Saturday, May 31, 2008

No Longer Homeless

I found a flat!

After 2 weeks of searching, I've finally got my own room in a 4 bedroom Coronation-street style townhouse. Im sharing with 3 guys and living walking distance to the city. Its a nice house, with a backyard and BBQ (perfect for those freezing Irish summer nights)

Actually, it has warmed up a bit and Im heading to the coast for a picnic lunch today, which is a short bus trip from Dublin city centre. Im looking forward to seeing the sea again- it's been awhile.

My job search is proving a little bit more difficult- I have signed up to several temp agencies and am awaiting their calls . Im hoping to find some sort of contract admin/reception job, which sure beats trying to sell things to people on the street, which Ill resort to if I dont find a job soon.

I had a crazy coincidence a couple of days ago. In Mexico City, I met a really nice Australian couple at my hostel.I got their email address but hadn't heard from them in awhile. Anyway, I was walking out of my hostel in Dublin when I saw two familiar Australian faces... they have turned up to work here for a couple of months before going onto the rest of their world trip! It was great to see them, and Im sure we will see a lot more of eachother here.

Its a long weekend here, so I'm sure the city is going to be crazy with revellers.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bad Day/Good Day

The last few days have been interesting...

Despite all the horror stories, during 3 months in Central America I never had one thing stolen. Yet after 1 week in Dublin my cellphone went missing out of my handbag at a bar.

Of course, it had to happen right after I had given my number to prospective employers and potential flatmates, plus any new friends I made in between.

So after the initial rage, and numerous phone calls to the said phone, I sort of gave up on the idea of getting it back. I was meant to be going to Cork city that day anyway. But I decided to try one last time though, just in case.... and someone answered! He asked me to call back in 5 minutes, so I did, and no one picked up. So I waited around in Dublin with all my bags, feeling the effects of too little sleep and too much Guinness the night before, tried another 30 times, and almost resigned myself again. I jumped on the bus bound for Cork (a 4.5 hour trip) feeling very dramatic about the state of the world.

Yet on trying again that evening (from Cork), the same guy answered again! He said I could pick it up when I got back to Dublin. The whole thing sounded a bit dodgy, so when I got back to Dublin from Cork on Sunday I took a taxi there. I was even more suprised to find it was legitimate, he gave me back the phone, and even refused some beer money I offered him. He never did explain how he came across my phone, or why he didnt turn it into the bar, but I was just damn happy to get it back. To make my day even better, the taxi driver offered to drive me back to the city for free (a half hour drive). Hilary Duff must have been watching out for me from her Hollywood heaven.

Anyway, my time in Cork was great. It was good to get away from Dublin and the crazy process of job/flat hunting for awhile. Despite being the second biggest city in Ireland, Cork is small but pretty. A must see for any visitor to Cork is Blarney Castle and its famous Blarney Stone. It's tradition to kiss the stone (which apparently is also the recipient of much male urine). The worst part is that you are dangled by legs from the top of the castle to kiss the side of the stone, with a view the whole way down to the bottom of the castle. My fear of heights did not help, and on my hurry to get back up to surface I hit my head on the Blarney Stone, something that produced much hilarity for myself and my Australian friend I went there with.

I also visited the old Cork jail which was well worth seeing. It really made you feel like you were back in the 1920s, trying to survive off stodgy porridge and a lack of potatoes with rats crawling over you. There were a few cool inscriptions in the jail walls from political prisoners fighting for a free Irish state.

Now its back to the job and flat search...

More photos here

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Day in the Life of a New Dubliner

Dublin by the river
Originally uploaded by simpsonatti
The last few days have been pretty hectic in my search for a job and a place to live. Flathunting is always an exhausting, weird, and sometimes hilarious process.

I've been to see a few so far, including:
- A 5 bedroom house with 10 people living in it
-A place that advertised 25 mins walk from city centre... actually about an hour, in the middle of old age homes, with concrete dog statues, brown couches and doilies in every crevace. Possibly one of the most depressing scenes I have seen in awhile. I started to imagine myself on a rocking chair staring at peeling wallpaper with a ticking grandfather clock in the background
- Rooms that were advertised that didnt seem to exist.. I turned up at the alloted time and no one pitched up.

Im seeing one more flat tonight, which Im hoping will be the right one. Ive also been in to see a couple of temp agencies with my CV... fingers crossed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Potatoes and Guinness in Ireland

I'm now in the land of potatoes and Guinness... I arrived in Dublin on Tuesday to begin my year of work and travel.

My first impressions of Dublin are pretty good- lots of pretty buildings and rivers winding through the city. The bars really fit the Irish pub stereotype- old, quaint and rowdy with people playing fiddles in the corner and drinking pints of Guinness.

The one thing that has struck me about Dublin is the lack of Irish.... everywhere I go I hear Spanish, Italian, German, French, Swedish, Polish etc etc. And the English I do hear is not that of the Irish variety. You can really see the money here, and the prices reflect it- 5.50 Euros for a beer (thats NZ $11!) It would have been really interesting to see the city 20 years ago, I imagine it would have been a much different place.

I also love how everyone pretends its not really cold here- there are girls wearing cocktail dresses at midnight- even worse than the Loaded Hog in mid-winter!

I'm in the process of trying to find a flat and job, which is proving more difficult than I thought. I'm going into a temp agency tomorrow to see what I can find, and flat hunting is sporadic.

Its hard getting used to being in one place again, although I think it will feel good to have my own room again after 4 months in dorm rooms. And my own pillow. Luxury!

