Maloney’s Magic

This post is going to be short and sweet…Just wanted to share with everyone one of my favorite moments of this trip so far!

Those of you that know me know that I LOVE sports. I grew up playing soccer and volleyball and I cherish my memories of  watching the University of Iowa football team throughout the years. I live for the Olympics and the World Cup. I watch the movie Miracle every year and may or may not cry every time the US team takes down the Soviets. Needless to say, I’ve really missed being in Kinnick Stadium this past fall, watching the Hawks, win or lose. It wasn’t until Glasgow that I got my sports fix.

When I think of classic rivalries in sports, the big ones come to mind- The Red Sox and the Yankees, Duke and North Carolina, the Packers and the Bears. Scotland and Ireland didn’t really come to mind, until now. Katie and I were walking in Glasgow when we saw a sign at a pub informing us that there was a football (soccer to us Americans) game on that night! It wasn’t just any old football match, but Scotland versus Ireland in the European Championship Qualifying round and the game was being played in Glasgow!! Unfortunately, we couldn’t get tickets to the match because it was later that night and completely and utterly sold out. We decided to catch the match at the pub down the street- they were offering a free pint to everyone if Scotland won!

We arrived later that night to a very crowded pub full of Scots, with a gender ratio that was definitely male dominated. It was pretty clear we were the odd ones out, but despite the weird looks here and there we ended up feeling right at home while watching the game. And what a game it was, all tied up for the longest time. Back and forth it went! Both teams had countless shots on goal, narrowly missing each time. Everyone in the pub was on the edge of their seat, not taking their eyes off the game, afraid to miss any major play. It was still tied at the half when Katie left to run back to our B&B. Still back and forth and back and forth. At the 76th minute, Scotland was blessed with a corner kick and Maloney exchanged passes with Scott Brown and finished with a phenomenal shot, everyone held their breath… GOAL!!!!!

The place erupted! Everyone went crazy, and in that moment I made a hundred new friends.  All we had to do was hold on until the end of the game. The Scots then really stepped up their defense and kept the score 1-0 until the final whistle blew and Scotland clinched the win! Katie returned minutes after the goal, missing the whole celebration, but don’t worry, I reenacted the entire thing to perfection.

It was only a short little moment in the large scheme of this trip, but it was definitely one of my favorites and one I just had to share!

The Emerald Isle

After months of living with a language barrier, Sarah and I were excited to be headed to an English-speaking country at last. When we arrived in Ireland, we realized we’d been missing more than the language. People in Central Europe and France had seemed quite reserved to us, so when we arrived in Ireland and were greeted with big smiles and chit chat about the weather, it felt a bit like a homecoming. Iowa Nice meets Irish Nice!

Dublin, City of Literature (and Guinness)

First stop on our Ireland visit was Dublin, which was named a UNESCO City of Literature—4th in the world, just after Iowa City, Iowa—an honor that designates cities as literary hubs involved in publishing, education, and cultural events. As a confirmed book worm, I was eager to explore a city that has played such a role in the world of literature. Plaques with literary quotations line the sidewalks, literary tours, walks, and readings are plentiful, independent bookstores abound, there was an exhibit at the National Gallery devoted to poetry…and to top it all off, the local beer (Guinness) has the taste of coffee!

I went to a reading one afternoon at Sweney’s Pharmacy, which features as a setting in James Joyce’s Ulysses. The pharmacy is run by volunteers and now sells books and soap instead of medicines, and has been made over into a sort of shrine to James Joyce. A small group of tourists and locals trickled in, and we got comfortable with some cushions, tea, and our copies of Joyce’s Dubliners. In circle style, everyone took turns reading a page. My American accent stuck out like a sore thumb next to all the posh-sounding European voices, but it was fun to participate in a reading instead of just sitting around listening. We stuck around to chat for a bit afterwards, and then everyone trickled away again to continue their day.

An Irish Halloween

Besides Dublin’s literary heritage, Sarah and I were also excited to celebrate Halloween in its country of birth (yes, that’s how far behind we are in blogging!). Though I usually think of Halloween as an American tradition, it originates in Ireland. It began more than 2,000 years ago as the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which marks the end of the old Celtic Year and the beginning of the New Year. The Celts believed that on Samhain, the border between our world and the next became blurred. They wore costumes and lit sacred bonfires to ward off ghosts that might cause harm to them or their crops and winter supplies. Long story short, the Catholic church eventually got involved and All Hallow’s Eve (the night before All Saint’s Day) was combined with the traditional celebration of Samhain. Halloween enjoyed limited popularity in America’s early days (all those hardcore Protestants weren’t that into fun and games, I guess), but with the massive influx of Irish fleeing the potato famine in the mid-1800s, the holiday became more popular on our side of the pond…so that’s your history lesson for this post!

Sarah and I spent the day of Halloween perusing Dublin’s many charity shops and thrift stores for costumes. We had a lot of fun and ended up stocking up on basic everyday clothes instead—mainland Europe had been a bit lacking in the thrift store department, and we were starting to feel a little threadbare. In the end, we bought some face paint instead of costumes. Sarah painted a candy skull, and I did a classic scary skeleton.

Halloween in Dublin was a lot like Halloween in Iowa City—except bigger and better! Everyone was dressed in costumes, roaming the streets. Most costumes were scary, rather than the funny/sexy themes you usually see in the US. Everyone was in a festive mood, and lots of people called out to compliment our make-up, or even asked to take photos with us. We made a bit of a scene in one bar when Whitney Houston came on, attracting attention with our passionate lip-synching (special thanks to Celine Dion for teaching us how to really sell a song).

We returned to our hostel at 3:00 am, satisfied with our Big Night Out and certain that we would no longer be the chill (a.k.a. boring) ones first to bed in our room. Alas, Dublin is something of a mecca for college partiers, who proved more dedicated than us. We still found an empty room. Our roommates finally stumbled their way back in around 5, 7, and 8am…guess I’m not as young as I used to be.

County Meath

Our next stop was to be Galway for a few days, but we were loving Dublin so much that we decided to stick around. We ended up going to little Mornington, in County Meath (just up the coast from Dublin). We wanted to pay a visit to Bernadette, a longtime friend of our Aunt Linda. Bernadette and Linda were pen pals as kids, and Linda came to Ireland for a summer to visit Bernadette. We had heard a lot about her through the years and wanted to finally put a face to the name!

After about a month of hostel hopping, it was truly lovely to stay with Bernadette and her family in their cozy home. We drank coffee by the fireplace and chatted with Bernadette and her kids, hung out with Nala “McBarker,” put in a long overdue load of laundry, and gobbled up a delicious full Irish breakfast cooked specially for us by Bernadette’s husband Jim.

Our relaxing time in friendly Dublin and cozy Mornington had us well rejuvenated for our next adventure—a trek to the Isle of Eigg, a tiny, remote island off the coast of Scotland. Come back soon to hear that tale, but in the meantime check out our pictures to see more of what we did in Dublin and Meath!


Halfway Home

On the day that marked the halfway point of our trip, we sat down in a Dublin pub and talked about our experiences so far.

Katie: We’ve been on the road for almost two and a half months, and as of today we’re halfway through. Hard to believe. How’s it going so far?

Sarah: You know, it’s going really good. It’s been amazing. We’ve had some major ups and some major downs. We’ve seen a lot, done a lot—it’s crazy that we’re only halfway, because we’ve been zooming around so much that it seems like we should be more than halfway. But I’m feeling good. I’m feeling really good to be in Ireland, and up next, the UK. It’s very a big relief since we got here.

K: Definitely.

S: The language barrier was really intense, and it’s just, always there, no matter what. You can’t—like just the most basic little things become a struggle when you don’t speak the same language.

K: Yeah, just things like doing laundry, or ordering food at a restaurant.

S: Or just buying something  from any kind of store is always like ugh, a thing.

K: It turns into a thing, that’s the thing.

S: Everything you do.

K: Yeah. You can’t really take anything for granted.

S: Nope. Reading street signs, trying to navigate during rush hour with all of your luggage…Public transportation is amazing, but yet, there’s all these different options, like are you gonna be in Zone 1, 2, or 3? OK, well there’s no map telling me where the zones are, so I don’t know [which metro ticket to buy].

K: Like in Berlin?

S: Just everywhere. You know, it’s…

K: It’s stressful. And just right when you get to know one system, it’s time to pick up and move somewhere else.

S: Yeah, the second you get the hang of one place, it’s time to leave, so you’re right back in the, not knowing where you’re going…It’s really exhausting in a way. But we’ve seen and done some really, really cool things.

K: So what are some of your highlights so far?

S: So far…Our Savior’s Church in Copenhagen, climbing to the very top of that was epic.

