China (June 31st 2005 to July 8th)

I suppose it should be noted that this wasn’t a backpacking trip. i was simply a tourist not that in 2005, there is much diference between the two. Anyway, I did very little but relax for the month.

Day One – June 31st
My flight from Heathrow to Paris was at 10.15 to arrive at 12.25. I got up far too early at 6.00am and took the 6.40 ish train to Victoria. From there its a tube to Hammersmith and a change to the Heathrow line. After failing to book in via my e-ticket, I checked in manually and had lots of time. There is very little to amuse yourself in Heathrow. TV’s stuck to BBC 24 and a few shops – thats it. Nothing. I walked around and waited and waited and waited. Finally, the Air France flight to Paris was ready. The French stewardess uniforms must be one of the sexiest in the world – well, in comparison to the staff at blue/yellow Ryanair and the green that the OAP stewardesses wear at Aer Lingus. It makes the flight that more pleasurable.

Paris airport is large but impressive and clean. You must take buses from terminal to terminal. In this case from 2 to 2F. We left Paris at 13.35 arriving at the new Guangzhou airport (Baiyun) at 7.20am the next day (July 1st). The flight was OK but I have never slept in any flight I have taken. I watched Constantine and I love Huckabees on the entrainment screen. Yeah, it was OK and we arrived in time – around 7.30am.

Day Two-July 1st
Guangzhou has a new airport and wants to become a new regional hub like Hong Kong (which is only a two hour bus Journey away). I could have got a flight there – but it would have cost 755 more. I suppose people know the name Hong Kong and want to fly in there. You knows anything about Guangzhou. Its a massive city with no real centre. Its a shining example of what China is becoming (like Beijing /Shanghai) and as such is heavily promoted. The airport is first class, the roads are first class, public transport, its spotless. A city that the Chinese would hope infers a very favorable impression.

The new Airport is very impressive. Its a massive steel and glass structure – straight outta Star Trek / Battlestar Gallatica. Still, the place was empty. I mean empty. We strolled from the plane to Customs to Baggage without encountering any other passengers. I didn’t se any other International Airplanes on the Tarmac – just China Souther. We strolled to the baggage reclaim and I collected the bags. The immigration official were waiting and its just a two form process (SARS form and an entry form) and I was on.

The airport looks even more impressive when you see domestic check-in. International checkin is tiny in comparison. It may be a hub but its just a domestic one. I wanted to get out quickly so that I could catch a bus to town but for the life of me could not find an ATM. I asked about and in this incredible spanking new airport, there weren’t any ATM that took International Visa and what’s more, in this spanking new airport, there was just one currency counter back where I came from (International arrivals).

i walked back to find a small two person counter with about 15 people in line. What a pain. Most of the people were Chinese shop workers looking to lodge money from their business.

Lots of people around the world giving out about te new airport. High cost of food, no Signage, No ATM’s etc. You can check out consumer opinion here.

Lesson 1 about china: Queues. There is no such thing. it doesn’t matter if you are at a railway station ticket counter, bus stop, ATM machine, Bank Counter etc. Either they are looking over your shoulder (near impossible), pushing past you to get in first or standing beside you – they have to sense of personal space. When at the counter changing 20 US, I had a guy to my left waiting next happily looking at the transaction and a girl to my right pushing her money in so as to get in next. I had another girl right behind me pushing me ahead. In other words there are people 360 all around and if you feel insecure for your personal belongings, well tough.

Anyway once I had some money changed, I checked out the 5 separate bus express routes they have from the Airport. They travel too all the major bus, train and large hotels in the city. The trouble about the city is tat they have half a dozen big bus stations depending on what direction (N,S,E,W) you are heading to. I knew mine to be east so I purchased a 20 Yuan ticket to town. the traffic was shitty, really bad and my plans to head straight to Yangshou were unravelling. It was painfully slow progress for the us and its 5 passengers.

At about 10am we reached a nondescript (the whole city is nondescript) building and that was it. I was unsure where we were although the bus driver with no English simply pointed a road out to me with a smile. No explanation, just a direction. Its such a big neon city that each road looks the same. Each was chaotic but I took his advice and after 10 minutes walk saw the main northern train station. My Lonely Planet (photocopied and purchased in Vietnam for 5 US) said the bus station was close and sure enough it was there. I waited at the counter for a while and said my destination was Guilin (about an hour beyond Yangshou) but found the next bus was noon (it was about 10.15am now). I had little choice and purchased a ticket for 140 Yuan.

I did little little over the next hour or so. I purchased some food and some drink. I wasn’t suffering from Jet Lag. I was just getting used to the humid heat and the mass of people again. its hard for people to understand – you go to the train station and there might be 5,000-6,000 people waiting – its just a mass of people and its similar on the city streets. The city folk in the designer gear, the country folk in their fathers over long jackets and black slip on shoes with white socks looking at the city with mouths open. No room on the pavements. Sniggers and exaggerated “hello’s” looking for a response and a laugh.

Anyway, I got on the bus and we headed off on this 10 hour journey. The scenery was brilliant – that beautiful green – rice fields and karst formation poking up from the ground but I kept nodding off and again and I had some premonition that the bus wasn’t going the place it should be going or that it would run straight to Guilin without stopping or letting me know it was yangshuo.Yeah, it was uncomfortable because every time, I closed my eyes I nodded off for a few seconds.. I would wake up, some people would ahve disappeared from the bus.. i wouldnt know where I was and try and concentrate again.

Anyway, We finally arrived and I was reassurance from a passenger that we were there. I walked to the same hotel I was a year and a half ago. It was 80 Yuan per night (8 Euro). The town was still busy and particularly walking street. Things have changed with alot more discos, bars and Chinese Tourists.

When i was here in 2003, there were no chinese tourists here, just Western backpackers. Chinese tourists stayed in Guilin when visiting the region. We could only find one Chinese Disco back then and no Western orientated bars.

I headed to the China Clim ( bar which hadn’t changed a bit). I was feeling pretty weird after the long trip from home to Heathrow, the flight and the bus journey here so i ordered a local beer (7 Yuan is the usual price in the tourist bars here – less than .70 cent) and asked for a snake shot (Snake wine). Its fermented wine contained within large jars alongside pickled dead snakes and assorted fruit.

Well the barman says to all and sundry (about a dozen Canadians celebrating Canada day with maples sewed their clothes) that I was the only brave soul to order snake wine for a long while, it would be free of charge (as much as you wanted) for 10 minutes. As I was at the bar at the time, I had two withe barman in quick session. I was surprised of the about 12-14 of the bar only one other girl had taken the barman up on his generous offer. An American popped in and we started a conversation. We was only 18 and teaching English in taiwan. He father was a professor in Northern China. We were soon joined by an English and two israeli Guys. We had some more shots and a few beer and it was now 2.00am. I dont remember their names (it was a month ago) but its all a bit hazy after that. We all went to another bar along with the barman, drank alot until about 5.00am. We then headed to the river. The barman went swimming and at that stage, water, beer … I was awake (well sort of) for about 48 hours I headed back. I dont know how I got back to the hotel but I passed it out. Luckily the doorman saw me passing and ran down the street after me. I crashed.

