, ,

By the Liffey in Dublin

Let’s just wander, I said. And see where we end up. We were headed to the IFC in Dublin’s docklands, down by the Customs House, to see the 140th annual exhibition by artists of the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club.* Way back in October of 1874, a group of artists got together to start the club, one of whom was Bram Stoker, perhaps better known as the creator of Dracula. This year’s exhibition has the River Liffey as its celebratory theme and features work by both members and invited guests. The catalogue is impressive and just a week into the exhibition, quite a number of the works have sold. I found myself wishing I had €3000 to purchase a painting of Achill Island by John Kirwan and a way to get it to Hungary. It is absolutely stunning. A painting I could lose myself  in, over and over again. I have a week to figure out the logistics.

John Kirwan painting of Achill

M’s choice, Bluebell Meadow, by Vincent Smith, had already sold.

Bluebell Meadow, by Vincent Smith

Heading up the Quays, we passed the Customs House and saw a sign pointing to a Visitor Centre that neither of us had known was there. Admission was free and we had time, so we went inside. This neo-classical stunner was completed in 1791 with a bill of £200 000 (equivalent to about €40 million today). Said to the jewel of James Gandon’s portfolio, it is an iconic part of the Dublin skyline.

During the Irish War of Independence in 1921, it was burned down. I was a little shocked to hear that Michael Collins had given the order. The first round of restoration was completed by 1928 and the second by the bi-centenary in 1991. The part that houses the Visitor Centre is apparently the only original part left.

The exhibition is in four parts:

  • Met Éireann’s ‘weather-themed’ room looks at the development of scientific meteorology in Ireland with a special focus on the weather of Easter Week 1916 and the weather on 25 May 1921, when the Custom House was attacked.  It highlights the unfailing commitment of weather observers who took daily weather readings, sometimes against all odds.
  • The Custom House and 1916, including the story of some Local Government staff dismissed for participating in the Rising, Bureau of Military History statements of prisoners in the Custom House after the Rising, and activity in the area of the Custom house during the Rising.
  • Gandon, telling the story of the architect James Gandon and the construction of the Custom House.
  • The Custom House Fire 1921, covering the events of 25 May 1921 and the subsequent restoration.

Aerial view of the Customs House

It’s an imposing building with much to note and a classic example of why we should look up more. I’d never noticed the Irish harps beside the English roses, or the very Indian-looking bull face on top of the pillars.

Customs House Pillars

I don’t know much about architects or architecture, but Gandon seems to have taken a delight in this one. And then I read that this was a game played by architects of the time – creating different shaped spaces for people to wander through. How very, very different from the functional stuff we see today.

Customs House Visitor Centre

Having watched the documentaries and read our way through the exhibit, we wandered towards the Irish Life Mall, passing for the millionth time the statue of James Connolly. But this time, we were walking. And we stopped. And saw the Talking Statues logo that gave us a link to tap into our phones to hear the story of Connolly and the part he played in Irish history. Written and narrated by Brendan O’Carroll (of Mrs Brown fame), it taught us stuff we didn’t know and reminded us of stuff we’d long forgotten.

James Connolly statue by the Customs House

Next time I’m in town, I want to find the statue of Joyce to hear what Roddy Doyle wrote about the man, as told by Gabriel Byrne.

I was born in Dublin. I love the city. And I love the fact that even now, I’m still learning about it.

 

*PS The art exhibition is on at CHQ, in the IFSC, in Dublin city centre from April 15 to 29, 2018. Admission free.

, ,

Dithering around Dublin 7

Visitors to Dublin can get caught up in the tide of tourists that flows around the hot spots like Trinity College and its Book of Kells. They dip in and dip out of the tidal pools neatly mapped on the hop-on-hop-off bus tours. They sip their way through the Guinness Hop Store and the various distilleries around the city each selling a liquid taste of Irishness.  And yes, there’s plenty to do, and even more to see. But there’s another side of Dublin, the backstreets, the ‘burbs, the lived-in places like Dublin 7 that are more than worth a wander.

Heading to the fab Slice of Cake for breakfast on Sunday morning (56 Manor Pl, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7), I went for a wander and found myself oohing and aahing like a love-struck tourist. There are some amazing buildings in the ‘hood and as I engaged in fantasies of winning the EuroMillions and buying a terraced cottage around the corner from Lucky Lane, I realised that neighbourhoods like these are gems just waiting to be discovered.

Terraced houses in Dublin 7

Cafés, bars, and restaurants line the streets while terraced houses speak to generations past who must be turning in their graves at the thoughts of the €300 000+ their 50-60 sqm former homes are commanding. These two-bedroom terraced houses ain’t cheap. But they have everything on their doorstep.

