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A New Pinnicle

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: September 26, 2013 - 6:10 AM

The prior weekend was the first long excursion weekend of my study abroad.  It took me to Glenstal Abby, Dingle, and Killarney.  It was without a doubt one of the most impressive experiences I have had. 

Glenstal Abby is a Benedictine order of monks.  One of my professors is a member of this community.  The trip to Glenstal consisted of an impressive tour of the castle like structure.  Inscribed on the main gate was the word PAX, meaning peace in Latin.  After our tour of this impressive castle some of us had the chance to celebrate mass with the monks.  It was an unique experience has they still use Gregorian chant music.  I must say it was incredibly beautiful.

This is the front gate showing PAX

This is the front gate showing PAX

Once we had said our good byes to the monks of Glenstal my group and I departed for Dingle.  It is a small town that is located on the scenic Dingle peninsula.  On our arrival the group got lost trying to find our hostel, despite the small size of the town.  Our living situation was a little cramped as we had four people in a room that was about 6x8 feet.

Our next day consisted of an unusual opportunity; we had a free day to explore Dingle.  This consisted of our group herding around the town looking around shops, going to aquariums, walking to the shore, and an amusing hurricane simulator.  The evening finished strong as our group received the news of the Jonnies beating the Tommies.  For those who do not know St. Johns and St. Thomas are rivals.  On hearing the news our group began chanting down the streets of dingle drawing stares of clueless locals.

Once our stay at Dingle was completed we boarded the bus once again and began our drive to Killarney.  Killarney is one of my favorite cities to date.  It presents an unique feel.  Additionally the tallest peak in Ireland is not far.  This of course enticed many of our group to go climb this.  We had already climbed one mountain (Crough Patrick) a week before.  Crough Patrick was about 2,500 tall.   The mountain we climbed was named Carrauntoohil.  It is a little over 3,400 feet tall.  This mountain creates and impressive shadow on the landscape.  I distinctly remember our initial descent still in disbelief at what we were about to climb.

Carrauntoohil from a distance, where we started

Carrauntoohil from a distance, where we started

What we had just climbed

What we had just climbed

View from the top

View from the top

We were lucky on the day we decided to climb as it was the clearest day of the week.  Once our group was together we began our walk to the base of the mountain.  After a decent walk one of my fellow students asked own of our guides about how far we were and the guide replied, “Oh we have not even started.”  Not long after that comment he pointed at a jagged wall and said “alright we are going to climb up right here, this is the first level of three.”  At this point many of us became giddy with excitement, and anxious about what was in store for us.  It took about three hours to complete the hike up to the top, six hours round trip.   Our descent down took us to a path known as the devils ladder.  It was aptly named as it consisted of sheer drops with jagged rocks jutting out.  In addition a small stream poured into the path making it wet and slippery.  Luckily for our group there were no major issues on our way down and we all made it back safely.

At this point the group and I were exhausted and ready for the long bus ride back, hoping to grab some shut eye.  The bus ride back must have been the quietest bus as a good 80 percent of us were fast asleep.  It was a fitting end note to an excursion of new heights.

A Weekend of Adventures

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: September 16, 2013 - 5:22 AM

This weekend I embarked on one of the loftiest hikes of my life; the location was Croagh Patrick.  Croagh Patrick is a 2,507 mountain found in County Mayo not far from Westport.  When our group was originally asked if we would be interested in going many of us did not know what we were getting into.  We did not understand why people standing at the beginning of the path were wishing us good luck.  It did not take long however for us to find out the meaning behind their remarks as the path quickly became steep and rocky. The path was wide at first, but narrowed as we made progress towards the top.  There were other hikers who were joining us on our way up and some who had made it to the top already and were coming down.  This caused problems as the path became so bottle-necked that no more then 2-3 people could pass at a time without being on the edge of a several hundred feet drop.  To make this scenario more precarious the incline was close to 70 degree slant.

The view at the top of Croagh Patrick

The view at the top of Croagh Patrick

The group that made the hike

The group that made the hike

Once we made it to the top the view was a letdown.  This was because we were so high that we were actually in a cloud.  We decided to wait to see if the cloud would pass and it did, rendering the most spectacular views I have ever seen.  One could look out for hundreds of miles.  The town where we started was all but a dot in the distant landscape.  After some time we reluctantly made our way down the rocky slants and arrived at our hostel for a much needed rest.