Day Three-July 2nd
I crashed. I mean crashed. I woke at about 1.00pm but could not move. Slept, but woke every hour only to realize I could not getup. The curtains were open, the noise from the street loud, the sun shining in but no. I didn’t get up until 6.00pm. I had a bit to eat at a local place (rice noodles soup). You can usually buy it for between 2-4 Yuan and its delicious. It gives but a real buzz especially when you put some relish in it so you got a a meal and an invigorating soup. I had a beer and headed into town to peruse the night market. They sell a lot of crap but dont oversell to passer buys. The place is packed with people. I try and find a Bank of china that accepts International Visa. I keep on pressing the wrong button for an English menu. I am just not with it. I walk around a good bit and have promised to meet the America Guy. i relax with a beer in one of the many outdoor places they have beer. I talk to a bar owner who says that Chinese Tour Groups only started coming here about seven months ago and advised me to go down to the river jetty at noon to see them come in.

I met the american guy and headed back to China Climb Bar. Had a few beers and a few snake shots and before you know it, it was 4.00am and I headed home.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

The River that passes through – Yangshou – China (02-07-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

The River that passes through – Yangshou – China (02-07-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

The River that passes through – Yangshou – China (02-07-2004)

Day Four-July 3rd
I had plans today to see some rice terraces but I met a guy at a travel agent who talked me out of it. He said he was here 5 years and hadn’t visited the famous caves, the rice terraces because they were – crap. The caves are full of artificial coloured lighting (as some of the tourist orientated caves are in China for some reason) and the ethic groups will torture you to by their market bought handicrafts. We went to the pub and met two tourists from England who had backpacked down from russia – spent a while looking at their photos. The girl in the couple had been sick for a full week and and could not to anything. She had researched her type of stomach problems on the Internet and self prescribed buying the antibiotics over the counter without perscibtion which is normal here.

The day was gone and tried to buy train tickets to Kumning but none to be had until the 5th. I paid a deposit (100 Yuan out of a total 160 Yuan) and headed for a full body oil massive for 50 Yuan with Mrs.Li (well known in town) for 50 Yuan.

It was quite sore. I never had one before and really caused pain when he roller her fists down my back. I never rather light headed at the end. i met tourists who swore by her and had been there everyday of their trip. Some tourists spoke to me about their job teaching English four hours south of here, in a city of 4000,000 that nobody has heard of. Its quite funny that there are hundreds of these 1/2 million plus cities in China that no foreigner has ever heard of.

Anyway, I had a pretty early night.

Day Five-July 4th
I headed down to the jetty around noon to see the circus. It was incredible. About 30-40 very large boats steamed in from Guilin to unload tourists. About 50/50 in terms of domestic and international visitors. The town has changed alot. There i now a massive riverside market at the jetty that all unloaded visitors have to pass through. Its a 20-minute maze for these poor unfortunate souls to get into town (although they are some short-cuts out) so as these visitors are part of groups, they are led around by flag bearing guides. As soon as they get out of the market maze, they are led onto golf buggies (electric) which bring them around town. Its incredible to see a small town swamped in these large pink buggies ferrying the visitors from site to site.

The town is quite busy until 5.00pm when the boats depart or more usually they depart back to Guilin on buses.

I was supposed to collect my train ticket at 6.00pm but it wasn’t available. I went to a pub near China Climb called Black Parrot something or another. Anyway I met John, the english bar/owner who had been here for five years and just had a kid with a local paper. Over the next few hours, I got the life story. We were joined by a sacked Chinese nightclub owner and a gaggle of Shanghai girls he was trying to impress and an American (mid 20’s) who was on a tour group along with his sister. Anyway, it went on until 2.00am and I went out earlier to get my train ticket. Still, my train was 8.52am and it was an hour to the station at Guilin. I made my way home along the same road as the American. The bus girls joined for some reason. I was good, swapped details but didnt invite hime for a late night latte!

It was a good night. Stories of Chinese Babies having saline trips when they get sick, the future of the town, card games – it went on and on.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Computer Love – Yangshou – China (04-07-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Druken Lullabies – Yangshou – China (04-07-2004)

Day Six-July 5th
I was up around 7.00am. Buses pass through every 15 minutes or so so I just needed to stand on the street. It was straightforward although it took a 20-minute detour up a hill and around some rough roads until we got back on the main road. I wasn’t feeling that good for my impending 22 hour journey. I was thinking about the barman last night talking about Chinese beer. its very cheap, but according to his five years experience, Chinese Beer has a 50/50 chance of giving you the runs (diarrhea). if you can drink a few bottles and don’t rush to the toilet, your sorted but it doesn’t sit with alot of people.

The ticket I purchased was a hard sleeper. The last time I was in this town i took a bus to Gulin to buy it, but bus tickets cost 10 Yuan each way, your better off paying the 30 Yuan commission to a travel agent in town to save you the time. Anyway, I was in the middle bunk with five Chinese friends from Kunming who were at a football match. They were pretty cool and no hassles. Chinese trains are excellent and no need to buy any food or drink before hand. Everything can be purchased on the train or at the station vendors along the way. The hot food (rice/Vegetables etc.) are especially good value.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

On the way by way on Train to Kunming – China (05-07-2004)

Now, I have slept on hard sleepers before and have slept OK but this time I felt I was sleeping on a wooden kitchen table. The mattress was less than 4 mm thick and I thought I was sleeping on concrete blocks. i could not settle. i even got up and purchased a small bottle of Chinese Whiskey to knock me out but no – no sleep would come. I wasn’t stressed about safety etc. I dunno. Anyway we arrived at 7.00am, the next day, the sixth of July.

Day Seven-July 6th
As I have to Kunming before, I know the location of the hotel and its only a 10-15 minute walk. I am jaded tired and the city is starting to get busy. I didn’t sleep at all last night on the train. I checked into my room for 40 Yuan. You dont get a key, so you have to ask the floor attendant every time you see to open your door and this place is big. About 30 rooms on each of the 10 floors. I slept until 3.00pm.