Stanhope Street school Dublin 7

Once a home for orphan girls, the Stanhope Street House of Refuge is now St Joseph’s School  for Girls. Dating back to the early 1800s, the gardens of the building have been likened to an oasis in the heart of the city. The 1970s monstrosity that extended the school leaves me wondering where the planners were that week, but perhaps the mix of styles simply reflects the student mix – 40% are of international orgin – and indeed that of the city in general.

Manor Street Dublin 7

I was more than intrigued by a banner calling for equality for all pollinators. On further investigation, it turns out that Bí URBAN has a master plan to

…create a green corridor that will connect the Botanic Gardens with the Liffey in Dublin 7, providing an amenity for the public and a living laboratory where DIT [Dublin Institute of Technology] can study the importance of nature in the urban environment.

What’s not to like?

Blackhall Place Dublin 7Closer to the River Liffey sits the magnificent building that is Blackhall Place, HQ of the Law Society of Ireland. For about 200 years, up till 1968, this was home to

a charitable school for boys of poor families […] called the Hospital and Free School of King Charles II, Dublin. It became known as the King’s Hospital or Blue Coat School because of the boys’ military-style blue uniform.

Carmichael House Dublin 7

Over on North Brunswick Street, also in Dublin 7, I stopped outside Carmichael House. From this impressive building, once the Doctors’ residence for the nearby Richmond Hospital, 48 charities operate. From Alcohol Action Ireland to Young Horizons and everything in between, the centre has been in operation since 2011.

Carmichael Centre KnowledgeNET brings together a full spectrum of management and governance knowledge needed to run Irish Not For Profit organisations.

What a resource.

Richmond Hospital Dublin 7

Photo: S Jacobs

But my vote for the day went the old Richmond Hospital itself. This stunningly gorgeous building was on the market in 2013 for €3.5 million. I didn’t have the money then, and I don’t have the money now, but wow …. what a place to live.  Back when it first opened as a hospital in 1901 (for the 100 years before that it had been a convent), there was one window for each bed. When the hospital closed, five of the Dublin courts moved in and operated from here until 2011. Some nasty rumours are going around that it might end up as a casino!

Richmond Hospital Dublin 7

Lisa Cassidy posted this 6 years ago on BuiltDublin.com:

I’m drawn to it by the roofline, the copper roofs tapering to a stack of ornaments, the little finials on the gables of each wing, the curves of the ridge line on the pitched roofs and the chimneys popping up throughout. The double loggias (covered galleries open to air on one side) on the ward blocks seem like useful facilities, outside without being outside, and covered outdoor spaces are to be welcomed in this climate. It’s a big, striking, formal building, and I would love very much to see the interior.

Me, too. I’d love to get a look inside. This is the sort of touristy thing I like to do. Wander and wonder.

, , ,

Hidden in the trees in Zalavár

Back on New Year’s day, we made an attempt to check out the ruins of an old church on the outskirts of the village of Zalavár, not far from the site of an old Benedictine Abbey. But the fields were wet and we hadn’t brought the wellies. Last week, more suitably attired, we made a second attempt. And this time, succeeded.

Zalavár Récéskút bazilika

There’s something very therapeutic about sloshing through puddles in wellies. It was cold. Very cold. But nothing had iced over. It was just wet. Very wet. What would appear to be the makings of a natural tree tunnel marked our way. The trees, bare in winter, will be quite something to see when they’re leafed up and budding. I had thought there was a fancier word for a tree tunnel but it escapes me. In googling it, though, I found mention of a famous one in Northern Ireland that features in Game of Thrones.  Who knew!

Zalavár Récéskút bazilika

It was all a little enchanted-forest like. At around 4pm, the light was failing but the sun was hanging on for dear life. The silence was loud enough to lose a whisper. And the place had a sense of holiness going on that might well have been a figment of my imagination but nonetheless real. At the end of the tunnel stands a cross – a basic wooden post and steel crossbar. To say I was disappointed doesn’t even come close. This was it? This was all there was to see?

Zalavár Récéskút bazilika

Zalavár Récéskút bazilika

That the sign at the base of the cross was translated into German and not English is testament to the connection Zala county, and Zalavár, has with Germany. More often than not, when hearing my pathetic attempt at speaking Hungarian, the locals figure out that I’m a foreigner and launch in to German. It’s their second language. I had enough Hungarian to get that the original church dates back to 840 AD and on that same site, another basilica was built in the sixteenth century. But what? Where?

Zalavár Récéskút bazilika

I turned right and there it was. As usual when confronted with old ruins of times gone by, I’m gobsmacked that they’ve survived. Further research tells me that the church itself was built on the remains of a burned-out Slavic settlement and that’s what dates back to 840 Zalavár. And in total, three churches were built at various times. And, apparently, that last one is similar in shape to temples built on the coasts of North Africa or Italy – depending on what you read 🙂 I was quite taken by what looked for all the world like a big stone barrel laying on its side.

