Guess who's backSeptember 29 in Ireland
Berlin does a lot of things well and extremely efficiently, but one area where they score an own goal is Tegel airport. What a clusterf&*k of epic proportions. It's like two German guys had a few too many steins and decided to knock up something like an airport with some stuff they found lying around a building site. It makes bush airstrips in wildest Africa seem sophisticated. Literally it is like a prefab garage with about five short haul jet's worth of passengers jammed into it, with one small food kiosk and a bathroom from a down on their luck football club. That would be bad enough, but getting through what passes for their security area is much slower and more difficult than it should ever be. It took so long to get from the front of the queue to nearly the other side of security that some of my clothes had started to go out of style. Luckily by the time I got all the way through my clothes had come back into fashion. I swear it would have been easier to get over the Berlin wall in its heyday than it was to pass through security at Berlin Tegel. Once we were on our Aer Lingus flight things picked up and we had a smooth and ontime trip to Dublin. Dublin airport is quite large and spread out, so we had a long taxi to the terminal before I could finally set foot on Irish soil for the first time in over two decades. Customs was easy and friendly, which was no surprise and the girl dealing with us asked if we were visiting family when she saw my passport. It's fantastic to be in a country where you don't have to spell out your surname. After clearing customs and collecting our bags we trundled our stuff to the airport hotel, via a few false starts and wrong turns and made it to our room about 12.30am.
The next morning, Saturday, we were up by eight and back to the airport to pick up our rental car from the Avis counter. We were on the road by nine, headed all the way across Ireland, from east to the Wild West coast to visit the home town of my ancestors and try and find the burial place of my great-great-grandparents. The main road from Dublin to Galway, the M50 is fantastic. It's what New Zealand highways should be. Two lanes either side, a median barrier and smooth tarmac, plus a speed limit of 120kmh in most places. It's glorious and makes the journey so much faster and easier. We pulled our Renault Kadjar into Claregalway, County Galway just after midday. I had followed on some research carried out by one of my uncles and thanks to the reach of the internet had located my great-great-grandparents grave in the cemetery at the Franciscan Friary church burial ground. The friary has not been used for a while, but it must have been a very impressive building back when the guys with itchy cloaks and bowl haircuts were doing their thing. I had narrowed the search for my ancestors to this location, but this burial ground is several hundred years old and there was no directory to follow, so I thought it might take a while. To my surprise and delight I managed to find the headstone after about only twenty minutes of searching. It was a powerful and quite emotional experience to be standing in my forebears home town and final resting place. It was a full circle moment, that their great-great-grandson had returned to the place from which their daughter had left Ireland forever, for a life in an unknown and distant land. It had taken over 150 years, but blood will out and family finds a way. After spending some time to soak in this special moment we eventually left Claregalway to head for the Cliffs of Moher. This is only about 70 kilometres from Galway, but it's over some very narrow and windy roads, so it took well over an hour. We did get the bonus of passing through The Burren and by a couple of dramatic coastal castles on the way. After negotiating the trail to the cliffs we braved the winds and the crowds to climb the path and peer over the edge to the wild Atlantic pounding relentlessly hundreds of feet far below. It's a stark, dramatic landscape and I immediately liked it. I found it comforting that my forebears who left this part of Western Ireland to make a new life in New Zealand chose to settle in another beautifully wild coastal place, Southland.
Finally tearing myself away from the view and the wind we left Galway and the Atlantic behind to made the return 300k trek back to Dublin, arriving just as the sun set. Tomorrow the delights of Dublin await. Slainte!Read more