I am in a delima on whether I will stay in china for the month or get a visa for Laos. As well as that I felt some stomach problems coming on..ah, yeah a rush to the toilet was called for and chinese toilets are not the best places to have stomach problems. first of all, you better have your own toilet paper, second; forget about privacy. In the toilet block you may be squatting beside 2/3 other guys (same in the women’s toilet) and they may be having a fag and staring at the foreigner as you are suffering and your stomach is convulsing. Thirdly, you have to remember not to lose your belongings in your pants as you squat. Many a traveler have lost their wallet down the bottomless pit that a squat toilet is. Lastly, as the sewers can not take toilet paper, you have to dump into a wast paper bin and dont forget to wash down your waste with a a few pans of water as you leave for the next poor unfortunate soul.

I took this from a Lonely Planet Forum Post. its quite funny.

ate: Every day (sometimes several times a day)
Location: China

I have to talk about the toilet situation. Toilets here consist of a
porcelain hole in the floor, with a little area behind the hole to
catch stray drips or whatever. So you squat and aim for the hole,
trying desperately not to allow your pants or anything but the bottoms
of your shoes touch the floor, as it’s always wet and you never know
what it’s wet with. You try not to breathe as the smell is really
really bad, but you don’t want to pass out and fall down, so it’s a
balance of holding the breath and gasping for air when you can’t stand
it anymore. You just pray that your sense of balance is good as you try
not to fall forward or backward, and you try not to touch ANYTHING.
Then you either flush if it has a flush, or take a big dipper of water
from a nearby bucket and manually flush.

Okay, so far so
good. The problem is when there is no flush OR dipper of water from a
nearby bucket, or when the women who have gone before you have
neglected to flush… what happens is that the bathroom creates an
intense and incredibly powerful smell of amonia and mixed pee that can
be smelled all the way around the corner. And there’s usually not a
door in the front of each little stall for privacy. There is NEVER
toilet paper, and I noticed that many Chinese women don’t seem to use
it. I don’t know what they do instead, if they drip dry or what. If you
are lucky enough to have a sink outside to wash at, there is NEVER

My absolute worst bathroom experience so far: a very
primitive bathroom located in a small town in the middle of nowhere…
one small dark room, with a floor which has wooden slats, where you
place your feet and do your business in-between the slats. If you are
daring enough to glance between the slats, about a quarter of an inch
below you can see all kinds of human waste, paper, trash, bugs… god
knows what else. No doors, no toilets…. just a bunch of women in a
small dark room, squatting and aiming for between the slats. That was
one day I wished I was wearing a skirt as many of the women were; I
didn’t wake up that day with the goal of letting a bunch of women see
my big white foreigner’s behind. But did I use it? Yes, I did!

I returned to bed for a while before heading to the Laos embassy. i to call into a five star hotel (luckily, they thought I was a guest) to use a toilet and feel the cold air or a air-conditioner. I didn’t make it. I did a little shopping as Kunming is the best place (in my opinion) to buy pirated DVD’s and music. There’s a shop in every street selling recent DVD’s for 6-10 Yuan (.60 cent to 1 euro). As I am on holidays rather than a backpacker route of self-discovery, I reserve to do holiday things like not visiting museums, attractions any buying with self-indulgence as many damn DVD’s as I like.

I go a local restaurant near the bus station but my stomach isn’t really up for anything heavy. I retire early.

Day Eight-July 7th
I felt alot better today. I am up early and do a nice bit of wayward, no map walking and have some some nice culianry experiences. I also decide of heading north and backtracking, I will head into Laos and decide from there. I walk to the Laos Embassy. the guy is pretty ignorant and I pay 450 Yuan for a visa to be collected next day. What I didn’t know is that you can now buy the visa at the border. Its updated in the new china Guide. I should have checked it out but how was I do know. Some do a little more research but on this trip as a experiment I am trying to use Internet cafes and the camera as little as possible.

The rubbish about the strict firewalls here and the need to register is not tue. There are Internet cafes all over the place and no need to register. Some people in the cafes are either in chat rooms or are playing computer games (all pirated).

Anyway I walk to the pus station and buy a ticket for a sleeper bus to Zhongian for tomorrow evening (5.30pm). By all accounts it may take up to 24 hours, but its hard to guess with buses. I have a nice evening walk around town. Not many tourists and there is no backpacker area or even a hostel in the city. I do go to the university area where there is a foreigner street with a few bars. You have some foreign students and some teaching English. Still, little happening and I have a pretty early night.

Day Nine-July 8th
I get up and leave my bags with the hotel. My stomach is pretty much back to normal and I enjoy the way, taking different buses all over the city. its only 1 Yuan a ride and they are pretty easy to understand, with stops automatically announced in English and chinese. I head back around 4.30pm and read Grapes of Wrath. Decent book. I had seen the film, but never read the book it was based on.

I go to the bus station and get a lower bunk bed. Its an excellent bus compared to many I have taken. I get a clean pillow and sheet and the bus doesn’t stink. Maybe its the city people, but they don’t even spit and smoke during the trip.

it was great, scenery, stopped for 20 minutes, got a 8 Yuan meal. no smells, no breakdowns and most importantly, I actually slept on a bus. Must be oneof the few times, i have ever did so. I closed my eyes and dreamt. Great

Making the move.

Apologies for the lack of posts on this site / for some time. Nearly three months in fact. I have spend time looking for a job. Found one, then a second… finally taking up a subject close to my heart.

I am a few weeks into a Ph.D entilted.
Connections, Mobilities, and the Culture of the Backpacker

Interesting, yes and it should involve some traveling for research purposes and conferences.

the context of traditional backpacker travel (typically, just before or just after university) this project focuses on the ways in which the cohesiveness of social networks (especially links with home and immediate family) has changed with the advent of ‘instant’ communications (text messages, picture messaging, internet cafes, emails etc.). The aim of this project is to examine how and to whom youngsters communicate their mobility along the backpacker trails thus enabling us to gain greater understanding of the uses people make of new and emerging ICTs.

1. How, precisely, do backpackers use ICTs?
2. How do the mix of non-digital media such as guidebooks and hostel notice boards/ word of mouth, letters and postcards fit into the communication mix?
3. How are subjective notions of ‘here’ and ‘there’ mediated by instant communications with home and social networks?
4. Do instant communications form a notional umbilical cord that limit or alter the experience of backpacking?
5. Are there gender differences in the cultures of communication amongst backpackers?
6. How does instant communication compare to pre-instant communication (including diaries, postcards and letters) used by the baby-boomer backpackers who travelled in the 1960s-70s?
7. Do the comparisons between ‘now’ and ‘then’ throw any light on relationships with host societies?

Where, am i carrying it out ….. England. Its taking some getting used to. Are they not like us at all 🙂 Anyway my new address (email is michael (at)

Its all true

Taken on the 10th of February 2005

Stuff the euro. You get a lot of anti-European and anti-Euro sentiment here. It should be interesting to see the EU constitution campaign next year for the UK/EU constutution referendum.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

I will continue to post here if I travel around England or undertake any foreign trips. I hope to do so quite soon. i will also be adding a few new sections to this site. By the way for those who have not been to this new site, I have updated over December. its now CSS based and has a expanded picture gallery and trip highlights, so if you get this by email and havent been around for a while, please pay the site another visit.