Zalavár Récéskút bazilika

Zalavár Récéskút bazilika

We had our three wishes – a church is a church is a church when it comes to the three wishes for a first-time visit rule – and stood for a while in silent contemplation. Discovered back in the 1940s, it really is a lovely spot. Zalavár and its surrounds are rich in history; back in their heyday they must have been quite the hub of activity. With renewed government focus on the Kis-Balaton (as evidenced by the tourist banners and ads in the airport arrivals) perhaps the church will see more by way of visitors this summer.

If you’re visiting Hungary, remember, there’s far more to the country that just Budapest.

Zalavár Récéskút bazilika

 
 

 

, ,

By the Balaton at Keszthely

Keszthely

The Balaton (aka the Hungarian Sea) is a tale of two lakes. The summer version sees the 592 km² body of water full of sailboats and bathing beauties. Its strands are full to capacity as locals and tourists bake themselves to a crisp as the smell of lángos and the pisztráng competes with Ambre Solaire. Keszthely, the largest city on the shore, sitting as it does on the lake’s westernmost tip is no exception. It heaves and burps tourists of all sorts, lots of them local. Keszthely has three strands: the Városi and Helikon strands near the ferry pier and the Libás strand further to the northeast. Even though planned to accommodate 1900 people, which would give sunbathers at Helikon Strand 10 sqm of space each, I have my doubts. Balaton strands at the height of summer view from above are like postage-stamp albums.

But in February, when the temperature hovers at about 2 degrees and the sun peaks out intermittently to check that all is well, it’s a different story. A much nicer story.

Keszthely strand

Keszthely strand

Two magnificent buildings sit facing the water at the between the Városi and the Helikon strands, one clinging vainly to its glory days  and the other looking all the better for its decrepitude. My thoughts immediately went to renovation and I made quick note to buy a lotto ticket. What I wouldn’t give to own such a place and to have the wherewithal to do it justice.

The water was smooth enough and the birds were plentiful. The swans were out in all their glory and some silly humans with a suicide wish were throwing bread at them. I didn’t stay around long enough to see what would happen when the bread ran out. Swans aren’t known for their placidness. And I’m sure I’ve seen signs urging people NOT to feed the birds. [I’m still carrying the emotional scars of a seagull attack in St Ives a few years back and I blame some well-intentioned tourist for their forwardness.]

Keszthely strand swans

Keszthely strand swans

Keszthely strand

Keszthely strand

The Varósi strand bathhouse (szigetfürdő, or Island Bath), with its decorative entrance, dates to the late 1800s. I had little trouble conjuring up images of old geezers tipping their hats to parasolled ladies, of wives strolling arm in arm with their husbands, of nannies pushing heir-laden prams. It’s all rather period-like.

Off to the left, a pier leads out to the ferry terminal where the Kisfaludy steamboat first arrived in 1846, heralding the birth of boat traffic on the lake. Until it retired in 1887, the boat would ferry prisoners of war, aristocrats, and salt across the Balaton. A heady mixture. In 2015, a replica of the original Kisfaludy took to the waters, this time as a floating museum that includes an  exhibition of nineteenth-century boating and a library. Today, ferries run from May connection the city with Balatongyörök, Szigliget, and Badacsony on the lake’s north shore, and Balatonmáriafürdő, Fonyód, Balatonboglár, and Balatonlelle on the south shore. Fishing season opens at the end of March and by then, the pier will be lined with rods and reels and anglers who live in hope of catching something other than hayfever or a cold.

Keszthely strand

Keszthely strand

Poised at the edge of the lake is a life-sized statue of Csik Ferenc, journalist, doctor, and Olympian, winner of two medals (gold medal in the 100 m freestyle event and bronze  in the 4×200 m freestyle relay) in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. (Remember the one where Jesse Owens gave Hitler something to think about?) Csik died during WWII, aged 31. A short but glorious life – a little like the calm that descends on the Balaton in winter/spring.

 

 

, ,

Reversing the spend

Kefa-Kafe Naxxar Malta

When time is limited and coffee is a must, it pays to spend the time finding that one place that delivers it all. Sometimes it’s pure luck. Sometimes it’s on the recommendation of a friend. Kefa-Kafe in Naxxar doesn’t need to advertise. Malta is a small island. Word gets around. Those serious about their coffee make the journey and spread the word.

