee just as much (if not more than) the Germans!

Hagen Cherry Blossom Trail

A town near us called Hagen am Teutoburger Wald (Hagen for short) is known for its cherry treas –  in 1900, Hagen was one of the major cherry growing regions in Germany. They have three walking paths laid out of varying lengths – 4 km, 4.5 km, and 10 km. We did the 4.5 km walk since they were calling for rain later in the afternoon. You start and end in town, but most of the walk is in the countryside. We didn’t see as many cherry trees as I thought we would (maybe my expectations were too high), but next time I think I’d try to do the 10 km trail.. maybe that one would have a few more cherry trees. Our trail did take us passed a farm with sheep – including a few lambs – which were pretty cute! On the way home we drove through some rapeseed fields; which are an amazing bright yellow this time of year. Rapeseed is used for bio fuel.


Sunday countryside drive

Sunday we went for a drive in the countryside around Osnabrück since the weather was so nice and all the flowers and trees were blooming. We drove through lots of little towns, stopped for a bit at a small air field where glider planes were taking off, and ended up in Bramsche where we had some ice cream (along with the rest of the town). Overall it was a nice relaxing Sunday.

Post Cards from Hanover

I took the post cards and painting we bought in Hanover to my German lesson this week because Antje was curious to see them and I had hoped she would be able to translate them for us.  She was able to give us an idea of the topic of each one, but a word for word translation turned out to be quite difficult. I was surprised to learn that the alphabet used for all three of these is not the modern day German alphabet, but Sütterlin. Sütterlin was the last widely used form of Kurrent, the historical form of German handwriting. Antje mentioned that her Grandmother and mom (to a lesser extent) learned Sütterlin, but by the time she was in school it wasn’t taught. How strange that Antje’s mom and grandmother learned a totally different alphabet, so different that Antje has a hard time even understanding many of the words! She printed out a copy of the Sütterlin alphabet for me – the e’s look like n’s, the s’s look like l’s, v, x, and y are totally unrecognizable!

The oldest postcard is from 1896 and was a new year’s greeting to friends.

The second oldest is from 1918 and is from a girl to her mom. On top of being in Sütterlin, it is smugged since it was written in pencil and is very hard to read.

The third is from 1936 and is a postcard to a friend talking about how it has been many years since they have spoken and wanting to catch up.

Anyway, I thought these were interesting so I thought I would share. You can read more about Sütterlin here:

Another interesting thing I learned during my German lesson today – it is popular in Germany to do a farm vacation. You rent a cottage or apartment from a farmer for a week or two and help around the farm, let the kids play with the animals and ride on the tractor, etc. I guess if you live in Berlin of Munich and your kid doesn’t get out in the city much I could see this as being a good experience. But, overall I think it is hilarious and wouldn’t be how I’d want to spend a vacation. Getting up at the crack of dawn to milk cows or shovel poop? No thank you!  But from what Antje said this is very popular. Who knew? Either way, I don’t see a Bauernhof vacation in our future any time soon!