By the way I created a new GAA jokes website Check it out if you intom that type of thing. It has some good “County by County” jokes and quotes.

I may also start a “irishman living in britain” website soon.

NEWSFLASH: I have three GMAIL Accounts to give away. If you dont know what they are, dont worry about it. Your not missing much. If you do know and really think you want one, click on the “Contact me” section and tell me!! posted 15/02/2005.

All Ireland Hurling Final Day 2004

On the 15th of August I travelled to Dublin by train to see Cork take on Wexford in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Semi-Final. Cork produced a flawless dispaly and trashed Wexford.

Hurling is a game similar to hockey, in that it is played with a small ball and a curved wooden stick. It is Europe’s oldest field game. When the Celts came to Ireland as the last ice age was receding, they brought with them a unique culture, their own language, music, script and unique pastimes. One of these pastimes was a game now called hurling. It features in Irish folklore to illustrate the deeds of heroic mystical figures and it is chronicled as a distinct Irish pastime for at least 2,000 years.

The Dublin Spire

Taken of the 15th of August 2004

The Dublin Spire was the winning entry in an architectural competition to provide a replacement for Nelson’s Pillar which was blown up in 1966 by the IRA. After a planning appeal and a High Court case, the Spire finally got the go ahead. It was erected between December 2002 and January 2003 to great public excitement. The Dublin Spire is one hundred and twenty metres tall, making it by far the tallest structure in Dublin city centre.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Murphy’s Irish Stout

Taken of the 15th of August 2004

This was a flag belonging to my sister who was at the match. Cork fans use flags that have connections to Cork. Murphy’s Brewery was founded by James J. Murphy in Cork, Ireland in 1856. Since then, the brewery has been using the finest ingredients and traditional skills to produce great Irish beers. I fell if drank in the right pubs, its better than Guinness.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Croke Park Stadium – Ireland

Taken on the 15th of August 2004

Croke Park Panoramic shot. I sticted 6 shots together to give you a better view of this great national stadium. You need to click on in to see it fully. Its going to look VERY silly otherwise.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Related Websites for this post

CROKE PARKE Online. Website for the National Stadium.

GAA.IE ONLINE. The official GAA Site. All you need.

REBEL GAA.COM. Cork GAA fan site.



AN FEAR RUA GAA Site. Fan site.

Murphy’s Irish Stout. Irish Stout at its best.. and made in Cork.

Check out the sites if your interested. Rebel GAA has excellent fan forums. Tickets were 40 Euro to the Canal end and approx 64,000 people attended the match. Its a great stadium and the views from the canal were excellent. Now a world-class stadium, Croke Park is the largest stadium in Ireland and the fourth largest stadium in Europe.

It was a long day. We left at 8.15am to get the train and arrived home around 10.00pm.

17th of August, 2004

I was down to a local Reaping demonstarion last week. Just a half a dozen enthusists cutting a 1/2 acre of wheat the whole fashioned awy. It was very enjoyable.

Early reaping was all done by hand. Reaping is the cutting of the grain. In Egypt a flint blade was used to cut the wheat. In Europe the scythe had been introduced by the Romans. Yet the Europeans continued to use the sickle until limited labor forced them to use the more efficient scythe. By hand a worker could cut about 0.3 acres in a day. An experiment with an old sickle harvested 6.25 pounds in one hour and was two pounds after being threshed. After being cut the stalks were tied into bundles and then let to dry. After drying the wheat would be threshed and winnowed. The first evidence of a machine reaper come from the Gauls in Europe.

The Cradlers allowed the the cutter to deposit the shafts in a pile after the swing. They could mow 1.5 to 3 acres in a day.

Later, labor shortage, both in Europe and especially in the Western United States, spurred the farmer on to find new and more efficient ways to harvest his crop. (17F, pg. 53) The first successful reaper was created by Rev. Patrick Bell in the early 1800’s. In this design the reaper was pushed by horses with the shears cutting the wheat in front. (14F) The Bell reaper could cut ten acres a day and needed sharpening after fifty acres.

One of the largest used early reapers was one made by the McCormack company. The McCormack reaper was widely used and accepted in United States and England. The rest of Europe was much slower to adopt the new technology. In 1890 only one tenth of France or Germany had adopted the use of the reaper in their fields.(17F 54) The reaper would cut the stalks where they would lie in the fields until they were manually pick up. Later a board was added behind the blades and a man would push the stalks off into piles.

More information can be found here and here.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Fashioned Binding with an 1948 John Deere Tractor – Cork – Ireland (12-08-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Fashioned Binding with an 1948 John Deere Tractor – Cork – Ireland (12-08-2004)

Cahirmee Horse Fair – Monday, July 12, 2004

I was at Cahirmee Horse Fair which occurs annually in Buttevant (Cork) today for a few hours.

Cahirmee Horse Fair is one of the oldest fairs in Ireland, and is reputed to date back to the time of Brian Boru. The Duke of Wellington bought his horse, Copenhagen, which he rode at the Battle of Waterloo, at the fair. Napoleon also bought a horse at Cahirmee.

The Fair came to Buttevant from Cahirmee Fair Field in 1921 and has been held in Buttevant since. Visitors to the fair can see the buying and selling of horses on the streets, while a horse show will also be held with a number of prizes available, including the best horse of the fair.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Cahirmee Horse Fair – Buttevant – Cork – Ireland (12-07-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Cahirmee Horse Fair – Buttevant – Cork – Ireland (12-07-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Cahirmee Horse Fair – Buttevant – Cork – Ireland – Irish Traveller girls in Traditional Dress (12-07-2004)

It was one of the biggest crowds seen at the fiar for many years. The weather was good and many horses were for sale. An enjoyable afternoon. Many Irish travellers here and no hint of trouble.

Irish Travellers are the largest minority in Ireland. There are about 25,000 Irish Travellers in Ireland and 1,300 in Northern Ireland. They are a little understood nomadic community, who have many difficulties to overcome if they are to survive as a culture and gain acceptance in Irish society. Among the challenges facing them are poverty and racism.

Irish Travellers are a distinct ethnic group which has existed for centuries. Often they are mistakenly considered part of the nomadic Romani, an ethnic group which originated in the region of India and is now widespread throughout Europe. The Irish Travellers are indigenous to Ireland. The two cultures are not related. While both are nomadic, the Irish Travellers are Roman Catholic and speak a language that is theirs alone. They have their own culture, customs, traditions, and language. They are noted for their musical and story telling abilities.