I’m in Malta for a quick couple days of workshops with little time to do anything but work or to go any place other than up and down the hotel stairs. On the drive in from the airport last night, I was struck by how much new building is going on. It seems as if every square inch of land is fighting for its life. As the inimitable MA pointed out it, if the Maltese could figure out how to build on water, they’d build as far as Sicily. I’ve written before, wondering where the planners are when the building permits are being handed out – and I’m still wondering.

Usually, when I’m here, I have time to visit somewhere new. MA never disappoints. He’s always on the hunt for somewhere and it’s a credit to this small island nation that each time I visit, he finds somewhere interesting that I’ve not been to before. I’ve been coming to Malta for years, often as much as every other month but the last few years it’s been more of an annual pilgrimage.

We had an hour – a quick catch-up over a coffee between sessions. He told me that he’d found a quirky café that I’d appreciate. It was up there among the more expensive cafés on the island but worth the time it took to get there and worth the money when you got there.

Kefa-Kafe Naxxar Malta

Perhaps it was an optical illusion or perhaps it was because I’d started my day with the usual tepid hotel coffee, but when we walked into Kefa-Kafe in Naxxar, it felt a little like entering another world. It isn’t big. Two steps from the front door and you’re at the counter. Arms outstretched, you’d be hard-pushed to turn around without touching someone. It’s eclectic. It’s inviting. And were I given to flights of fancy and whittles of whimsy, I might even say it was like stepping into a hollowed-out coffee bean.

MA introduced me to Steve, the owner. I complimented the place and asked how long he’d been open. I wasn’t being polite. I was genuinely interested. With so little seating and so little space, I was wondering how he could make his money. It’s a far cry from the Starbucks or the Costas or the Café Nero’s of this world. There are no tables to set your laptop on that I could see. No corners to retreat to. No sprawling couches or fashionable armchairs. If you’re there, you’re really there. Front and centre.

The reggae music adds to the atmosphere. Those who dropped in and out while we were there were dreadlocked, coiffed, suited, and jeaned; all sorts, all ages, all having at least one thing in common: a love of good coffee.

Steve is on a mission to save Malta’s coffee-drinking public from the clasp of the corporate chains that have taken over the island. He wants coffee to be about community. He wants it to be about values. He wants it to be about change. Sourcing ethical coffee from shade coffee growers south of the Equator, his artisan café is part of a growing international movement to redirect the coffee spend from the big guys to the small community shops that trade with small farmers in Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Columbia, Brazil and such.

He told me how the governments reputedly give land to the Coffee Giants, who then operate a monocultural system using the same land to grow the same crops year on year. And each year, as the demand grows, the land has to produce more and more. So they resort to artificial minerals and herbicides – in effect growing artificial plants in dead soil.

Steve and his ilk are more about shade-grown coffee – what he calls the third wave of coffee farming. Grown under the canopy of trees in high altitudes with cleaner air and purer soil, these beans retain their natural oils and taste. He spoke passionately and eloquently about this type of community, saying that if you cut a tree and plant another to replace it, even another two, you miss out on 100 years of community as those two grow to the age the first one was at. Coffee hunters, a term I’d not heard before, roam the sub-Equatorial lands in search of small growers with whom they can deal directly. He himself imports every two weeks or so, ensuring a steady supply of fresh beans that he then roasts himself. Coffee, he says, sits between oil and water as one of the top three demand-driven products the world has to offer.

A native of Malta, he’s old enough to have watched the demise of local farm shops where farmers would come to sell their produce directly to the consumer. Today, with the advent of big supermarkets and EU regulations, these shops are a rarity. Labelling and packaging cost money. The same happened with coffee shops – and today, hang-outs like Kefa-Kafe are waking people to the reality of their spending decisions. They offer places where people can go to taste good coffee and learn about how it was sourced, where it’s from, and who benefits from their buck.

Kefa is the Kingdom in Ethiopia where a goatherder noticed his goats jumping around the place after eating berries from a particular plant. That was around 800 BC. It would take centuries for coffee to become a staple, but once baptised by Pope Clement VIII, it went from being the devil’s drink to being socially acceptable.

When coffee was first brought to Christian Europe, it was greeted with a great deal of suspicion since it was the drink of the Muslim infidels with whom Christians had been at war for centuries. Some even went so far to call this exotic beverage “Satan’s drink.”

Inevitably, coffee made its way to the Vatican, where it was introduced to Pope Clement VIII. While many of his advisors clamored for the Pope to ban the controversial drink, he refused to do so before trying it himself.

The Pope was brought a steaming mug of java and he took a sip. He was immediately delighted, and according to legend, he declared, “This devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.”

