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(Report Of A Journey To Dublin, May '97)

Tips zum Kostensparen beim Lesen dieses Reiseberichtes.

I am a fan of traditional Irish folk music since '91, and now a dream came true: A journey to Ireland!

With this report of a journey I want to give my thanks to Anne Fishburn (on the right side of the picture), the organizer of this great tour, to Paul Elfert (left), who invited me, and to all the lovely participants who gave me such a warm welcome. Also I want to thank Tobias (middle at the bottom) and his mother Beatrice (middle at the top) for their lovely airport shuttle service, and my parents for their support.

Especially for the insiders I wrote the chapter "1. Daily Report". For all others, who are only interested in an quick overview of Ireland and Dublin, I have written the chapters: "2.Where To Go", " 3.Language Specialities", " 4.Survival", " 5.Irish Music" and "6.New Words".

In the web-edition, all the chapters are linked via hyperlinks to each other, and to various other internet sites of interest. Sound samples are also included! The URL is:


In the middle-age-Gutenberg-style-paper-edition, you can only look at the photographs.

My brother, Paul, has adapted and  integrated this and two other journey reports in his homepage at:


You can print, copy and show this report to anyone who is interested in it, but only Anne Fishburn and Paul Elfert are authorized and welcome to report errors in spelling, grammar or style!

If you like this report, tell me and all your friends and go to Ireland yourself. If you don't like it, be quiet, don't tell anybody - especially not me - and forget it, thanks!

BTW: According to the motto of this tour, I've written in english. 

1. Daily Report

1st Day (Saturday): Arrival

Tobi and Mother
After an restless night, searching my brother at the airport in my dreams, I left my home at an cold morning at 7:15 a. m. and my son Tobias and his mother, Beatrice, accompanied me to the Munich Airport.
There I met my brother (Paul) and the organizer of this tour: Anne Fishburn.

After a while all members of this trip where ready for check in, so Anne repeated the aim of this tour: Learning English! BTW: My personal aim was to listen to unplugged Irish folk music.

During Check In a problem appeared: There was no seat reserved for Anne Fishburn! Just the leader of the tour should stay at home!? But the lucky star was shining bright, and Lufthansa was doing right, so they finally found an empty seat for her!

At 12:15 our Boeing 737 headed Dublin, with all of us on board.
Eating smoked Irish salmon, it took a little over two hours via Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Manchester across the Irish Sea to "Atha Cliath". This is the short form of "Baile Atha Cliath", which means "town of the strengthened passage" and that is: DUBLIN!

Back on the ground again, the next problem was that our shuttle bus was not there, but Paul and Anne managed to solve this also,

so we reached our "George Frederic Handel Hotel" (Internet: http://members.aol.com/gfhhotel/home.html) at about quarter past three local time (Ireland as well as Great Britain are 1 hour behind).

Already in the lobby, we started to fulfill our mission: We translated the menu card! "Poached Eggs" was the word, where Franz showed, that he was a very important member of the crew, he had two translating computers, and so he was the first man to ask when a word was missing. (Follow the Hyper-Link, or look up in my chapter "New Words" at the end of the report, to find the translation of these words).

My brother Paul, and I were registrated as Mr. and Mrs. Elfert, and we got the room 302 (thanks god with separate beds). The elevator went out of order, just in the moment as all of us started to go to our rooms, and so the poor porter had to carry all the heavy suitcases upstairs, and the heavy pound coins (his tip) downstairs (really poor man). It should not be the last time, the elevator was out of order (lot of people came and went ;-)

Everyone was so full of energy, that we started our first trip: Going downtown, and make a sightseeing tour through the streets of Dublin. Anne was well prepared (as always in the next days), and led us direct to O'Connell Street, where the Busses leave.

But as we came along BESHOFF, Paul asked: "Who is hungry?" - my stomach said "Me!", so the group split the first time, Miriam, Gerd, Franz, accompanied us inside the restaurant. Thanks God and Franz, that I knew what "cod" with "chips" is all about. Costs £ 2.99 and tasted VERY good.