In times past, they traveled by horse drawn wagon in caravans, making camp along the way. Tinsmithing, horse trading and peddling were the major sources of income in those days. Tinsmiths were so prevalent among Irish Travellers that the terms Tinker and Irish Traveller were used interchangeably. Today, Tinker is one of many derogatory terms for Irish Traveller.

Horses and wagons have given way to mobile homes pulled by motor vehicles. They continue their life on the road, but there are fewer places to stop and fewer places where they are welcome. Today, Irish Travellers mainly work in recycling. Changing needs of society and progress have eliminated the jobs that could support a culture on wheels.

Irish Travellers are poor, undereducated, and on the receiving end of discrimination. Their life expectancy is lower than average while their infant mortality rate is higher than average. As is the case with the Romani, the Irish Travellers are seen by many as a group of immoral, ignorant, criminals and con artists. People distrust their nomadic culture and their language, Shelta. Many think its a secret language specifically developed as a tool to help the Irish Travellers trick innocent people. However, it is an old language, which has evolved with time and circumstances. Once heavily infused with Irish Gaelic, it is now infused with English.

The Irish Government and many private organizations are attempting to eradicate the racism suffered by the Travellers and to address their problems. In the past thirty years, laws have been passed in an attempt to stop the racism and alleviate the problems of poverty as well as a lack of health care and education. Results have been mixed. Early on, the government attempted to help the Irish Travellers by trying to assimilate them into Irish society. Eventually, the government realized that the they didnt want help at the cost of giving up their culture. Civil rights has become the focus. Anti-hate laws as well as laws prohibiting discrimination against Irish Travellers in employment and education have been passed over the course of the last several years. The Irish Travellers have organized to lobby for their rights. On a broader scale, they have joined Romani groups to call attention to the problems of all the nomadic cultures throughout Europe.

Stemming the tide of racism is a difficult task. Helping the Irish Travellers overcome poverty while maintaining their cultural identity will require dedication by the Irish Travellers, the governments involved and society. Progress is being made as awareness is heightened, but there is a long way to go before Irish Travellers are a productive and accepted part of Irish Society.

Saturday, May 1st, 2004

Saturday, May 1st, 2004

I purchased a DVD player in china before I came home in february. i finally got it up and going. The TV at home only has a SCARt input and no audio/video nputs but I found a connector. its nice to be able to watch some decent movies now. China is expected to export five million DVD recorders this year and its clar why. i purchased one as theya re made to play pirated, scrated and damaged disks. The brand models like Sony, Panasonic simply cant play them. As wel as that, the players are region free.

Not much happened at the moment. A website asked to use one of my bog pictures. It is of Valentia Island (off Kerry) and be found at the Open democracy site. Nice of them to ask for my permission.

I see Louisiana May Ban Low-Slung Pants. abot feckin time.

I see Warsaw (I was there a few weeks ago) is the cheapest capital city in Europe as Dublin nears top of costs league.

ANYONE looking for a cheaper cost-of-living should consider moving to Warsaw, which will be the cheapest capital in the EU after enlargement. Dubliners now face higher costs than in almost any other capital, including Paris, according to a recent survey carried out on behalf of the German government. According to the German Federal Statistics Office, the cost of living in Ireland is now 15pc higher than in Germany. The only cities more expensive are London and the notoriously high-cost Nordic capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki. Other major cities, such as Rome and Paris, are cheaper than Dublin. The costs do not seem to accurately reflect a country’s GDP economic wealth either, since Luxembourg, statistically the wealthiest EU country, is also at the bottom of the current list, while Ireland is now in second place, according to this measure. And should people wish to move to Warsaw, Ireland and Britain are set to be the only current EU countries not to face controls on migration being considered by the Polish government after May 1. The Poles are threatening retaliation against the EU countries that plan to prevent its citizens moving for work. Costs drop significantly in the 10 accession states, with all 10 capitals less expensive places to live than the current 15. The costs of living in the European capitals are expressed relative to the cost in Berlin:

London (UK) 128.0

Copenhagen (Denmark) 126.6

Stockholm (Sweden) 117.7

Helsinki (Finland) 116.2

Dublin (Ireland) 115.6

Paris (France) 115.0

Rome (Italy) 109.5

Vienna (Austria) 105.8

The Hague (The Netherlands) 105.3

Brussels (Belgium) 100.9

Athens (Greece) 100.3

Berlin (Germany) 100.0

Lisbon (Portugal) 98.8

Madrid (Spain) 98.6

Luxembourg (Luxembourg) 98.2

The costs of living in the 10 accession countries, again relative to Berlin, are:

Nicosia (Cyprus) 95.3

Ljubljana (Slovenia) 88.2

Budapest (Hungary) 86.5

Bratislava (Slovakia) 83.2

Tallinn (Estonia) 82.1

Valletta (Malta) 80.4

Riga (Latvia) 79.1

Vilnius (Lithuania) 78.3

Prague (Czech Republic) 72.7

Warsaw (Poland) 71.9

On March 31st, Four American civilians were ambushed and shot or beaten to death here Wednesday by insurgents, witnesses and U.S. officials said. Townspeople mutilated the bodies of at least two of the men, dragged them through the streets, suspended them from a bridge and burned them while crowds danced and cheered. …

I am also posting some pictures of a Dropkick Murphys concert I attended (for historical reasons).

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

DKM Concert @ 2001 (01-05-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

DKM Concert @ 2000 (01-05-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

DKM Concert @ 2000 (01-05-2004)

i was reading an article that had the following quotation. it reminded me of my recent trip to poland and the many, many i met in the hostel.

“Depending on place people, circumstances I have been clever, stupid, common, sophisticated, taciturn, causeur, taller, shorter, superficial or thorough, I have been bright, dull, important, unimportant, timid, shameless, confident or shy, cynical or noble…. what have I not been? I have been everything.”

These words belong to Witold Gombrowicz, a Polish writer written in 1967. They say something to me about how we interact with people and it rings true for me.

Saturday, April 10th, 2004

Saturday, April 10th, 2004

I was up around 7.00am and headed down to the airport supermarket for some “Bratwurst” and some chicken wings. I then took and S-Bahn into town to revisit some tourist sites for this blog. I took the S-Bahn to Hauptwache, which is only four long stops away from the airport. As mentioned I know Frankfurt very well and I know my way about. I first made my way to Romer, which at this time in the morning was deserted.

Ostzeile vom Romer / Romerberg

After Frankfurt’s old town was destroyed during the Second World War, heated discussions took place as to how the area between the Dom and R?mer should be rebuilt. Romerberg, Frankfurt’s old central square surrounded by steeply gabled 14th and 15th century buildings Actually, since eighty percent of the old city was wiped off the map by two Allied bombing raids during World War II, what stands today are largely recreations, but they provide a glimpse of the beautiful city that this once was. For centuries this medieval square was the hub of city government. It looks a bit fake, and it is fake. The R?merberg was leveled during WWII, and then partly reconstructed. The R?mer, city hall, occupies the west side of the square. On the east side is a row of restored half-timber houses called the Ostzeile, originally built in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Fountain of Justice stands in the square’s centre. The R?merberg is the site of several public festivals and there is a tourist office located in the northwestern corner.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Romer – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Romer – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Romer – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)


Originally built as a parish church in 1235, an edict of 1356 decreed that all German emperors be elected here, thus conferring cathedral status upon the church. The cathedral was rebuilt several times over the years: after a devastating fire in 1867 and after World War II. The only parts of the original interior which survived are the frieze of St. Bartholemew, the choir stalls and the Maria-Schlaf altar. The tower contains a masterpiece of the early Renaissance period – a sculpture by Hans Backoffen portraying a scene from the crucifixion. Destroyed by Allied bombs in 1944, it was rebuilt in 1953. One of its chief treasures is its choir stalls, which represent brilliant Upper Rhine craftsmanship, dating from around the mid-14th century. In the north chancel look for Maria Schlaf, the Altar of Mary Sleeping, dating from 1434. It is the only alter remaining from the church’s original interior.

I also walked to Sachsenhausen, which the cobbled stoned and sleep (on Saturday mornings anyway) entertainment and pub district, which has at least three Irish pubs. I also know from experience that the flea market takes place only 5 minutes away from Romer on the riverbank on Saturday mornings. Street markets in Frankfurt can be found on almost any given day in different locations around town. They are predominantly filled with fresh foods and flowers, and very few retail items. However, Saturday mornings turn the Mainufer into a large flea market with a huge selection of used items. Tons of clothes, books (with a reasonable selection in English), bicycles, and other bits and baubles are for sale. Frankfurt is a rich city but has a poor emigrant underlass which are mainly Eastern European (Serbian) and Turkish. To see the dozens of stalls with clothes been sold for 1 Euro and the vast crowds going through them shows that the most business orientated and capalitistic city in Europe has an underclass. Makes you think.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

People buying second hand clothes at a flea market – – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

I then walked to “ZEIL STRASSE” which is the busiest street (in terms odf expenditure) in Europe. Frankfurts’s shopping is concentrated along the pedestrian street Zeil, with equally exciting stores along the cross streets Schillerstr. and Goethestr. Grosse Bockenheimerstrasse, a.k.a. Fressgasse (Feast Street), is an endless choice of gourmet food shops and restaurants. The main shopping area is the Fussg?ngerzone (pedestrian street) of the Zeil, beginning at Hauptwache and stretching all the way to Konstablerwache, with the city?s main department stores (Kaufhof and Karstadt) book-ending each end. There are ample small shops and boutiques with clothes, shoes, leather goods, and plenty of fast-food joints and bakeries.

I purchased a shirt in Woolworth’s on Zeil and checked out some second hand stores.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Frankfurt (view from across the river) – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

It was now 3.00pm and I wanted to catch the 4.15pm bus to the airport (hahn) from the main railway station. I took the S-bahn back and took the 12 euro trip (one hour an thirty minutes) to Frankfurt Hahn.

They were already checking in the Shannon flight. I had a beer at the airport (my first German beer, which I like so so much). It was a Hefe Weissenbeer, which I think is one of the finest beers in the world. Anyway I took the 19:25 flight and arrived in Shannon at 20:25. the flight was expensive at 64.47 Euro. Writing this today, you can catch a Shannon to Brussels flight for 7 Euro including taxes.

Sister drove me home .. back again. Nice break.

  • Good TIME atrticle on the so-called private security personnel (mercenaries) in iraq.

  • Morrissory (Mozzer) is back with a single and album in May.

  • Poland and a politician with a Hitler fixation.

  • Unrest in Vietnam. I was in the town of Buon Ma Thuot mentioned in the article.

  • how to upgrade an Aging PC.

  • Poles frown on strict U.S. immigration rules, fingerprinting

Increasingly, there’s a wealth of information on the web (take my webste for instance 🙂 ) written just like a travel guide – not by paid authors, but by others who’ve trodden the same path. Check these out….

Wiki Travel

World 66

World is Round

Lonely Planet

BTW, I havent even looked for a job yet. Must start looking 🙂

I see Diego Maradona suffered a heart attack at a Boca Juniors game. i was at that sadium last year and he still idolized there.

Thursday, April 8th, 2004 to Friday, April 9th, 2004

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

I was up and about around 9.30am and headed into town. My appetite has still not fully returned. It was pissing rain. It was cold and miserable. I walked to the old town area past various churches and old buildings. The old town, cathedral and square were empty. I then walked to the Warsaw uprising monument and then onto the main shopping area. Its a very gray and dour city which was totally destroyed during the Warsaw uprising.

After the uprising the Germans systematically razed most of Warsaw to the ground. Eighty five percent of buildings were destroyed: 25% as a result of the uprising, 35% as result of systematic German actions after the uprising, the rest as result of the earlier Warsaw Ghetto uprising and other combat including the September 1939 campaign.

The Warsaw Uprising

By 1944 with the tide of war turning, and their resources and morale seemingly in disarray, German forces had begun a strategic retreat from Warsaw. Following close contact with the Polish government exiled in London, as well as assurances of Allied aid, the Home Army (Poland’s wartime underground movement) launched a military strike with the aim of liberating Warsaw and installing an independent government.

At 17:00, August 1, 1944, General Tadeusz Komorowski signalled the order for Polish troops to launch attacks on German held positions. In spite of being disastrously ill equipped (only around 10% of the 40,000 strong force in his command were properly armed), the sheer ferocity of the attack, as well as the element of surprise, caught the German forces off guard. Within days vast swathes of Warsaw had been captured by insurgents and for the first time in five years the Polish flag flew defiantly over the city. The initial success of the uprising was short lived. News of the rebellion had infuriated the German high command. Himmler immediately issued orders to recapture Warsaw, and with key strategic targets such as landing strips and bridges firmly under Nazi control it wasn’t long before reinforcements of crack German and Ukrainian military units started pouring in to crush the revolt.

The beleaguered Home Army, already stretched to the limit, had no option but to hold fast and wait for help from the outside world. The Red Army, whose forces had reached the environs of the Praga side of Warsaw, promptly halted their steady advance and essentially did nothing while the battle for Warsaw raged on the other side of the Wis?a river. If the Poles thought things couldn’t get any worse then they hadn’t gambled on Stalin sticking his oar in. In move that effectively sealed the fate of the uprising, Uncle Joe refused to grant permission for the Western Allies to use Soviet air fields in a bid to relieve the Home Army. The embargo was eventually lifted on September 10, but by this time Warsaw was in a critical condition. On the occasions that relief drops did make it thought the anti-aircraft fire, they often caused more harm than good. On September 18, 100 Flying Fortress’ dropped thousands of food and munitions parcels. Only 20% reached the desired target. Not for the first time in history, Poland had been let down by its closest allies.Throughout this time, Nazi forces continued to pound the Polish forces, and the battle descended into a street for street, hand to hand bloodbath. Sewers and other escape routes were gassed, civilians butchered, children used as human shields, prisoners of war murdered; the list of atrocities knew no bounds.

