The Blarney Castle
The vacation that tried to kill me
For my twenty-eighth birthday I decided to take a trip to Ireland. Because I was already living in Europe at the time, I thought it would be fun, to visit the country that my mother’s side of the family came from. With a backpack, a Fromer’s vacation guide to Ireland and a plane ticket to Dublin, I took off on an adventure. There were a couple cities I wanted to visit and some sights that I wanted to see.
Arriving in Dublin first, I set myself up in a bed and breakfast. The rest of the day, I walked around the city and hit all the major tourist sites including; Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Trinity College Library where the Book of Kells is on display. It’s understandable why so many people take vacation here. It was an interesting place with lots to see.
After Spending two days in Dublin I bought a train ticket to Cork. One reason I picked this city was because some of our family comes from there. It made me feel more connected to my roots being there. The other reason I picked Cork is because it’s near the Blarney Castle. My grandmother gave me an awesome picture of my grandfather kissing the Blarney Stone and I planned on getting a picture of me doing the same thing. She also gave me a piece of stone that she took from the castle.
When I got to the Blarney Castle, there were a lot of older people there. Mostly Americans who were on the same vacation quest as me, to connect with their roots. To get to the top of the tower there is a spiral staircase made of stone, with enough room for one person per step. The tower itself is maybe five stories tall. The stairs were backed up with people all the way outside of the castle. So many people were waiting for a turn to kiss the stone. There were also many people outside talking about how they couldn’t wait that long or that there was no way they could make it up the staircase in their physical condition. To come this far and not go up to kiss the stone, must have been disappointing.
In another section of the castle, I noticed an additional stone, spiral staircase. This one had a sign on it that said, “Do not enter.” So I lifted the sign and headed up. Half way into the ascent, I noticed the steps were very worn down. The further I got, the worse they got. It got to the point where I was on my hands and knees so I wouldn’t slide down and tumble back several floors worth of steps. Somehow, I made it.
Once I got up to the top, I took my turn laying belly up with my head dangling back over a sheer drop to the ground. There is an iron grate that protects tourists from falling. I kissed the stone. My picture wasn’t as cool as my grandfather’s but I got one.
The Blarney Stone
Two days in Cork was long enough, so I returned to Dublin. In order to catch a train to Belfast, I had to make it across the entire city to the other station. Having some time to kill, I decided to walk. My Fromer’s Guide to Ireland had a city map inside, so I opened it up and used it to navigate through the streets to make it to my destination.
With my backpack and my travel book, I must have looked like a serious tourist. Even though I was traveling alone, I felt pretty safe. It was the middle of the day and there was no indication that I was ever in any danger. Everyone in Ireland had been so nice, although many people asked me if I spoke English before they started talking to me. I found that very strange.
About halfway to my destination, I walked by two men crouched down beside a set of stairs. As I passed them, they both stood up and began following me. This made me very nervous. It seemed like they were either trying to catch up to me or maybe pass me. My heart started to beat faster as I tried not to look back at them. People were walking up and down both sides of the street as well as cars driving both ways. Figuring that I would just let them pass, I slowed down.
Coming around my right side, they kept turning until they were face to face with me. Backing up to avoid contact with the two men, I ended up in a recessed corner of a building with both men cornering me. One of the guys seemed like he was keeping watch. The other guy grabbed the collar of my jacket with one hand and as I looked down, I saw that he had a hypodermic needle about one inch away from my stomach.
In an instant, they were gone. This whole thing happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react or even process what happened. Pulling away from the building, I saw a cab half pulled onto the sidewalk with the driver’s door open. I turned around just in time to see the cab driver chasing after the two assailants while flailing a club like stick in the air. I’m pretty sure it was a Leprechaun’s Shillelagh. He must have seen them grab me at just the right time to take action.
I began to shake uncontrollably from the adrenaline and realized I hadn’t uttered a sound through the whole incident. The cab driver came back and asked if I was okay. With a quivering voice, I said yes. The two men must have been after money for drugs. I never expected to be attacked in broad daylight. After thanking the cab driver, I decided to stick closer to groups of people. Even though I was traveling alone, I made it look like I was with others.
Making it to the train station, I bought a ticket to Belfast and boarded. It took me awhile to completely calm down. Needing rest, I sat back and listened to the unfamiliar sound of Gaelic being spoken back and forth between the other passengers. The trip was long and I ended up sleeping for most of it. It was late when we arrived in Belfast. Playing it safe, I decided to get a cab instead of walking around this city alone in the middle of the night. The cab driver took me to the only hotel that had vacancies. The Holiday Inn had a room for one hundred dollars a night. At this point, it didn’t matter, I just wanted to be safe.
The next day, I traveled around to all the tourist sites, including the Ulster Museum and the ship yard where the Titanic was built. As I made my way through the city I made sure to stay close to other groups of people. This city was much different from the others. There were many police and military around because of a recent IRA bombing in a nearby town. So I felt safe and unsafe all at the same time. That evening, in my hotel room I decided to take a shower. As I stepped in to the higher than normal tub, I hit my shin and toppled in. It took my breath away and scared me. My leg hurt and I was a little banged up but I was okay.
This vacation was memorable on many levels. It’s undeniable that I will never forget the time I spent walking around Ireland. Everyone has heard of the luck of the Irish, but no one has ever specified whether it was good or bad luck. It could be said that I was having bad luck on this entire trip, however I am still here to talk about it. So there’s that.
Stone taken from the Blarney Castle
The Vacation That Tried To Kill Me
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