So strengthened, we headed to the city tour bus station, and we were just in time, to see how the last bus ended its tour. The bus driver was so kind to tell us, that on the next day from 10 a. m. on, we could travel as long as we want and make a break as often we like. That means you can make the same tour twice or trice, and stop at every place of interest, and take the next bus to continue. IMHO highly recommended!

"No problem" we thought, and Paul said: "Let's go to the next pub ".

If you are interested in what I learned about pubs in Dublin see the chapter "Survival".

We went up and down the O'Connell Street, wondered about the meaning of "pillar room" and "Garda", and then went to Grafton Street. It was there, where we witnessed an strange and unknown custom: Lot of well dressed boys and girls were standing in front of a pub, drinking beer and after a while going somewhere else. It was as more astonishing, as the girls were dressed in short clothes, mostly naked arms and legs, and this in the evening, with a cold wind, at about 10 degrees!

Later when we were sitting and drinking in our first pub, some of them came in, and they had some very astonishing accessories: One girl had a colored wig on her head, another a veil with a pair of rubber gloves and a brush bouncing from behind. Our only idea was, that those girls would get married the next day, and this was some kind of saying good bye to their "free" life. We hadn't yet the courage to ask them. So, if anybody has an idea, send me an email to Arno.Elfert@t-online.de

I drank some pint of Guinness, Paul preferred Smithwicks, and Miriam Cider (made of apples, own web site at http://www.HudsonBlue.ie) and then we headed towards out hotel, freezing in the cold wind.

With Irish music from my cassette recorder and a cup of a 5-minute-tea this very first day in Dublin ended. 

2nd Day (Sunday): City Sight Seeing

9:00 a.m. , time for "full Irish breakfast". It includes fried egg , ham (the waitress called it bacon), sausages, mushrooms, black and white pudding (no pudding at all, but some kind of liver and blood sausage). There was toast and even good "wholemeal bread", various juices, good coffee, but poor tea! So I decided to by my own tea, and to order hot water.

Now we made a second attempt to the city sightseeing tour, and it was great. We chose "THE OLD DUBLIN TOUR".


And after 1 and a half rounds, at the Guinness Museum in Crane Street, I shouted: "Lets get out of here, to have some Guinness!".

Guinnes Brewery

The £ 3.- for the tickets includes coupons for 2 half pint of Guinness beer. But before drinking one had to go through an exhibition about the making of beer, the history of Guinness, see some commercial film, and a film about the making of casks.

Then came the very first moment, that I heard Irish music: The pub in the museum was very good looking, Irish music from CD and had a nice barkeeper. He gave me a pint for only one coupon, later on, everyone of us got an extra pint for free. Also he danced with some indian girls through the pub, and some got an shamrock on their pint.

When they closed we continued our tour through the Guinness Hopstore Shop with expensive Guinness advertising articles. We were getting hungry, so we headed along the Liffey towards the seafood restaurant "Eliza Blues". My "char grilled tuna steak" was as tough as beef, tasted not very good, only the potatoes were of an astonishing well taste! The Irish coffee and the "tira mi su" were much better.

A short stop at our hotel, then Franz, Paul and I wanted to fulfill my mission, to find a pub with live Irish music. Our city map showed the "Molly Malone" not far away. But there was no pub at all. The next was "Auld Dubliner", but it was closed and nearly in ruins. In the Temple Bar area it seems, that we could have success. A paper on the wall of the "Norseman" said: "live music at 9 p.m.". We went inside, but could not hear any music. But on the way to the bar, to drink some Guinness, the search had an end. Three musicians sat at a table, playing guitar, fiddle and singing Irish tunes as well as country & western music.

Great singer (looks like Sean Connery)! Some Guinness later a Bodhrán player arrived and even an whistle player! They were better than all the bands in the last Irish folk festival in Munich!

We met Bärbel, Rita, Jimmy and Hans-Martin in the pub, but they sat about 5 meters away from the musicians, and couldn't hear anything. 

