Eight more days in Europe
04.03.2007 - 20.03.2007
I'm writing from my friend's apartment in Dublin. I've been in Ireland for almost a week now, and have spent most of my time here in the countryside visiting with relatives. I flew from Athens to London to Dublin last Wednesday (3/14), then immediately took a train towards Galway, stopping in Ballinasloe where my cousin picked me up and brought me to my relatives' home in Mountbellew, County Galway. My newly-met relatives fully lived up to their reputation of hospitality... within minutes of my arrival there was a hearty meal and a pint of Guinness laid out in front of me. I had hoped to see the "real" Ireland out in the countryside, and real was what I got. I woke up in the morning, looked out the window and saw sheep grazing in green pastures. Breakfast consisted of coffee, toast, and an assortment of about seven types of meat. When I inquired about two of the more mysterious breakfast items, my cousin told me they were called black and white pudding, and that that was all I needed to know.
The next few days, including St. Patty's, I spent meeting relatives who lived nearby and hanging out in pubs in Mountbellew, Tuam, Mylough, and Galway. Some of the older Rocke and Nolan family members remembered when my dad had come to visit 28 years earlier, recalling the "lad who used to run to Tuam and back before breakfast!"
While I was in County Galway I saw a glimpse of one of the Aran Islands from across the bay, a live cattle auction, some televised rugby, hurling, and Irish football matches, and the childhood home of my great-grandmother, as well as the nearby pub that was often visited by the Flynn family. It was great to meet my relatives and be so generously taken care of during my stay.
Since my last writing from the Netherlands I visited Berlin and Munich while in Germany. Berlin had some interesting and of course historically significant monuments, but mostly it seemed like a pretty somber place. I felt a lot happier walking around Munich... probably because its history seems to revolve around beer rather than strife. (One of their famous beer gardens near Marienplatz was packed with tourists and locals alike guzzling one-liter mugs by about 3:00 pm on the sunny Tuesday afternoon I spent there.)
Next I continued south to Venice, where I managed to meet up with some Boston College friends, and explored the beautiful, if confusing, web of canals that make up the city.
While I was in Rome I saw the Vatican and its museum, which holds the Sistine Chapel, then walked around the city from the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Venezia, Ancient Forum, and finally the Colosseum. It was an amazing city, and almost everywhere you turn you'll see a building, fountain, or sculpture that looks like something from a history textbook.
After Rome I took a train to Bari, where my overnight ferry would take me to the Greek port of Patras. Another train took me to Athens, where, like in Rome, the ruins were awe-inspiring.
From Athens was my day-long journey to County Galway, which started this entry. Now I am in Dublin, and in a few hours i fly to London. There I'll meet up with some friends from high school, and maybe even another member of the Rocke family who owns a few pubs in Essex. If hospitality is hereditary, I'd say it would definitely be worth giving him a call.
In about eight days I'll be flying from Finland to Thailand. Europe has been fun, and I'm excited to see what Asia has to offer.