And the rest is history. Due to the papal blessing, coffee quickly spread throughout Europe and eventually the world, where it remains a perennially popular drink. – Blessed beans: How the pope baptized coffee

But, truth be told, fascinated though I was with the lively recounting of the history of coffee and the future of the humble bean (since a trip last year to Costa Rica, I have a healthier appreciation for good coffee), I was more interested in how Steve got into it all. Back in the day, he was a software developer – or a data deconstructionist – or someone whose job it was to take copious amounts of data and distil it into meaningful chunks. A lot of this work involved connecting dots, making links, seeing the consequences – not unlike sourcing ethical coffee today. He worked in real estate, too;  he spent time at sea; and he worked in a reggae bar. Then, two years ago, when he decided that life was there to be lived, to be enjoyed, he opened this little cup of coffee heaven in Naxxar. Now, he has the best of it all. He’s sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of all things coffee, converting people to his way of thinking and to his coffees on a daily basis, and raising awareness of the need for conscious spending. He enjoys what he does. He looks forward to getting up in the morning and sleeps easy knowing that he’s doing his bit – and doing it fairly. Add his certainty that the world can be changed one coffee at a time,  to the fine taste of his coffee and you get a buzz that won’t go away.

Kefa-Kafe Naxxar Parish Church Malta

Across the road from the cutely named Paws 4 a Cause – the MSPCA charity shop – and in the shadow of the rather splendid seventeenth-century Twelid tal-Vergni Marija (Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary), Kefa-Kafe is the perfect people-watching spot. We sat outside at one of two small box tables, on two cushioned boxes, enjoying a cortado and a cappuccino as we watched the world go by.

Opposite Kefa-Kafe Naxxar Malta

MA pointed out a narrow three-storey house opposite, the width of the front door. He then pulled up Google Earth and we had a look to see if it got bigger at the back. It was all a tad surreal. Here we were, drinking a coffee blend whose constituent parts started life in Guatemala, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Lagoa do Morro in Brazil; sitting in the shadow of a seventeenth-century church, in a part of Malta that was already settled in 60 AD when St Paul was shipwrecked off the coast, while taking a virtual peek into the house across the road. And we have Pope Clement to thank for it all.

I was well happy with myself. My only regret was that we couldn’t stay longer.

If you’re on the island, it’s worth the effort. Kefe-kafe, 2, Triq Santa Lucija, Naxxar.

, ,

Staying local at Kányavári sziget

We dream of islands in the sun. Exotic places where we can get away from it all. We spend hundreds if not thousands of whatevers getting there and then come home full of the experience. Too often, we forget that just down the road there might be somewhere just as interesting, somewhere that offers an opportunity to explore, to get away from it all, but because it’s so near, we don’t consider it travel. Travel seems to be measured by a physical distance rather than a metaphorical one, even if just ten minutes from home a whole new world awaits. Kányavári sziget is just an example.

I have a fondness for islands. For water. For bridges. And for quiet. And were I to ask any of you for your recommendation, that one place that has all that and more, I’d be reading for a week. There are myriad places around the world that would fit the bill but I’m fortunate to have all that and more within walking distance. Practically at the end of the garden.

Hungary is known for the Balaton, the Hungarian sea, the massive lake that is choc-a-bloc in the summer with Hungarians on holiday and tourists on vacation. And in the winter, it’s quiet. And it has water. But I’m not talking about the Balaton. I’m talking about the Kis-Balaton (the little Balaton), even farther to the south-west. It has its own island, Kányavári sziget and its own bridge.

Kányvári sziget

Wooden bridge on Kányvári sziget

Part of me is reluctant to do anything that might put this place on the tourist map but that’s me being selfish. It’s a gorgeous spot that I’ve written about many times. We went down there this evening, for a walk, to catch the sunset. We passed two couples fishing and a couple of lads trying their luck. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone catch anything, but it’s certainly not for want of trying. Perhaps though it’s the fishing that’s important, not the catching. We passed another couple out walking their dog and then two other friends scuffing through the leaves. It was quiet and peaceful, the only noise coming from the ducks and the geese.

Kányavári sziget sunset kis-balaton

viewing tower on Kányavári sziget

We climbed the 44 steps to the top of the tower and watched the sun go down. Beautiful. Peaceful. Rejuvenating. And it’s only down the road. Perhaps 2018 might be the year to go local, to explore more of Zala megye and the surrounding counties.

Sunset on kis-balaton Kányavári sziget

,

Magical forests and healing water in Slovenia

Dubrovnik is a city in Croatia. Dobrovnik is a village in Slovenia. Both have their attractions but Dobrovnik is really special. Magical even.

I don’t think I’ll ever grow up. Not really. I might get a little more responsible, a little more sensible, a little more pragmatic, but at heart, I’ll still be that gullible kid who believes in magic, in fairies, in ghosts. I needed very little persuading when the lovely GZs suggested a trip across the border into Slovenia to Bukovniško lake and its magic forest that sit outside the village of Dobrovnik. Not too clear about what to expect herself, she sold me on the idea of healing energy and curing waters.

