September 2008


Chesty

In a classic Simpsons episode, Homer tries to legally change Marge’s name to Chesty LaRue.  Chesty has a different meaning for Homer and the rest of America than it does to people in Ireland.  In Ireland, Chesty LaRue would just have a cough and cold.  At home we would say, “You sound congested.”  Here in Ireland they say, “You sound chesty.”  So ladies, if while in Ireland some strange Irishman makes reference to your chestiness don’t be offended.   He is just concerned for your health.

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There is a wonderful series of short stories, written by Somerville and Ross around the turn of the 20th century and collected under the name The Irish R.M., which was adapted for television in the early eighties. The main character (and narrator of the stories), is either seemingly English (in the series), or Anglo-Irish (in the stories). In one episode, Major Yeates and his wife Phillipa are late for dinner, and Lady Knox complains that she hopes they aren’t developing “an Irish sense of time.”

This is a completely ridiculous thing to say, because one needs to spend only a short time here to realize the Irish don’t have a sense of time. Oh, it’s true that many of them wear watches, but I’m convinced the Irish simply look at them as bracelets with moving parts, and can’t, in fact, tell time.

Many, many stores and businesses don’t bother posting opening hours, but the signs hardly help to know when a business will actually be open anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t matter much. I arrived one day at a store just before the posted opening hour, only to wait until a quarter after when the owner pulled up beside me in his car. He proceeded to sit in his car and read for several minutes before getting out and opening the store. Just before our latest holiday, I went to an internet café we sometimes use when our computer is on the fritz, as it is now. It was scheduled to open at 9:00, but it was still closed the last time I looked at 10:45.

Several months ago, a group of Amy’s co-workers planned to have a team compete in a fund-raising quiz night, and Amy and I were invited. We arrived just moments before 8:00 in the evening, when we were told the quiz was to begin, where we met Iris, a German co-worker from Cope, who had also just arrived. The poster on the door said the quiz would start at “8:30 promptly.” So we waited, and as it turned out, we were the only ones who came from Cope. 8:30 came and went, then 9:00, and finally at 9:15 the questions began. Promptly.

Our favourite story, though, is arriving at pub to listen to music that was scheduled to start at 9:00, according to the posters we’d seen. Of course we knew it was foolish to arrive at nine, but being American we did and listened for 30 minutes while the band worked on the amps and speakers and mic thingies (sorry to use jargon on you) to get everything just right. At 9:30 they were finally satisfied, so they put on their jackets and told the barman, “We’re going to dinner.” Forty-five minutes later they came back and began playing, 75 minutes after their scheduled start time.

There have been two events we’ve attended here that have begun on time. The first was an international choral competition, but I assume one of the German or Swiss singers prompted the host to begin at the right time. The other was the American football game, but here, too, I can only imagine that one of the American players on the team nudged the Irish players to go onto the field for the coin toss at the correct time.

The Irish know things start late here, so they don’t bother arriving at events until at least half-an-hour after the scheduled start times. While our arriving at scheduled times does mean longer waits for us, this usually works to our advantage, since most of the time we arrive before any of the Irish do and can get good seats. And sometimes, just sometimes, this can bite the Irish in the ass.

Dolly Parton had a concert here in Cork in June, and Orla, a co-worker of Amy’s, was going, as was her sister. Ten minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin, Orla realized that it was looking distinctly like the concert was going to start on time, so she called her sister who had not yet arrived. Her sister, it turns out, was just sitting down to dinner, not in Cork, but in Douglas, a nearby village. She, like countless other Irish fans, was late to the concert, which began on time. God bless Dolly Parton.

Prague, like the other cities we visited, was incredible, and we think it may have topped Vienna in terms of overall beauty, which we didn’t think possible.  We were tired, though, by the end of our trip, and it’s nice to be home here in Cork.  We had our fill of gelato, goulash, schnitzel, sausage, sun and walking, lots and lots of walking.

What occured to us during our earlier trip to London and again during this trip was that it’s easier for us to travel to other countries than it is for us to travel to towns halfway across the county.  We can’t drive now (which we’ll be talking about in more detail in later posts), so getting anywhere here in Ireland outside Cork is inconvenient and sometimes impossible.  We hope that changes when Amy gets her Irish driving license, which should be next month.  In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to keep breaking in our passports.

Salzburg is a beautiful town, but it was destined to be a disappointment to us.  On our first afternoon, we ventured forth from the pension only to be rained on for the first time in our trip.  Then, as we made our way to the restaurant the pension owner recommended, something got into my eye, causing me to reach up and knock my contact out of place.  I couldn’t be sure whether the contact had popped out or was floating around my eyeball heading toward my frontal lobe.  With my contact still A.W.O.L., we arrived at the restaurant and discovered it was closed. 

 Over dinner, my contact resettled into its usual place, and my mood improved, as did the weather the next morning.  But Salzburg is a bit like the small-town version of Vienna, and having seen Vienna a few days before, we needed more than just beautiful buildings to impress us (are we really that jaded already?).  Salzburg has far fewer tourists than Vienna, but they’re crowded in more closely here, blocking off sidewalks and alleyways. 

 Again, though, it is beautiful and we did enjoy our time here, but we should have seen it before Vienna.  As it is, it’s more of the same.  The same buildings, the same Mozart-themed stores and museums, the same horse-drawn carriages.  Actually, we had wondered in Vienna how they had so many horses and yet the streets were so clean.  I had concluded the Austrians had been secretly developing non-pooping horses until we noticed the horses each had a bag behind them to catch their droppings.  I believe the Austrians call this “Der poopen catchen.”

 So, today we head for Prague, another beautiful city.  I only hope my contact stays in place this time.

We just rolled in to Salzburg after three days in the Austrian Alps, and it’s official – we have fallen in love with the Alps.  I don’t think either Pat or I realized how much we had missed hiking in the mountains.  While living in Oregon, we would try to go backpacking in the Cascades at least two times a year and would hike in the woods around Corvallis at least once a week – more during the summer.  While we have done a lot of walking on pavement since living in Cork, because of the wet weather, limited access to trails, and inability to drive (the subject of a future posting) our hiking opportunites have been few and far between.

I think it is safe to say that we did our best to make up for that while in St. Wolfgang.  We managed to hike just over 30 miles in a span of two days.  That is definitely a distance record for us both, and not too shabby for two people in their late 30’s if I do say so myself.  We have some achy muscles and sore feet to show for it, but it was worth it.  I also have to put a plug in for Ecco shoes.  My trusty Keens had worn out with all the walking I had been doing in Cork, so I bought a pair of Ecco shoes before our trip.  After walking 30 miles around the lake and through the mountains, I wound up with one hot spot on a toe and one blister.  Poor Pat had blisters on top of blisters and a total count of 11 blisters.  Although, in fairness, he already had four blisters from walking around Bratislava and Vienna.

Pat and I both agreed that the Alps have been the highlight of our trip so far, and we wish that we could have stayed longer and explored a bit more.  Hopefully there will be a next time. 

p.s. Because our computer keeled over and died right before our trip, it will be a while before we manage to get pictures uploaded onto Flickr.  But if you want to feel jealous you can see some lovely photos of St. Wolfgang and Wolfgangsee (the lake) if you check out google images.