3rd Day (Monday): Cliffs Of Howth

After the "full Irish" we all together marched to the Tourist Information Center. There we could buy a ticked for the local transport systems (valid for 2 adults and 4 children, costs £ 6) as well as tickets for sightseeing tours. Paul and I choose trips to Newgrange (rhymes with "strange") and to Glendalough. Each tour costs £ 16, both together £ 27 .

Anne lead us to the two most beautiful spots at the sea near Dublin:

With the DART we first drove into the north to Howth, where we could walk along a wonderful cliff walk. Here we could see breeding seagulls, and had a great view over the see rolling against the cliffs.

Cliffs of Howth

For lunch I had a wonderful grilled brill (fish) with potatoes and salad for £ 10. The ice-cream wasn't so good, but the espresso.

Back in the DART again, we headed south to Bray. Next to the station, there is a lovely pub, with tables outside just in front of the wonderful beach with a great view to the sea. My feet were burning like fire because of the cliff walk, so I abstained from another walk and stayed at the pub, Paul and some others too. We wanted to practice english instead, supported with the help of Guinness, Smithwicks & Co ;-)

As this pub had nothing to eat, we had to go back to Dublin. Paul, Jimmy and I went to Eddies , Franz, Bärbel and Rita joined us. I enjoyed my american style hamburger, and didn't miss any pizza <g>.

Afterwards we were so tired, that we reached only the pub named "Wood Quay Inn" next to our hotel. They played Irish folk from CD, no live music today. 

4th Day (Tuesday): Shopping

Shopping was on the agenda today! After an "full Irish" Paul and I headed to the next CASHERE machine to get enough money. Then we started to conquere Grafton Street and the St. Steven's Green Shopping Center!

In GOLDEN DISCS I seized Sharon Shannon's "Each Little Thing" ( £ 14.99)

Sharon Stone

... and discovered an CD of Cherisch The Ladies "New Day Dawning" ( £ 12.99). I searched T-Online and the Internet for two years, now I got one. Now they have even their own homepage at: http://www.greenlinnet.com . Sharon Shannon can be reached only via Email (topflor@indigo.ie) Later I found another two CD's of them, but I had spent so much money, that I refrained from buying them.

Nearby in Dawson Street 57/58 is the HUGE FIGGIS THE BOOKSTORE, where I bought "The big wind" from Beatrice Coogan. It is a classic novel spanning an entire generation of Irish history, set in the tumultuous times of the nineteenth century. From the Big Wind of 1839 to the Great Famine and the land war between the starving Irish peasants and the Anglo-Saxon landlords.

Another book I bought later was: "The Great Hunger, Ireland 1845-1849" from Cecil Woodham-Smith.

My money bag becomes empty, and my stomach too, so we decided to look for something to eat in the St. Steven's Green Shopping Center. We found in Cafe Kylemore some sandwiches with tea. I noticed that - like in Eddies - the waitress had a net around her hair, although it was not very long. Perhaps a special law?

But with all the shopping learning english wasn't out of mind. I learned staircase, cloak room and that diet coke is the local word for cola light, and tastes even better.

In WATERSTONES in Dawson Street I bought a book with cassette to learn bodhràn. An instrument, I have loved since years. I play tin whistle already, why nod bodhràn? I read the book immediately, while Paul went in various other shops. So I learned that it is important to buy a bodhràn made with natural goatskin, not with plastic. It should also produce a tone for some seconds, if hit in the middle. I had tried some in souvenir shops, they didn't! Finally I said to Paul: "I want to buy a bodhràn, where is the next store for music articles?" He said: "We have to go to Capel Street on the other side of the Liffey, there are two of them!". He had seen it in a shopping guide.

My feet burning like fire, my sick left knee said: "Sit down!" but we ran to our hotel as fast as we could (no taxi available, no bus too) left our goods in the hotel room and rushed to the SOUND CITY in Capel Street # 9. At 17:50 I bought medium quality (and medium priced) bodhràn for £ 45 (the better ones are £ 60 and above! Paul asked the salesmen: "Has there ever been a crazy German, that bought an bodhràn?" - "Yes, there are many! This is the second German today!"