Back in 2001, Dr Ilija Čosić (who, as far as I can tell, is a writer/professor from Novi Sad in Serbia) visited the lake and mapped the bioenergy and radiesthesy. [I had to check that one out: Radiesthesia is the science of using the vibrational fields of the human body to access information about other objects of animate or inanimate nature by establishing resonance with their energy fields, using specially calibrated instruments and a scale of qualitative measurement to decode this information.] He and his team of experts found more than 50 energy points clustered around two power lines that cross right where the church of St Vida (St Vitus) sits in the middle of the forest in Slovenia.

They focused on 26 energy points that are clearly marked for specific ailments. Stand or sit at any of these points, arms relaxed, palms facing the ground, and you will feel the energy manifested as a warm, tingling sensation or a cool breeze. And if you don’t feel anything, then that particular spot is not for you.

I looked at the list of 26 energy points and made my selection. I didn’t want a conveyor belt experience. I wanted to treat the specifics. I stopped first at No. 2 – just because stress is nasty. It was pleasant, but more because I was out in the forest rather than feeling any surge of energy. So, nothing I can’t manage myself, I thought. I stopped at No. 9 because I have cholesterol issues but I didn’t feel much by way of anything. I can stop worrying about that then. Next I went to No. 15, the rheumatism and arthritis spot and after a few minutes in situ, my palms started to tingle and heat up. Damn, I thought, that pain I’ve been feeling is real. I then stopped at No. 24 – limb pain and muscle inflammation) – same thing. The full list is quite something and I’m sure something has gotten lost in translation.

1: Gallstones and kidney stones

2: Mental, emotional, stressful, depressive problems

3: General back pain

4: Leg ulcer diseases (arteries)

5: Small and large intestinal diseases, including hemorrhoids

6: Headaches, dizziness, vertigo

7: Respiratory diseases (trachea, lung inflammation)

8: Migraine problems and tension in the head

9: Diabetes, cholesterol, liver, pancreas, spleen

10: Skin diseases (inflammation, acne and psoriasis (psoriasis) [the recommended retention time on it is 30 minutes]

11: Strengthening the immune system

12: Vascular diseases (venous vessels) and varicose veins and knots

13: Chest problems, pleurisy

14: Cardiac vessels

15: Rheumatic diseases (rheumatism, arthritis)

16: Gastric, duodenal and colorectal inflammation (acid, ulcer)

17: Alcohol, tobacco, and drug addiction

18: Urinary system, prostate and fertility (inflammatory diseases)

19: Blood pressure

20: Eyes, ears and nose (inflammation), partly also of allergies

21: Gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea and constipation, abdominal cramps and tension)

22: Respiratory allergies – bronchitis

23: Malignant or benign tumors

24: Limb pain (muscle inflammation and osteoporosis)

25: Strengthen and improve the blood count

26: Enhance life energy and increase frequency cell vibrations

The church of St Vida, at the centre of the energy lines, is like something out of a fairy tale. Back in WWII, there was a wooden structure on the site. During a battle not far from the chapel, one partisan managed to escape (they were hiding out in a local hunting lodge). Badly wounded, he crawled to his sanctuary. It was open then (unlike today). He didn’t expect to make it through the night but when he woke the next morning, all was well. Legend has it that he came back after the war and built the structure we see today.

St Vida's chapel Dobrovnik Slovenia

Bukovniško St Vita's chapel

Not far from the church is the spring of St Vida. Bathing your eyes in the healing waters is said to improve your eyesight, and indeed local lore has it that many have been cured. Washing your hands and face can improve your skin. And drinking it is recommended to calm anxious nerves. GZs had done her homework so we’d brought empty bottles. But had we not, the information office has water cans for sale (when they’re open).

The lake itself is man made, and is about 2 metres deep. There’s a trail around it and a couple of picnic spots, too. It’s stocked with fish and fishing licences are available for purchase.

Bukovniško lake SLovenia

Bukovniško lake Slovenia

Bukovniško lake Slovenia

As with anything good these days, there’s a caveat. A sort of disclaimer that says that one visit won’t do it. You need to come back a number of times within a short period. Not that I need much of an excuse to visit Slovenia. This weekend marks the beginning of a long-promised break, a chilling out period, time spent reflecting, reading, and writing. And if I can fit in a couple of more trips across the border to Slovenia – I’ll be even more grateful for the joys of village life and the access to other worlds that living so remotely affords.