Mid-September saw numerous attempts by other Polish battalions to smash through German lines that had by now encircled the Home Army into small pockets of resistance. Token victories failed to compensate for the catastrophic casualty list that was now mounting. With the advent of October the Poles found themselves in an increasingly impossible situation. On October 2, 1944, with no hope in sight, General Komorowski signed a capitulation document in O?ar?w Mazowiecki. The battle had cost the lives of over 20,000 troops and some 150,000 civilians. With the uprising defeated, Hitler ordered all remaining civilians to be expelled, and surviving buildings to be numbered in their order of importance to Polish culture and systematically dynamited. The darkest chapter of Warsaw’s history had been written.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

I ate a pizza and headed back to the hostel around 6.00pm where I didn?t move from until I went to bed around 10.00pm.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Warsaw uprising monument – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Friday, April 9th, 2004

I had to leave the hostel by 10.00am. It was still raining. Two days of rain. I was sick of the place. No offense as I hadn’t gone out here but it was dark and miserable place and the population of the city seems to suit the miserable and dour buildings. I don?t think I saw anybody smile yesterday. My flight to Frankfurt wasn?t until 7.00pm but I had no motivation to walk around this place. I took a tram to the main station and went on the net for two hours (6 Z per hour). I then took the 175 bus to the airport 10km away. It only took about 20 minutes.

It?s a small dinky airport – even smaller then Shannon. Now that they are becoming part of Europe, small low cost carriers are opening routes there come May 1st. There is a small separate domestic terminal with about 10 chairs and a kiosk. In another terminal there is access for low costs carriers like Air polonia and Air Wings. It is a very, very small place with little to entertain the waiting passenger. I decided to stay around the airport all day instead sightseeing in Warsaw. Its just goes to show what I think of Warsaw.

My flight to Frankfurt Hahn was supposed to leave at 7.00pm but didn?t leave until 8.00pm. The price was 50.26 Euro including all charges. They were frantically cleaning and refueling the plane as we approached. So much so, a cleaning lady fell down the steps from the plane door to the tarmac spilling bags of rubbish all over the place. She was OK. The flight was pretty full and at 10.05pm we arrived in Frankfurt.

There wasn?t any bus going to the city until 11.15pm. I was trying to remember whether the curfew at the hostel was at 12.00 midnight or 2.00am. It was 12 euro to the city. The bus makes one stop at the main airport before heading to the city centre 25 minutes away. We stopped there at 12.30am and I decided to get out. I was of two minds all the way from Hahn. Should I stay on, get to the railway station at 1.00am and get a taxi to the hostel (maybe 10 Euro). A bed in the hostel was 23 Euro. My second choice was to sleep at the International Airport (where I worked for three summers) and head into town to sightsee tomorrow.

I decided to stay at the airport, as I didn?t know whether I would make it to the hostel for 2.00am and anyway I would have only about 6 hours sleep there. It?s the only hostel in town and they wake you about 8.20am in the morning for breakfast.

I know the airport very well having worked in restaurants here for two summers. I even know a lot of the secure areas like the basement tunnels etc. I knew there are some comfy seats in the waiting area for the internal tram that takes you from terminal one to two. I went up there and spread out on three seats.

I got little sleep as I would wake up every 30 minutes or so to listen to announcements or calls for passengers.

The thriving industrial metropolis of Frankfurt, Germany’s fifth-largest city and Goethe’s hometown may well be your first glimpse of Germany. Most international flights land here at Frankfurt’s huge airport, and its massive 19th-century railway station is the busiest in Europe. Frankfurt is a heavily industrial city, with more than 2,450 factories operating around the ford (Furt) on the Main River, where the Frankish tribes once settled. As the home of the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, Frankfurt is also the country’s financial center. It’s been a major banking city ever since the Rothschilds opened their first bank here in 1798. Frankfurt also has a leading stock exchange. If all roads used to lead to Rome, today they seem to converge on Frankfurt, making it the hub of a great network of European traffic routes. Frankfurt today is both a much visited business center and a worthy tourist destination with a distinct personality.

Monday, April 5th, 2004 to Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

Monday, April 5th, 2004

I was tired. Because I was booking my bed from day to day, I had to move to another 4-bed dorm with three dour German girls, only one was speaking to me. I slept until 11.00am. After that I headed down town and visited some of the many churches and cathedrals and basilica.

Church of St. Mary’s

Building of this imposing church began in 1355 and was completed in the 16th century. The architecture is a mix from Gothic to Art Nouveau. The inside of the church is beautifully decorated with all styles of artwork.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Krakow – Poland (5-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Krakow – Poland (5-04-2004)

Florian Gate

The Florian Gate was completed in 1307 and is one of the few surviving parts of the ancient defenses that once surrounded the old town. The gate marks the main entrance into the city, and was where all visiting nobility would enter on their way to Wawel Castle.

I went on the NET again and did very little. I had only a little to eat, as I felt sick most of the day. I decided to book my flights home as I had only purchased one-way tickets to Krakow. All the flights via Brussels had gone up in price. Either I could take a train to Prague and fly home via Stanstead or take a train to Warsaw, get a flight to Frankfurt and go home to Shannon via there. It was long-winded but the cheapest option so I booked it. I should had booked my flights together instead of one way but when I left Ireland, I didn?t know whether it would be for one week or one month.

As soon as I booked it, I walked to the railway station and bought a ticket to Warsaw from a cranky old woman. She wouldn’t sell me tickets for any of the earlier trains so I purchased a 66 Z ticket for the 1.35 train. I also went online later on to book hostels in Frankfurt (one night) and Warsaw (2 nights).

Tuesday, April 6th, 2004

I stayed in bed until noon. Lazy me. A choir had booked in the previous night (Polish) and had stated playing contemporary songs on guitar until 6.00am. They were pretty good and there must have been about 20 of them but hell, no sleep.

I felt a lot better today and headed to the castle for about three hours.