Back in the hotel room again, I followed the call of my feet, sat down and started to learn the bodhràn: Basic rhythm of reel (4/4) and jig (6/8). Someone outdoor shouted: "Shut up!". So we asked the doorman in the lobby where we can find good traditional Irish folk. He sent us to the Merchant, where he said is set dancing every night.

As we arrived, there were only 5 people in the pub, but we could see microphones, a good sign. After the first Guinness, we decided to look what's up in the Brazen Head . There was no music too, but the bartender said music starts at 9:30 in the next room.

We did, what has to be done in a pub, and after a while an elder man asked us, whether there is music in this pub. He turned out to be a Dubliner who lives in London at the time. We explained him that the bartender told us that in the next room the music should be. He went to the next room, but not long afterwards he came back, and was so friendly to tell us, that "The music will not play in the next, but in the tirt room!". Thanks to him, very nice guy.

It was short before 9:30, and we wanted to see set dancing in the Merchant, so across the road again (we took the longer way this time, via the traffic lights to be save). It was lovely: Two guys and a woman sang songs like in the party of the film "Local Hero", and after some songs 8 men and women headed to a place in front of the musicians and started set dancing! They were in normal clothes, most had gray hair, but they danced full of energy and fun! Just to remember: No admission fee also! It seems, as they did it mainly for their own fun.

Some Guinness later we became curious about the music in the Brazen Head, so we crossed the street again (the longer way) and were lucky to hear Irish drinking songs. Everyone was singing with the band, and Paul had a stimulating conversation with his neighbor from San Diego in the breaks.

The band stopped strictly according to law, so we went back to our hotel. It seems there is a special law for bars in hotels, so I got my first Guinness with a shamrock ( I told the bartender, how much I enjoy this trip to Dublin). This should be the longest night of the week. 

5th Day (Wednesday): Newgrange & Boyne Valley

Busaras is located north of the Liffey, between the Custom House and Connolly Station. It is the place where all the sight seeing tours start. We left at 10:00 towards the Boyne Valley in the north of Dublin. The driver of the bus was our tour leader as well, he had a microphone in front of him, and did drive and speak at the same time.

At a stop at Monasterboise we learned interesting things about the benediction monks: They followed strictly their rules, even though they were made in the warm Italy. So they had only 2 clothes, 1 blanked for the bed, and no underwear was permitted! If a monk had to travel, he lended one, but had to give it back, when he arrived. From the monasty there were only ruins left, because the stones were recycled! But one building has survived, it has been used as a stable for pigs!

I learned, that St. Patrick came from Italy, and what leek is.

After lunch Newgrange was our next destination. Newgrange

It is one of the finest examples in Western Europe of the type of tomb known as a passage-grave. Its probable date of erection is about 3200BC (over 5000 years old!). It is constructed in such a way, that on the 21st of December a beam of light shines in the inner chamber for 17 minutes. So it could be used as a kind of calendar, but maybe there was an other spiritual background.

Newgrange Schema

The stones are decorated with 3 spirals, that are found on places all over the world!

Very impressed of this building, we had to go back again. BTW: The next week a visitor center with an reproduction of the original chamber should open, and we were one of the last to visit the real chamber!

It was the busdriver, who was responsible for the last highlight of this tour: He said: "Usually I have music cassettes for the way home, but not today. So I will sing you the song of Molly Malone:" He told us that she was also known as the "tart with the cart" and the text of the song including refrain, and we should sing with him. We did it, and it should become some kind of title song of the Dublin journey.

Here are the tunes  a sound sample from me with tin whistle , the text and a photo of her: 

The way of saying good bye to us was like the dot of the "i" in this tour. He said:

"May the road rise to meet You! 
May the wind be always on Your side!
May the sun shine warm upon Your face!
May the rains fall soft upon Your fields!
And until we meet again, may God hold You in the palm of His hand!" 