The next day we went to Kylemore Abbey, a Benedictine order of nuns.  It is more known for the castle which was built by a man named Mitchell Henry.  He built the castle for his wife who fell in love with the land.  It is a story not too different with that of the Taj Mahal.  It is a spectacular piece of architecture with a view  straight from a fairytale.

Kylemore Castle

Kylemore Castle

Once our time was done at the abbey we went to Connemara National Park.  This region of land is known for impressive winds and extensive bogs.  We hiked around the base of a mountain and again were rewarded with great views of not only landscape, but unique flowers as well.  One in particular is known as the Sundew.  It is a plant that eats insects as the bog land is not nutrient rich.  This visit to Connemara National Park ended our weekend and we began our way home, many of us passing out on the bus ride back.

The Sundew

The Sundew

The Burren and Beyond

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: September 9, 2013 - 5:53 AM

 The Burren, a colossal limestone landscape found in the County Clare, is where my most recent jaunt has taken me.  The endeavor started long before my group and I arrived at the Burren as the roads were not generous.  Imagine a standard road that is a single lane; now draw a line down the middle and presto it is now a two way road!  This created several a circumstances of close calls as our sizable bus would skim the edges of the road and the oncoming car.  Needless to say the drive consisted of sudden braking and swerving, which in turn caused those prone to motion sickness not happy.

 
One of the roads we took to the Burren

One of the roads we took to the Burren

Once we arrived at this impressive rocky expansion we were all very ready to hike after being confined to the bus for a little over a hour.  Our group was met by some Burren experts who kindly informed us about various aspects of the Burren.  For example the Burren is the most diverse location for flowering plants in Ireland.  They represent about 70 percent of all the flowering plants in Ireland in a space that is one percent the land mass of Ireland.  Unfortunately it was not flowering season, but it was still a remarkable view.  It did not take long for me and the remainder of our group to traverse Mullaghmore, a large rocky mountain found in the Burren.  Once at the peak we ate the lunch we had packed and hiked back down the other side where our bus was waiting for us.
Mullaghmore in the Burren

Mullaghmore in the Burren

 
After this near 6km hike our group moved on to yet another impressive landscape, the Cliff of Moher.  The Cliffs of Moher created an impressive view with sheer drops of 300-400 feet.  These drops went straight into the frigid ocean below.  Looking part way down the cliffs one could see birds flocking to the crevices created over generations of geological abuse.  The Cliffs of Moher created an eye popping few which further built upon are already busy day.
Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

 
After this busy day our group was pretty tuckered out, but we kept going as we went to see the national championship for hurling.  We stopped at a pub on the way back in County Clare and watched the spectacle unfold.  The event was something similar to the Super Bowl in America; fans painted with their team’s color and shouting with excitement.  The teams that were playing were Clare and Cork.  It was an amazing game as both teams played very well.  The ending could not have been any more spectacular as Cork was winning by one with only seconds remaining.  Clare fought back getting the equivalent of a buzzer beater to tie it up.  The pub exploded with energy as we were in County Clare.  Interestingly enough they do not do extra time to settle a tie, instead they reschedule and play again until there is a victor.
 

Excursions, Irish Style

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: September 1, 2013 - 8:52 AM
A couple nights ago a few students and I went into town to see a group known as Asland.  They mostly performed covers of songs, with a few original songs.  We were lucky to have gotten a group rate allowing us to pay less to get into the pub.  It was an amazing experience to see the town of Spiddal come out and watch the performance.  It did not take long for the performers to notice that we were American, and not Irish.  Once he discovered this he jested with us about it.  The night ended with bursts of energy as once they had completed their final songs people began banging on the table begging for more.  Asland was happy to comply with the demands.
 
Our most recent excursion took my classmates and I to the Aran Islands, we went to the biggest island known as Inishmore.  We took a ferry to the island and stayed overnight to see all the ruins.  During this time we walked close to the entire length of the island.  This large amount of walking did not go unrewarded as Dún Aonghasa had some of the most splendid views I have ever seen with a sheer drop of about 300 feet.  Furthermore it was a clear day, uncommon in Ireland, allowing for a jaw dropping view of the sapphire blue ocean.
The spectacular view from Dún Aonghasa

The spectacular view from Dún Aonghasa

 
I am living life on the edge!

I am living life on the edge!