K: With Ida? That was fun!

S: Fun and, I’m not scared of heights, but I was shaking.

K: I was terrified!

S: It was intense. Um, I loved Berlin. Berlin was a really cool city, had a really cool vibe to it.

K: Yeah, I loved Berlin. I think it has a really interesting history and a really interesting outlook on the present and the future.

S: Yes. Staying with Sue and Tom [in Prague] was also very fun because, at that point, that was the very first people, like American people…

K: Yeah, an American family.

S: That we had been able to talk to since we left…so that was really nice to stay with them.

K: And they were really helpful and told us a lot of good tips and advice about Prague and the Czech Republic.

S: Yeah, and they made us feel right at home, and it was so nice to have our own space, and all of that. And I think Dublin, you know. It’s just a great city, it feels really small and yet, there’s lots going on, and people here are so nice.

K: I’ll never forget when we got off the plane.

S: Yeah, me either.

K: The flight attendants were just smiling, and saying “Welcome!” And I was like, this feels good.

S: Yeah, after being in central Europe where everyone’s very very reserved. Not cold, but not friendly.

K: Not very warm. Not like what we’re used to in Iowa. I think if you get know them, they probably are, but as strangers…

S: Yeah, definitely.

K: Do you have any regrets or things that you wish you had known before we came?

S: Um…I guess with any big trip, I wish I had known what I was actually going to use, and just packing-wise I would do it differently. By the time you get halfway through you’re a pro and you know exactly what bag would have been perfect, but you’re kind of using the one you have, but I think that goes with any trip. I wish I would’ve picked up some more German before we came.

K: That would have been so helpful. I spent a lot of time trying to learn phrases in Danish, but they never stuck in my head and I feel like that time would’ve been better spent trying to learn German. We were with English speakers in Denmark, but pretty much on our own in German-speaking territory. So going forward from here, with our next 2 months, what do you think is in store, what are you excited for?

S: I’m super pumped for the Isle, in Scotland. I only call it “the Isle” because I don’t know how to pronounce what it’s actually called…so I’m really excited for the Isle, because we’re going to be basically camping, and it’s gonna be awesome. I’m really really excited just to get to Gaunts [House, where we’ll be WWOOFing again], because we’ll finally be able to be in one place for more than a week—we haven’t stayed anywhere for more than a week.

K: Since we left the orchard, yeah.

S: So it’ll be amazing to be able to just like, actually unpack my bag and get comfortable somewhere.

K: It’ll be really nice there too, because a lot our trip will have been behind us, so we won’t have to be planning. Whereas I feel like when we were at the orchard…

S: All we did was plan.

K: All we did was plan and apply for other WWOOFing positions and figure out travel routes and all these kinda things. So it’ll be nice to be able to just be there and then not have all of our backpacker homework to do.

S: Yeah, it’s going to be so nice. I’m just looking forward to that.

K: I feel good about it. I think Christmas in Copenhagen will be good. It’ll be hard to be away, but I’m excited to see some of their Christmas traditions, to be with a lovely Danish family.

S: I feel like once we get to Christmas though, it’s less than two weeks then from when we’ll be home, so we’ll be really excited to get home, it’s gonna be less like missing everyone and more just excited because it’s gonna be really close at that point.

K: Have you been homesick at all?

S: Yeah, I was at first. It was really hard, but at this point it’s just kind of like, I weirdly feel like we’ve been doing this forever, and in Dublin especially I just feel really at home here.

K: Yeah, it’s really homey.

S: Just really comfortable here, whereas in other places I haven’t really felt comfortable. Like, in other cities, I don’t know the language, so there’s always that level of, you know, you don’t always feel safe, necessarily. If something were to come up, you can’t communicate with people, whereas here, it’s just…sometimes I can’t understand a word they’re saying, but they can understand me. And it’s not that big of a city where I feel overwhelmed, versus Paris, which was a tad overwhelming—it was really cool, but a tad overwhelming—so here, it’s just kind of slower paced.

K: I think too, number one having an English speaking country after all this time feels just amazing and comfortable, and I also think that there’s a big Irish influence on American culture, so there are a lot of things that are familiar here, that kind of came from Ireland. Like this pub that we’re sitting in now just looks like Donnely’s in the Ped Mall in Iowa City, it just seems really homey and cozy.

S: I will say though, that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having to look the other way when I cross the street!

K: Nope! Probably never!