Back in town again, Paul and I decided to make a break, and spent this night without beer. We went to the Bad Ass Cafe instead, I had a very good but expensive Pizza for £ 6.20 (= DM 16,80), Paul wanted a "Kick in the Ass" but he got only chicken wings <g>. Afterwards we went home (!), and while I tried to practice reel and jig with my bodhràn (windows closed!), Paul fell asleep immediately! I couldn't imagine, that practicing bodhràn works as a lullaby! ;-) 

6th Day (Thursday): Glendalough & Wicklow Panorama

Learning English at breakfast: I ordered "eggs, sunny side up", but the waitress didn't understand, so Paul had to translate: "fried eggs", with a scone or a roll.

The bus would start at 10:30 this time, so we had a little time for shopping. I needed a better cap against the sun, and I bought a tin whistle with tunes for a farewell-song to say thanks for this journey. I hadn't played tin whistle for two years, so I had to practice a little.

Then, way down south to Glenndalough! This is one of Ireland's first and most important monastic settlements. Founded in the 6. century by St. Kevin, Glendalough is situated in an idyllic valley with an upper and lower lake and its monuments include high crosses, churches and a famous round tower, which was used by the monks to store and protect precious manuscripts and artifacts against attacks. They flew into the surrounding woods. Also two bells were beated against each other at the top of the tower to signal time for lunch.

With my new use-one-time-camera I managed to get the whole tower on one picture.

The busdriver told us, that 2 minutes of the film "Braveheart" were shot at this area, and that many deer are living here. I was surprised, that nearly no flowers were to be seen, only plain grass.

Back in Dublin again, also Paul buyed himself a tin whistle, and along with his were the tunes of "Molly Malone"! This would be great for the farewell-song so I started to learn it.

After another cod with chips and a very good coleslaw we went to the pubs in Temple Bar to hear some music. At Fitzsimons we saw lovely girls who were set dancing, and two Guinness later we went to the Norseman again. I heard some pipes from outside, but not inside! Paul discovered a stairway to an other room.

Here they were: The best musicians I met on this tour! Uileann pipes, bouzouki, flute and a fantastic bodhràn player who could play even a melody on his instrument. At their table was also a woman, who could sing like an angel. As she rose her voice, everyone in the room was silent!

After the "last order please" she told us, that she and her husband would have a concert in Hannover, and release a CD soon. And on my question about a web page, she said: "Oh, yes, tomorrow we will have on!". And wrote down the URL: http://www.gpl.net/customers/LooseConnections .

Later we learned, that she is one of the best singers in whole Ireland! 

7th Day (Friday): Music Session At The Beach Of Howth

Learning English at breakfast again: pear! Then we headed Howth again. With us we took the 2 tin whistles, the bodhràn and the tunes. I practiced "Molly Malone" in the streets of Dublin everytime, Paul went into a shop to look for a camera.

At Howth we bought something to drink, some sandwiches and had lunch at the beach.

Here is the place to tell a secret about Irish mentality: They don't like to say "I don't know!", for they want to help, so they invent an answer, or sent you to another place to ask. The day before I asked the singer of the band, whether there are rowing boats to rent in Howth, she said: " Rowing boats? Oh, ahm, ..., shure, there are boats to rent!". Today in the sandwich shop, I asked the same question, the saleswoman said: " Rowing boats? Oh, ahm, ..., you should ask in the yachting club!". A colleague of her even said: "Of course, there are rowing boats to rent in the yachting club!". But no boats to rent in the yachting club. BTW: The bus driver from the Newgrange tour told us: "Ask 3 Irish people, and only if all 3 say the same, it is correct!".

We found a wonderful wind shielded place, and did nothing, but relax. After a while we started our music session: Paul on whistle improvising red indian songs, and I with the bodhràn. A dog came along, and went crazy: he rolled on the ground, feet up in the air! Then even 4 girls came to our direction! I said: "They want to chase us away!", but they gave us applause and wanted more! So I played "Scarborough Fair", "Amazing Graze" and - "Molly Malone" with the tin whistle.

They were lovely girls and they didn't get tired telling Paul their names in front of his video camera.

At 19:00 we had our farewell party, and Anne distributed rewards for those, who attended the most of "Fishburn Tours": Paul and Bärbel. And all the others got consolation prizes.