Adrenaline park Dobrovnik Slovenia

 

PS There’s also quite a spectacular adrenaline park just at the entrance, one of the best I’ve seen. It would take about 2 hour to get around it and is suitable for ages 4 upwards.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

,

God has no country

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty

I was baptised into the Catholic Church. And for the large part of my adult life (when I got to choose whether or not to go to mass) I’ve been a regular Sunday mass-goer with the occasional mid-week celebration thrown in for good measure. I had a couple of years where I didn’t go. I was living in Alaska at the time, so perhaps it was a combination of simply not bothering and not having a regular priest that put paid to my religious attendance – I can’t remember. Read more

,

Four-Poster Fantasy

I tell myself that I only need a bed. A clean bed. And hot water. And a decent breakfast. I tell myself that I don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on a room that I will only be showering and sleeping in. That’s how I usually justify my hotel choice. But I have gotten tired of the sameness of hotel rooms, the miles and miles of carpeted corridors, the galleries of cheap prints on bland walls. Still, if the bed is clean and the water is hot and the breakfast is included, price usually wins out.

I don’t make the sort of money that allows me to rack up three-digit-euro-a-night hotel rooms. If I did, perhaps the stars would matter. But they don’t. Not really. Anyway, I found out this week that the word luxury as used in the hotel world applies to 6* and 7* hotels and resorts, and not, as I’ve always thought, to the 5* ones like the Four Seasons. So my usual 3* stays have now paled to paler than pale.

When we were planning our trip to Killarney, I reserved two hotels online. Himself reserved one. He seemed quite attached to his choice and I wasn’t much bothered about mine, so his was the one we went with. There was little if any difference in the price of all three. All promised clean beds, hot water, and a decent breakfast. Decision made, I left it at that. I didn’t do my homework. I didn’t check the website. I didn’t check the reviews. I simply trusted that it would work out.

We turfed up to the Earls Court House Hotel just off Muckross Road on a Monday night. We were late arriving but had rung ahead. ‘Just ring the doorbell,’ the nice lady said. ‘Someone will open up.’ So we did. And they did. And it wasn’t at all what I expected, not that I’d expected anything other than a clean bed, hot water, and a decent breakfast.

Hotel history of Killarney

Tourists have been visiting Killarney since the mid-eighteenth century, thanks to the then Lord of Kenmare, Thomas, 4th Viscount Kenmare, who began by inviting visitors and residents to the town. When Queen Victoria dropped by in 1861, Killarney went international, and it’s been on the global tourist map ever since. Before the railway came in 1853, it had three hotels. A year later, it had seven. And they’ve multiplied over the last 150 years to epic numbers. It seems like every other house in Killarney is a B&B, a guesthouse, or a small hotel. Roomex.com lists 93 hotels. Alphrooms lists 53. Kerry Hotels lists 247. And out of all these, himself chose the Earls Court House Hotel.

earls court hotel

Ray, one half of Moynihan team that owns and runs the place, answered the bell. He was all chat. We signed the forms and got our keys, only too delighted when he mentioned that he’d put us in a four-poster bed and hoped we’d enjoy our stay. I knew that wasn’t what we’d booked but hey, I’d never slept in a hand-built 6ft x 6ft four-poster bed so I kept quiet. For a change. Anyway, all I was after was a clean bed, hot water, and a decent breakfast. Breakfast started at 8 but we were due to start the conference at 8. ‘No problem’. he said. ‘We can open the kitchen for ye at half seven. And if there’s anything else you’d like, let us know.’ It was all very relaxed. I offered to pay but he said we could do that when we checked out. No rush.

The voice in the lift announces each floor in a broad Kerry accent. The carpeted corridors don’t match. The paintings and prints on the walls are a hodgepodge of styles. The Period armchairs sprinkled around the place are upholstered in all sorts of materials and patterns. And the overall effect is absolutely fabulous. It’s like stepping into a period house, complete with drawing rooms, drapes, and duck-down duvets. Okay, so maybe the duvets are a bit on the modern side but they’re covered with heavy brocade bedspreads that turn a sleep into an experience you want to drag out forever. Tucked out of sight at the back of the hotel is a service room where guests can do laundry. A pragmatic nod to twenty-first-century living.

4-poster suite

This is a photo taken from their website. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t do the room justice with my limited photographic skills. We didn’t get the flowers or the wine, but that’s not a complaint – it’s me being honest. I wouldn’t want ye to get too envious. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to leave my hotel room. I cut short a night out on the town and passed up on another to come back to the room and work. It was so quiet, so spacious, so real that I caught myself reaching for a bell-pull that existed only in my mind’s eye. I wanted to summon the maid to turn down the bed and draw me a bath (or in this case, a Jacuzzi).