Wawel Castle

Perched on the top of a 50 meter high hill, is a 10th Century royal castle done in Medieval, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque styles. This grand castle was the seat of kings for over 500 years. Free-entry days are Wednesday (June to Sept.) and Sunday (remaining months). Visit the historical Dragon’s Den, descending 135 spiraling steps down into the cave.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Castle – Krakow – Poland (06-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Castle – Krakow – Poland (06-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Castle – Krakow – Poland (06-04-2004)

Specifically I went to the Armory and private Suites. They were 12 Z each to get to. There is a lot of history that Irish people have no idea of. I learned about the “battle of grunweld (1410)” and how the Polish state evolved. They had a tougher time than we did as they were squeezed from all directions. The Germans were to the West, the Swedes to the North and the Russians to the East. Hard times for the Poles.

Grunwald is a village in northern Poland, 30 km south from Olzstyn. In its nearness there was one of the biggest and most important European battles of the Middle Ages. Two allied forces both Polish and Lithuanian of about 50 000 men led by the Polish king Vladislav and the Lithuanian prince Vitold fought against The Order of German Knights of about 40 000 men which was led by its Grand master Ulrich von Juningen.

The battle ended up by crushing defeat of the Order of German Knights.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Castle – Battle of Grunwald – Krakow – Poland (06-04-2004)

Treasury & Armoury

The Treasury and Armoury showcases the coronation sword of Polish kings and royal insignias, some of the few original Polish artefacts remaining. Plus precious jewels and an impressive collection of knights’ armour including several examples of the hussars’ fantastic winged armour.

After that I walked to a Polish Milk Bar. I had soup and two main courses for 16 Z. Good stuff, its basic but good. For example, my second main course was mash, a big heap of black (blood) pudding and Sauer kraut. It all came to 16 Z.

I went on the NET to find no room at the hostels in Warsaw were available and I had no guide book but did not do anything about it. I met up with the Aussie, Norwegian and the two English girls for dinner at 7.30am. After a nice Dinner with beer (25 Z) we headed to the cellar bar we were in a few days ago. Beers and some shorts. We then got a taxi to a club called ?Carpe Diem?.

Carpe Diem Pub

This bar has everything a bar should have: beer, tables, and lots of people. Fair enough. We would, however, appreciate any interpretations of the fishing net/motorcycle combo in the d?cor.

It was Ok but things get quieter as Easter approaches. We had some beer, a few vodkas and a laugh. We headed back around 3.00am. I was pretty drunk and decided to relieve myself down an alley only to be spotted by a policeman. After a cheesy smile he called me a “fucking European” with a smile and told me to head home. He had asked me for a passport which I don?t carry around but was Ok to let me pass.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

I slept until 11.30am and went on the net for a while until I caught my 1.35pm train to Warsaw. It was a packed train but miserable as the weather was so bad today. The first day of rain I have experienced since I arrived in Poland. I arrived in at 4.25pm, although I was not sure, as there were no signs of the platforms saying it was Warsaw Central. The train was carrying on to some other stations in the city. It was a maze of tunnels going in every direction. There weren?t any signs in English so it was impossible to know where one was going. I reached street level and looked for the main street level entrance. Once found, there was a tourist information point inside. I got a map, details of hostels and a guide to Warsaw. I could go for a 35 Z dorm with an 11.00pm curfew or a single room for 65 Z. I decided for the peace and quiet of a single. I was tired of the late nights. They directed me to a tram stop. I purchased two tickets (one for my bag as well as its a well known inspector trap) and traveled 4 stops towards the river towards my chosen hostel.

Many of the hostels (and none of their reputations are great) have curfews. I decided to go to a hostel with single rooms for 65 Z. It took 4 stops but it was still pissing rain. When I got to the deserted riverbank, I knew that the hostel was a boat… and there it was a few hundred feet away in the now swollen river.

I felt tired and wasted. I as meant to contact the Aussie who was arriving in Warsaw as well but I was wrecked. I had a real early night and it was great to get it. I slept like a log as it rained all night

I was thinking about my impressions of Krakow. I really liked it. The old town has a certain charm and it’s a real lively spot having the most important university in Poland. There are 500 (yes, five hundred) pubs within 10 minutes walk of the hostel and many are packed seven days a week. While you may get a bit bored of visiting so many churches etc. you will never get bored at night and the beer is good and inexpensive.

I found the people nice and helpful (except the old woman at the train station) and I would recommend the city to anyone. It’s a pity there are no direct flights from Ireland. Aer Lingus are to offer flights to Warsaw during the summer. I would come back here for the city as well for the fact it?s a central travel hub to other parts of Eastern Europe like Romania and the Ukraine.

I should mention I got a guide from the hostel called the ?In your Pocket? guide to Krakow and it was invaluable. The hostel was great. No curfew and the staff were young and helpful. They wanted to chat and have a good time. They will even come on the beer with you.

Sunday, April 4th, 2004

Sunday, April 4th, 2004

Today was another day that my body was to suffer. I shouldn’t complain, as it was my own fault. For the same reason, I promised to give my liver a rest for 24 hours. I felt bad but wanted to go to Auschwitz (Oswiecim) and Birkenau. It was here that the Nazis established their largest concentration and extermination camp. I persuaded the two very hung over English girls to go as well. We passed a Palm Sunday procession as we walked up down. Most of the population are ardent and strict Catholics and most people in town had palms to bless.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Palm Sunday – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

We walked to the bus station and purchased tickets for the 12.20pm bus to Oswiecim, which is about one hour and thirty minutes away. We all slept on and off in the bus. It was 8 Z each.

The bus driver was cool and shouted to us that we were passing the entrance. It was free in and we went to see a 15-minute film (3 Z), which was poor and didn’t explain much. It was 1.30pm or so when we got there and it was closing at 5.00pm. As it was afternoon all the tour buses had now left.

We walked from room to room examining the pictures, maps, stats and photographs. I have been in a concentration camp before, about 10 years ago in Dachau near Munich. It was a similar somber tone.

Auschwitz is a massive graveyard from where no visitor can leave unmoved. Auschwitz I opened in June 1940, and Auschwitz II (Birkenau) opened March 1941 3km away. Gas chambers worked ceaselessly, bodies incinerated in crematoriums, horrible medical experiments and prisoners dying of starvation and filth – that is the horrific image.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Entrance (Arbeit macht frei – Works brings Freedom) – Auschwitz (Oswiecim) – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Personal belongings – Auschwitz (Oswiecim) – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Auschwitz (Oswiecim) – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Auschwitz (Oswiecim) – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

We got the 5.20pm bus back to town and from there walked back to the hostel. It was now around 8.00pm and I wasn’t feeling good. I went on the Net for a while in a nearby Internet Cafe (3 Z per hour). After I went back to the hostel, I picked a book by Colin Dexter called ?Inspector Morse – The Daughters of Cain ?and read it until midnight. No beer today. Well, I had a can. I had seen the televised version of this book with Dexter in it and thought Hmm, it must be a good read, but the book is quite slim and uncomplicated.

An early night: thank God.