Afterwards we had another lovely night with live Irish folk. There were the same musician as yesterday, but in a different pub, without the singer, but with some other musicians (fiddler and pipes). There was "River Dance" too, and Bryan, a bodhràn player recommend me to drink Jameson with peppermint sirup and water. It tasted lovely! 

8th Day (Saturday): Back Home

A last "full Irish" in the morning, then "Dublinia" and the "Christ Church", and it was time to leave. All participants gathered in front of the hotel, and I played "Molly Malone" (also known as "In Dublin's fair city" or "Cockles And Mussles") on the tin whistle.

Did I forget something? Yes the weather. There was not a drop of rain the whole week, and mostly sunny. The last days it was as warm as in Germany in the summer (many suffered from sun burn). Everyone told us, that this weather is very unusual, even though May and June are the best months to travel.

This was the part for those who are interested in details of the journey, and now the parts for all others: 

2. Where To Go

In the Tourist Information Center (Suffolk Street, Dublin 2, near Trinity College) you get:

  1. Tickets and all information about Sight-Seeing-Tours (i. e. Newgrange, Glendalough)
  2. Tickets and info about public transportation (DART, Busses)
  3. City Maps

3. Survival

1 Irish pound (£) was at this time worth DM 1,66. It is not easy to get Irish Pounds in german banks (not to confuse with British pounds!!!), but there are lot of money automates that accept credit cards in the Grafton Street, and also some, that accept an EC-Card.

An Irish pub is a very special place. The most important thing to know is, that there is self service. That means you go to the bar, say "Pint of Guinness, please", give the beer some time to produce the right foam, and the barkeeper some money. If you are nice to the barkeeper he will make a shamrock sign on the foam.

Tipping is not usual!

Then you can choose your seat, at the bar, or anywhere. I recommend, look for reservation for musicians or for microphones. It's a good idea to look for a writing "today live traditional Irish music" or so, before entering the pub. If you don't hear any music, but there should be one, don't hesitate. Look around the whole pub, perhaps upstairs, or in another room. There is the astonishing - and from me most beloved - custom, that many musicians play unplugged! Yeah, it's true, without microphone, amplifier, synthesizer, artificial drums, or what else! They make music with the work of their hands, their voice, and - of course - with their soul!

Music is for free, and if one doesn't want to drink any more, just sit there and listen to the music, no waitress disturbs you! This makes an Irish pub a lovely place.

Many pubs are located in the Temple Bar area, so it's a good idea to go there first and look what's going on.

Recommended pubs (IMHO)

If the barkeeper rings a bell at 11:15 p.m, or shouts "last order please" you have to hurry to the bar and order another pint of Guinness, because this is your last chance to get one! At weekend you will have more time.

4. Irish Music:

It's impossible to say with words, what traditional Irish music can do for you, there's only one way: Try it!

5. Language Specialties

6. "New Words"

This is a little dictionary of the new learned words during this tour.

English German 
Bodhrán  irish drum, pronounce: "bow rawn", or in dublin-slang "bei rawn", more about Bodhràns at: http://www.musweb.com/kearns.htm 
brazen  "ehern", in conjunction with persons as "frech, unverschämt". 
BTW  By the way, Übrigends (Internet Abbreviation) 
chips  fried potatoes, french fries, Pommes 
cloak room  Garderobe
cod  Kabeljau 
coleslaw  Krautsalat
consolation prizes  Trostpreis
deer  Wild 
diet coke  cola light
fried  egg Spiegelei, amerikanisch: sunny side up 
Garda Polizei in Irland 
IMHO  In My Humble Opinion (Internet Abbreviation) 
Leek  Lauch 
pear  Birne 
pillar  room Säulenhalle
Poached  Eggs verlorene Eier
roll (scone)  Semmel
rubber gloves  Gummihandschuhe
seagulls  Möwen
shamrock  Kleeblatt, emblem of ireland, St. Patrick explained trinity of god, the sun, and the holy ghost with it. 
Smithwicks  pronounced: "smittiks" 
stair case  Treppenhaus
veil  Schleier 
wholemeal bread  Vollkornbrot
wig  Perücke 

- the end -

Last Update: 5.1.99