Friday, October 20, 2017

Abroad: The Populist in Dublin and Prague.

We left Chicago at dusk.  It was 94° F.

Arrived in Dublin in mid-morning in drenching rain, wind, and 45° F temperatures.  The depot for the hotel shuttles is about 300 meters from the terminal.  The walk mostly, but not entirely, goes under canopies and crosses at least two busy streets in the open.

The shuttle from our hotel was supposed to come every 15 minutes.  After waiting 45 minutes and seeing all the other hotel busses go by at least twice, we walked back to the terminal and took a cab.

When we got to the hotel, the bright yellow, clearly marked bus was sitting in front of it, but they insisted it had been following it's normal schedule. It was still morning, but they had our room ready.  We dried off and headed down town.

The Book of Kells was something we had heard about all our lives, so we headed to Trinity College.

The other thing we were going to try to do was go to the Guinness Storehouse for the rooftop bar (and the Guinness). The rain was lighter but still going on.  Between that and jet lag (a rooftop bar - in the rain  - really?), we got kind of lost and every time we checked Google Maps, we were slightly farther away than we were the last time. Passed the famous Temple Bar in this quest but didn't go in.

The Guinness Storehouse had closed by now, but we had passed the Irish Whiskey Museum earlier which I had noticed had later hours. It was an entertaining presentation by a red-haired young irishman who joked about how stereotypical he was, and a tasting with three pretty generous samples. The word whiskey comes from the Gaelic uisce beatha.

The cab driver who brought us in had recommended The Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin. I had gotten my bearings a little, and possibly with a little liquid courage we set off to find it.  I knew where the river was in relation to the whiskey museum and the map showed the pub just off the river, so I didn't think we could miss that and we made it without incident. I had bangers and mash, and of course, several pints of Guinness. The people sitting next to us were from Iowa City and also had just arrived from the U. S.

Dublin was basically a layover on our way to central Europe so the next day it was back at the airport.

We also had a layover on our return and familiarity with this duty-free shopping area made our duty-free shopping experience much more efficient on the way back.

Our next stop was Prague. My great grandparents emigrated from what was then Bohemia to Texas in the 1870's. I've always thought it was cool to be a real Bohemian.

The tourist center of Prague is pretty compact and very popular. The squares and narrow streets of the old city are full of tourists wandering around. One surprise was that although all these streets were teeming with people, there were also cars threading their way through the crowds and the occasional tram that I'm surprised doesn't take out several people a day.

We had lunch in a small restaurant in a courtyard that was very quiet and peaceful although it was just meters from the crowds.  (Notice how I've been using metric units?)

We had both made the erroneous assumption that the other had done extensive research on what to visit in Prague, so we set off in the direction of the vaguely defined castle.  On the way we passed a private museum with works by Picasso, Dali, and Mucha, each on a separate floor with a separate ticket. Mucha seemed like the obvious choice in Prague.

Probably the center of the tourist carnival with full-band buskers, caricaturists, and souvenirs is the 15th century St. Charles Bridge, and also a fine view of the castle rising over the city.

We made it as far as the St. Nicholas Church. The sun put on a pretty good show shining through the windows

and illuminating the main altar.

Faced with the steps to get up to the castle, we declared beer-thirty, and sat in the square, and out of contrariness, had a dark, although still Czech, beer.

On the way back we briefly considered a set of decorative glasses, but thought better of hauling them around for the rest of the trip.

We stayed at an AirBnB just a little outside of the tourist area. There is a multilane road and a railroad that sort of divides the city.  On one side is the tourist district including the bustling Wenceslas Square, which I expected to be some medieval courtyard but turns out to be sort of a rough version of the Champs-Elysees. On the other side is a commercial district, but it's completely closed in the evening except for this little one room grocery which seemed to have just about everything you would find in a supermarket - something we found in every city we stopped in. I love these stores. I remember businesses like this when I was a child. They still had one four blocks away when we moved to Oshkosh in 1985

All with the New Glarus Populist, and the ProMaster folding pocket tripod.

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