The Earls Court is more than a 4* boutique hotel furnished with some lovely antiques and an extensive breakfast menu covering everything from award-winning porridge (I didn’t ) to a full Irish (I did); from kippers (I didn’t) to a bacon, cheese and guacamole wrap (I did). The home-cured ham, the homemade brown bread, the lemon drizzle cake … delicious. Yep the Earls Court is much more than a hotel; it’s an experience.

What makes the Earls Court different

And for all that it has, the one thing the Earls Court doesn’t have is sameness. It’s an original. What started out in in 1990s with 10 rooms has been extended to 40 over the years. Ray and Emer are still very visible, very much in charge. But they’re more than ably assisted by a very personable staff who have a nod for everyone. From the witty Margaret Mary on the front desk to the inimitable Agnes, a veteran of the hospitality business, who adds a breath of fresh air to breakfast, everyone we met had time for us. They were never too harried to stop for a chat, to ask how our day had gone, to answer a question or seven. And they have what everyone in Killarney seems to have been blessed with – the ability to banter.

The Lord of Kenmare knew what he was doing when he recognised in Killarney an innate hospitality that would make it a memorable place to stay for centuries to come. And had the Earls Court been around back in the 1700s, he might even have had our room.

Lounge at Earls Court Hotel

Woodlawn Road, Off Muckross Road, Dromhale, Killarney, Co. Kerry
killarney-earlscourt.ie
(064) 663 4009

Save

,

‘Tis all in the apples

I was a great fan of Bulmers back in the day. I loved the stuff. But as my stomach ages and my taste buds get a little more sophisticated, that love is waning. While I still enjoy a glass every now and then, I can’t handle it like I used to. I’ve been looking for a replacement for a few years now but find everything too sweet. Or too dry. Or too sharp. Or too gassy. And I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried craft ciders. I’ve tried English ciders. I’ve tried Hungarian ciders. I came close once with a French cider from Normandy, but that was a short-lived long-distance relationship.

The other night, at the opening night of TBEXIreland, I was exploring the stables at Killarney Racecourse. The horses were away and the stalls given over to food and beverage producers from the area, courtesy of Taste Kerry. It was there I ran into Rupert and his cider from Longueville House in Mallow, Co. Cork. [As a complete aside, every Rupert I’ve ever met has been tall – is there something in the name?] It was love at first sip. No artificial sweeteners. No additives. No colourings. No sulphates. No preservatives. Nothing but Irish apples and natural yeast.

I did the whole tasting bit. I sniffed and swirled and let the apples soak into my tongue. I did a mental checklist of all the descriptives I could use, checking for notes and bouquets and heritage. A line from a cider review by Charlie Harvey came to mind: robust with a good kick of apple balanced by some nice farmyard notes. Sounds good but in all honesty, I wouldn’t know a farmyard note if it sang to me. I can’t lay claim to be an cider aficionado. I just know what I like. And this I liked. A lot.

I asked him what the secret was to making a good cider. It’s simple. ‘Tis all in the apples: cider apples. They don’t use eating apples or cooking apples or any other sort of apples other than cider apples. Other cider makers might use cider apples but they’ll then add some regular apple juice to the mix for sweetness. Not Longueville. They only use Dabinett & Michelin, heritage, heirloom cider apples.

I went back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths: they were small glasses. Had the queue not been forming behind me, I’d have been brazen enough to ask for a bottle to take with me. But, Rupert assured me that Longueville House Cider is on sale in SuperValue right now – 3 bottles for €10. I thanked the travel gods that I’d booked check-in luggage to take back with me.

And there’s more: Longueville Mór  (slightly stronger than the Longueville House cider with an AVB of 8%). This cider is fortified with brandy. Their brandy. Yes, they do brandy, too. I liked the cider and brandy mix but I’m not a great one for neat alcohol. The brandy is very much a brandy and judging the sighs of satisfaction from those around me, it’s a good one. Me? I preferred the house cider.

Curious, I did a quick search to see if any cider heads had reviewed it. And I found this on Cider Says:

First Impression:  Light orange amber hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells of cider apple juice, yeast, and a hint of funk.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, funk, and tannins.  Hints of bitterness and sourness.  Notes of tannic rich cider apples, barnyard, brown sugar, orange, leather, yeast, and honey.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

And while still curious – What does sessionability mean? – I was delighted to note that my new love is similar to cider from Normandy, France, ‘such as Christian Drouin Pays d’ Auge, due to the richness, flavor notes, and funk’. Whatever funk is.

Now, all I need is for someone in Budapest to stock it.

Longueville_cider

Longueville House, Mallow, County Cork, Ireland P51 KC8K
Tel: +353 (0)22 47156
US/CAN toll free tel: 800 323 5463 info@longuevillehouse.ie

 

 

Save