 
Our day continued with a long walk across the islands lower road (there are only two the high and low road).  It was our hope to see seals basking in the sunlight on one of the beach sides on the island.  Sadly we found no seals, but we were apart of a traffic jam consisting of cows, a tractor, a van, and fellow hikers.  This was a laughable experience to say the least.  This long walk took us to the hostel that we would be staying at for the night.  It was to our great delight that the hostel provided food, and even greater so it was a buffet!  My fellow classmates and I devoured the meal with ravenous hunger.  It must have appeared that we had been starved for the past week, when in truth we are just poor cooks on a budget.

The next day we hiked back out to view Dún Eochla.  It is yet another fort on this island used as a watch tower for invading ships.  Again the spectacle was amazing as we were blessed with another clear day, despite a strong wind giving many of us wind burn.  Soon we found ourselves walking back to the ferry as we were exhausted from the past days of adventure.  We had to say farewell to the Aran Islands, but welcomed our warm beds waiting at our cottages.

 

Dún Eochla

Dún Eochla

 

 

Arrival to My New Irish Home

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: August 28, 2013 - 4:18 AM

  I have arrived in Ireland, and thus far it has already been an adventure, from plane delays to getting lost.  To any potential travelers to Ireland be sure to know how you are getting to your destination from the airport.  We (my fellow students and I) were under the impression it would be easy to get a ticket for a bus that would take us to Galway.  It turns out that “easy” turned into a hour-and-a-half of walking around trying to find some sort of booth that sells tickets.  Finally we broke and decided actually to ask for help and our dilemma was answered quickly.  Turns out you simply buy the tickets on the bus, it is brilliant!  If only there was a sign to tell us this information.

 
The jet lag did not really hit many of us for some time.  We tried sleeping on the airplane with little success and the bus was not much better.  We did however get to see some interesting architecture on the drive and what I thought was a creative preschool paint job.  Of course it was the bus ride where we truly discovered what driving on the left side of the road feels like.  In all honestly it was not too bad until we came to a roundabout.  They are confusing enough going in a familiar direction, but once you go left you think an accident is soon to follow.  Additionally the roads are much thinner and the driving is far more aggressive.
 
An average road in Dublin

An average road in Dublin

 
The weather here in Ireland is considerably different from Minnesota.  For example at my home college they had a heat advisory with the high getting in the upper 90's while here it never got above 70.  Besides this stark difference in temperature it is always wet and it will mist on and off all day.  The rain here is not like home where it is a torrential down poor for ten minutes then done, instead it is a constant misting of water,  This means nothing ever dries.
 
I will now be living in a cottage which will be my home for the next few months.  The cottages are located pretty far out in the country.  It is pleasant, they are slightly secluded allowing for a peaceful environment.  For example as I am writing this the sun is setting and birds singing.  On arrival my roommates and I quickly unpacked and decided that dinner was required as most of us had not eaten for a long length of time due to traveling all day.  Lucky for us we already had some food in the fridge and we made spaghetti.  Dinner was what I would call a success for our first homemade meal of the trip.  Later that night the owners of the hotel next to us (same people who own the cottages we are living in) opened the bar and we all relaxed after a long day of travels.  It was an excellent way to end the day and to kick of the beginning of this Ireland adventure.
 
The living space in the cottages

The living space in the cottages

 

Emerald Isle Bound

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: August 18, 2013 - 4:42 PM

 That is right folks I am heading to Ireland, Spiddal to be more precise.  It is an exciting notion, as well as frightening.  This will be the first time I have truly been cut off from home, and by cut off I mean the entire Atlantic Ocean.  Despite this separation I am invigorated with this extraordinary adventure put forth in front of me.  Where will it lead?  There is one way to find out, one ticket to Ireland please!

“Why Ireland?”  Is usually the first question people ask me when they discover I am traveling there for a little over three months.  My answer is simple really; it worked and heat is not my friend.  Further persuading was found with the possibilities of this trip; such as an overnight stay at Inishmore (Aran Islands), seminars at the Hill of Tara, visiting the Rock of Cashel, etc.  In addition to these excursions I also wish to further my understanding of people and various cultures, while Ireland is not exotic, it is certainly different then Minnesota.

With only a few days till my departure it has finally become apparent to me that I will indeed be living in a different country for several months.  My days consist of check lists and last minute errands to ensure I have all that I need.  Before I know, it I will be waving good bye to family and friends and boarding a plane.  Let the adventure begin…

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