I will post photos soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Me and Meli getting serious in Hamburg

Its always better to see a city the way a local sees it. I was really glad to meet up with my friend Meli, who I met in Guatemala, in Hamburg. She was kind enough to let me stay and introduce me to the city and her friends there.

The night I arrived she took me to an Electronic festival in a park near the city. At the time, there were several festivals going on, but this one was seriously lacking any tourists thankfully ( I dont count). We had a great time and I met many of her friends. Some of them live in a huge apartment overlooking the harbour, which had an amazing view of the water.

We passed through the famous red light district at night, which wasnt as seedy as I would have imagined. Just lots of bright lights, reminiscent of something out of Moulin Rouge.
The next day we took a boat trip around the harbour and saw some of the city centre, including a lake that could be mistaken for a river...

As meli is vegetarian I tried to go follow suit for the time I was there, just to see what it was like. I almost made it, but the shrimps got me. I did try hefe weisen beer and banana juice though, which was quite good.

I was disappointed that I didnt have more time in Hamburg but maybe one day Ill be back...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Berlin has made my list of favourite cities visited. I had a great weekend enjoying the history, politics and beer of the city, and only wished I had longer to explore.

On Saturday I took a 3 1/2 hour free tour of the main sites of the city, which was one of the best tours I have been on. The guide was a very charismatic Welsh guy, who was also a former politics student so knew a lot of in depth and random facts about Berlin. Sites included the Brandenburg Gates, Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the German parliament buildings, Pariser Platz, the controversial Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Hitler's bunker. Berlin's history, both old and contemporary, can keep you fascinated for days.

Its a great place just to walk around, and to see the occupied apartment blocks which, although covered in grafitti and looking like crack dens, are actually occupied by artists and musicians and apparently have bars and restaurants inside.

The East-West divide is also fascinating to see, especially the clash of political ideologies and entire ways of living that were experienced in Berlin before the Wall came down. I also visited the GDR museum which, although not the greatest museum Ive seen, was highly interactive and had some hilarious relics of the GDR times. One of my favourites was the GDR made Trabant car, an incredibly small car meant to rival the evil Capitalist cars. East Germans were very proud of this cheap and economical invention, even if they did have to go on a 20-year waiting list to get one.

Another one of my favourites (in theory, not practice) is Vita Cola, the GDR rival to Coca Cola. Its still on sale in most shops in Eastern Germany but by all accounts its very, very bad.

I seem to have come across festival season in Germany. After going to one in Stuttgart and in Dresden, I also stumbled on the annual Cultural Festival in Berlin, which had a lot of great food, drink and music from across the world.

Definately a city which needs a return visit!

Friday, May 09, 2008


Originally uploaded by simpsonatti
My decision to go to Prague was quite last minute. I had heard a lot of great things about the historic city, and its only 2 hours from Dresden so I thought I would pop across for a couple of nights.

Upsides: Prague really is a beautiful city, split by a river and full of castles, museums and, of course, very old buildings. It managed to escape destruction during WWII, so most of the city is still intact. And, of course, the Czech beer, home of the Pilzner and creators of the original Budweiser.

Downsides: Its expensive. Very expensive. You get charged for everything, even to use the bathroom at expensive restaurants.
Also the Czechs I met there were, on the whole, the most incredibly rude people I have ever met, especially when you are their customer, e.g. slamming your food/drinks down at restaurants, grunting at you when you ask a question about taking a tour, etc. It was quite baffling.

I did manage to see quite a bit of the city while I was there though, including Prague Castle (the oldest castle in the world) Vysehrad Castle, the Old Town, Charles Bridge, and a weird television tower with babies climbing up it, all of which were quite amazing.

I am in Berlin now where Im spending the next couple of nights, and then onto Hamburg.

More Prague photos here


Saturday, May 03, 2008


I arrived in Dresden after a speedy trip on the German autobahn. Definately the most efficient roads I have ever seen! The main purpose of my visit was, of course, to see my 2 1/2 year old niece, Miriam and her family.

Wednesday was Zoo day, a favourite of Miriam and Marens, and on Thursday we had a picnic in Dresdens park. It is truly massive and even has a castle and train track in it. Thursday also happened to be Mens Day in Germany, a public holiday in which men take backpacks full of beer and walk around town drinking all day. All in all it was suprisingly civil. On Womens day all the ladies are given flowers by the men, which doesnt sound nearly as fun.

Yesterday Marens father, Andre, took me on a tour of the outskirts of Dresden. We visited a beautiful old village called Meißen, and walked around the castle and its chapel which overlooks the town and the river Elbe.

I got an insight into the eccentric king August, who was a rather large bulimic who would eat huge amounts of food to look richer to his people, and then throw it up out of neccessity and keep on eating. He also heard that Venice was a great city that had a lighthouse so he decided that he needed one too, to show how great he was. So he had a working lighthouse built on his private lake, on which his was the only boat that travelled there.

We took a tour through the old army barracks and offices of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Nazis. Most of the old, grey buildings have been deserted now, and its a rather spooky sight, especially as a storm was brewing as we drove past. I also caught a glimpse of Vladimir Putins old house, where he lived as a Secret Service agent during GDR times. Its mind-boggling to think about how closed off East Germany was from the West- even bananas were considered a luxury during GDR times.

Tonight I will go to a festival in Neustadt, the old part of Dresden, with Maren and her sister Mareike.

More photos here: