A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: 3Traveller

Powerscourt House, Gardens & Waterfall

Gormanston, Stamullen and Powerscourt House, Gardens and Waterfall

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Yesterday afternoon the weather wasn't great - overcast, with occasional light drops of rain - but I decided to go for a walk to the nearby village of Stamullen anyway, as I hadn't had the chance to go out of the college grounds (apart from to the botanic gardens on Thursday) since last Saturday, and the nearest supermarket/ convenience store is there too, so I hoped I'd be able to get bigger and cheaper drinks than from the vending machines at the college. It was a 25-30 minute walk each way, including a bridge over the M1 motorway. I also looked round little Stamullen Graveyard, which contains the tiny 15th-century ruins of St Christopher's chapel as well as several Celtic crosses. The prices in the Centra convenience store turned out to be quite high, which I was initially a little taken aback by but then realised that the equivalent in the UK is usually pricier than supermarkets too.

The trip today to Powerscourt House, Gardens & Waterfall went well.


They are all part of an 18th century country estate, with stately home, extensive and stunning landscaped gardens (including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, statuary, wrought iron gates, flower gardens, some trees which had been trimmed so the foliage looked like perfect upturned bowls...)


...and a large pond with waterlilies and a fountain in the middle.


Like at the botanic gardens on Thursday, we were allowed to let everyone just wander round as they wished, including ourselves. It turned out that the house itself, or at least the part which visitors are allowed into, now contains several high-end shops, pretty expensive but nice to look round even though I didn't buy anything. There was also a café and a coffee and ice cream kiosk, though I didn't have anything from them. A garden centre was attached a bit further along, as well, plus a whiskey distillery which was closed today due to a private event.

We had to get back on the coach for a 20-minute-or-so drive to the waterfall. It was absolutely beautiful, and pretty impressive, especially when up close and you could feel the spray. It's 398 feet tall. We were were able to get very close, right up to its foot - there were lots of boulders to clamber around on. Luckily, nobody had any accidents! The water was very clear, yet once flowing in the river rather than falling through the air, a rich reddish-brown - maybe because of peat in the area; it was like the rivers and streams I've seen in the Scottish Highlands & Islands. Like at the house and gardens, there was a wonderful view of a mountain which is part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, as well as other beautiful scenery.


Tomorrow I'm going to relax, prepare for teaching on Monday, meet several new teachers (as there'll be 17 of us next week - the busiest week of the summer, apparently) and hopefully take a walk to find the holy well and the prehistoric passage tomb I mentioned a couple of posts ago.

Posted by 3Traveller 18:09 Archived in Ireland Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains cemetery ireland explorations Comments (0)

National Botanic Gardens of Ireland

Gormanston and Dublin

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I've had a busy couple of days, busier than expected though still enjoyable! Although I finish teaching at 12:15, once I've had lunch I've had to do my online TEFL course assessment job until dinner, and then lesson prep after. An exception to this routine was today, though, as this afternoon I helped lead an excursion to the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland in Dublin.

It was a great experience, and I got to see a lot of them, though not all. There was one other teacher there apart from me, plus the two group leaders. We were able to let everyone go round independently, rather than having to walk round with the students, so that meant that we could go at our own pace too (though my colleague had just been there the day before, with another group, so she stayed in the café while I looked round the gardens by myself).


The big highlight for me was a set of two historic iron-framed greenhouses.


One had a Palm House as its central section, which contained various different types of palm tree, as well as some other tropical plants like sugar cane, banana, plantain, pineapple and Pachira Aquatica (also known as The Provision Tree or the Monkey Tree, cultivated in South and Central America for its edible nuts, leaves and flowers).


In separate sections there was a collection of cacti and succulents, including a group from South, Central & southern North America and another group from Madagascar, and a collection of orchids and carnivorous plants, though not many of them were in flower.


In the other big greenhouse I was especially interested in a small but fascinating collection of plants endemic in isolated islands around the world (such as Madagascar, Madeira, Bermuda, Pitcairn Island and the Juan Fernández archipelago), including a couple which have now died out in their original location and now exist only in botanic gardens...


...as well as a larger collection of widely grown crops and other plants, which included coffee, bamboo, avocado, olive, taro, pomegranate, rubber, papyrus, tamarind, guava and turmeric.


There was also a collection of plants from the former Gondwanaland - the ancient southern continent within Pangaea, now Australia, Africa and South America. Since it split up into different continents, related plants separated and evolved independently.


Having managed a very good look inside the glasshouses, I then had time for a wander round some of the outdoors sections, though after looking at the gardens map again now, it seems that I missed more than I'd originally thought. I missed out on the rose garden, the fruit & veg garden (which apparently contains, amongst other things, an extensive collection of Irish apple cultivars from across the country), the Wild Ireland section, the pond, and sections of larch, holly, hornbeam, walnut, hickory, maple, ash, lime and box - at least I've already seen a lot of those tree types elsewhere, of course! I enjoyed what I did see of the outside sections, though - cedar, yew and cherry trees, as well as beds of herbs, the Alpine Yard and a glimpse of a recreation of a Viking Dublin house & garden from the 10th century.


I also admired the Two Women sculpture near the Great Palm House before it was time to go.


A couple of other photos I took during the trip which don't fit in anywhere else...


Posted by 3Traveller 13:35 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland dublin botanical_gardens english_teaching exotic_plants Comments (2)

Start of an Irish adventure!

London Luton Airport, Dublin Airport, Gormanston and Gormanston Beach

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I arrived in Ireland this morning for a period of two weeks and five days of adventure!

I'm teaching on an EFL summer school for two weeks and then going on to Dublin. I've only been to Ireland once before, and that was back in 2006 on a university rugby tour to Cork for one long weekend, so my memory of that is a bit hazy! As a result, when I saw the advert come up for this job, I thought it would be really nice to return to Ireland for a bit longer and have more of a look round. While in Dublin there are lots of places I want to visit, including some with connections to some of my ancestors, and I also hope to go on a day trip to the prehistoric site of Brú na Bóinne.

It should also be nice to be back teaching face to face again, as I haven't done so since Austria back in March (since then, I've been teaching exam preparation online intensively, both groups and 1:1 - IELTS, Cambridge First, Cambridge Advanced, Cambridge Business Higher). Much as I've enjoyed teaching online, I also enjoy it face to face and I haven't been able to do much of that since the start of the pandemic! Teaching General English again will be nice as well, and within a summer school context. I've taught one summer school before, in the UK before the pandemic, and it was a great experience so hopefully this one will be too!

To rewind to the beginning of the day, my flight was at 06:30 from Luton and Dave kindly gave me a lift in at 03:30 - arriving very early in case of airport problems of the nature we've heard about in the news so much recently. As it happened, hold bag check-in went very smoothly, but there were a couple of hold-ups at luggage x-ray, the next stage - firstly, the queue was massive and although it kept moving almost constantly, in my state of bleariness it still felt like a never-ending walk down aisle after aisle after aisle. Then there was a hold-up in trays moving through the x-ray... although none of my stuff had to be checked over, I still found that I'd spent about 45 minutes just in the luggage x-ray hall.

Luckily, there was still enough time left before the flight to make my way to the departure gate without having to rush. The flight itself went well; one perk of including a hold bag in my ticket purchase with Ryanair was that I could choose my seat with no extra charge, so of course I chose a window seat. Sunny weather meant I had fantastic views throughout.

My hold bag was one of the first ones out on the luggage belt, and I went almost straight through passport control at the electronic gates (no stamp given), so before I knew it I was outside the terminal looking for the right bus stop. €6.50 for a single to Gormanston, a journey of around 20 minutes. Lots of lush greenery to be seen once we'd left the outskirts of Dublin - the Emerald Isle living up to its name.

Since settling in this morning, I haven't done very much aside from relax, though I did go out for a walk to the beach. I went round in a big circle, taking in part of Gormanston village and the mouth of the River Delvin as well as the beach itself.


The beach was extremely wide and I couldn't actually reach the edge of the sea due to the stream which cut across, but I could see that the sea was extremely choppy - loads of white horses. Something unusual about the beach was that at one end, there were large patches of bright green seaweed which appeared to be growing directly out of the sand, rather than just being washed up (though there did seem to be some of the latter too). Seagulls were poking about in it, and I was struck by the vivid colour combinations; white sand, brown sand, strikingly green seaweed, white seagulls, bright blue sky, the darker blue of the sea, the clear glinting stream, plus the white horses in the Irish Sea.


Clouds were moving over, and almost as soon as I'd left the beach (a different way to how I'd arrived, further up) and had passed over the bridge by the tiny train station, the heavens opened. As luck would have it, the rain was blowing sideways and I was just coming up to a handily-placed tree growing out of a hedgerow, which blocked most of the rain from reaching me. A local passed by on foot, saw me sheltering there and asked if she could give me a lift anywhere, but I politely declined, as I knew it was only a passing shower. Sure enough, after only around 10 minutes, the rain subsided and the sun came out. What appeared to be steam rose from the road tarmac. The roads glistened as I walked along country lanes, plus a bit of main road, back to campus.


I've also heard about a prehistoric passage tomb close by, and a holy well of St Brigid, but I decided to save those for another time rather than see them all on my first day. I might see one of them tomorrow, if the weather plays along. I will be quite busy tomorrow though, meeting my new colleagues, looking round campus more properly and getting ready for Monday.

Posted by 3Traveller 18:28 Archived in Ireland Tagged landscapes beaches coast airport ireland explorations english_teaching extreme_weather Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Historic Centre of Salzburg

Spittal an der Drau, Salzburg, Salzburg Airport and London Stansted Airport

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Saturday (yesterday)

I got up at about the same time as I have been all week, around 6:15, so I could have a leisurely breakfast (and make up a couple of soft cheese rolls to save for elevenses later) before walking to the station for my train at 7:40. I realised once it was too late to go back that I'd left an unopened bottle of Coke Zero and a carton of chocolate milk in my fridge at the hostel... typical!

The 2-hour journey to Salzburg was very smooth, with stunning views of snowy hills and mountains - some high enough to have bare, jagged peaks, whilst others had evergreen forest.


On arrival at Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (main train station) I walked to Meininger Hotel & Hostel. It took longer than it should have done because a blister on a toe on each foot was developing. I got there in the end though and although check-in wasn't until 3, they let me put stuff in the luggage room and sit down for half an hour to rest my feet and charge my phone. Then I was off on another walk, this time into the historic centre - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason!

My first stop was the Steingasse, a winding, picturesque, pedestrianised, historic and cobbled street which led to what I think is an old city gate, and beyond. Pigeons clearly roosted along the street, both real ones and a couple of pairs of metal life-sized ones which I spotted on external windowsills.


Then I crossed the river, walked through an archway and found myself opposite Mozart's birthplace! I said hello but didn't go in, because I was on a mission - first of all to get some lunch, a massive chewy pretzel bread with melted cheese on top, bought from a stall in the market which was taking place next to a church, and then to find - the Christmas Museum! I passed several impressive buildings on my way there.


The Christmas Museum contains a collection of 19th and early 20th century Christmas objects from Austria and Germany, especially Bavaria and the Tyrol. It wasn't massively extensive, and didn't go into Christmas folklore and customs as much as I had hoped, but it was still very interesting all the same. In addition to various displays, there were some information boards about such topics as Advent, Christmas markets, decorations (including the Christmas tree), gift-givers and gift-giving - apparently present-giving in Austria and Germany used to be done on 6th December but then moved to Christmas Eve - and New Year's Eve.


My favourite artefacts included the many models/puppets of St Nicholas and his scary sidekick the Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht, the latter portrayed as devils...


...other figures, for example a Father Christmas-related figure called the Christmas Man (Weinachtsmann), a personification of Winter...


...paintings and models/ tableaux of Christmas markets...


...some interesting metal chocolate moulds and intricately carved wooden Christmas biscuit and tree decoration moulds...


...their collection of Advent calendars and children's letters to Baby Jesus...


...colourfully painted wooden nutcrackers...


...and recreations of decorated Christmas trees of the time using original decorations. One of these trees was set within a recreation of a 'Christmas Room' of the early 20th century.


A couple of other individual items I liked included some artists' postcards from the first quarter of the 20th century (including a particularly fine one of St Nicholas the Giftbringer from 1910), an oil painting of a toy St Nicholas and Krampus and shoes stuffed with nuts and Christmas biscuits, and some ceramic 'lucky pigs' produced to put on display on New Year's Eve as a lucky charm.


In the shop they had some metal tealight candle holders which when lit, move some beautiful but delicate golden snowflakes around in a circle above it. They had other types too but I couldn't resist one of the originals!

Salzburg Cathedral was directly in front of me as I stepped outside, but as I already had other destinations in mind and relatively limited time to see them in, I settled for a walk around the outside only, after a closer look at a statue of Mozart round the corner.


My next destination was a church of a different kind; Erzabtei St Peter, an ancient abbey church and monastery containing within its grounds a magnificently decorated church, some tiny chapels, a cemetery full of filigree wrought-iron crosses, and some intriguing catacombs hewn out of the cliff face of the Festungsberg outcrop (a major landmark of Salzburg), which forms one of the cemetery boundaries.

Erzabtei St Peter was founded by a Frankish missionary in around 700, but not much Romanesque architecture remains in the church; a vaulted portal, for example, and some remains of wall paintings which looked very old, though I forget how old exactly. The rest of the church is Renaissance and Rococo in style, with Rococo stucco, several striking oil paintings along the walls and on the altar, and an ornate clock above the organ on a balcony high above the main entrance. I enjoyed wandering around, taking everything in.


Before I left I stepped into the 'Kerzenkapelle', or Candles Chapel, where I lit a candle for Dad and inspected some well-preserved carved Early Modern memorial floor slabs.


On leaving the church I stopped briefly at the tiny St Mary's Chapel (externally connected to the church) and admired its exceptionally ornate golden altar, which lay behind a grille.


Then I wandered round the cemetery for a bit. It was a sight to behold, with some more 'typical' stone crosses and memorials but also a great many striking iron crosses, which looked like miniature works of art.


Some stood by the sides of another small chapel, the Late Gothic St Margaret's Chapel, which I also had a quick look round. It had some interestingly carved external wall slabs, as well as some ones in the floor once you stepped inside. It was relatively bare inside, though it had a beautiful carved wooden altarpiece, plus some stained glass windows.


This is a very historic cemetery and several famous local characters are buried here, including the composer Johann Michael Haydn and Mozart's sister and fellow musician Maria Anna (Nannerl). The graves of these two lie by the entrance to the stairs up to the catacombs which I mentioned before. A 2 euro entry fee later and I was climbing up. The catacombs were relatively small and bare, with two undecorated chapels carved out of the rock, but they were very interesting all the same. I got a powerful sense of history, unsurprisingly really because the chapels date back to the 12th century and even they were not the first to be there; there have been catacombs here since the early Christian period of Late Antiquity. There was a viewing point at one stage too, with a lovely view.


It was getting on to four o'clock by now, and although my feet were extremely painful I was really keen to have a look round Festung Hohensalzburg (a 900-year-old clifftop fortress; an icon of Salzburg), or at least to have a wander round the grounds, even if there probably wouldn't be time to go into the museums.. It was a wonderfully clear, sunny day, so I knew there'd be some stunning views over the city and the mountains beyond. To help my feet, and save time, I took the funicular up - it was only round the corner from Erzabtei St Peter.

As I had predicted, although I didn't make it inside any of the museums, I still had a really lovely wander round the grounds in the late-afternoon sunshine, taking in the gobsmacking views, impressive buildings, and interesting details such as a colourful sundial painted onto a wall of St George's Church. I was really glad I'd come. Unfortunately my phone battery was almost dead so I couldn't take as many pictures as I'd have liked, but I still managed a few.


After getting off the funicular at the bottom of the hill, I noticed a narrow, very swift-running stream running underneath it. This turned out to be the Almkanal, and the funicular building lies directly over the mouth of it. There was a small exhibition about it. For seven centuries the Almkanal was the most important source of energy and water supply for the city; apparently, in the 19th century there were over 120 watermills along it. It connects the Alm River to the River Salzach (the main river running through Salzburg) and within Salzburg it mainly runs underground. It has remained a source of energy, as apparently it powers several small power stations, and has been routed underneath Salzburg's Great Festival Hall in order to act as part of its air conditioning system! It powered the funicular from the latter's opening in 1892 until it was converted into electric in 1959.

Nowadays you can find 10 species of fish in the Almkanal, including several types of trout as well as an invasive species of crayfish from America. Apparently, in the nearby River Salzach it was once possible to see the largest freshwater fish in Europe - the beluga, a type of sturgeon which can grow up to 5 metres long - as they migrated from the Black Sea up the Danube. The biggest specimens were apparently a major attraction, much admired by the people of the city! Sadly, nowadays there are too many obstacles in the Danube for this migration to happen, so they are no longer seen as far as the Salzach.

Although it was only between 5 and 5.30pm, my feet were so painful by now that I decided to make my way slowly to a particular place I had in mind for dinner, and have dinner there a little early, with the idea then to stop at a supermarket on the way back to the hostel for a snack to have if I felt hungry again later on. The restaurant at Hotel Elefant was open for business - the main dishes were all a bit too pricey for me, but I had some absolutely delicious Tyrolean shrimp soup, which came with a tasty cheese straw-type thing. To follow that I had a lovely Salzburger Nockerl - a great big puff of meringue, baked with a brown crust on the outside and soft meringue inside, and all lying on a bed of raspberry sauce which I could tell had been made of real raspberries.


After a half-an-hour totter back out of the historic centre, I arrived at the supermarket opposite my hostel only a few minutes after it had closed... A bit annoying, as I hadn't expected it to close so early on a Saturday, but oh well - I already had a drink with me, at least, and then I realised I still had a bit of chocolate left from my journey in the morning, so I had something for later if I needed it.

I spent the following couple of hours emailing home and then checking into my flight and sorting out my passenger locator form for the next morning, before getting an early night.


I had a fairly early start to get to the airport a couple of hours before my flight at 10:40; too early to do anything else before setting off. I took a bus from near the hostel to the main station this time, so I wouldn't have to do lots of walking again with my painful feet. However, there didn't seem to be any way of paying - no ticket machines at the bus stop or on board, and I could see that you didn't get tickets from the driver. In the end I felt so on edge in case ticket inspectors came round, I got off the bus early and walked the rest of the way (just a couple of blocks, luckily). Once at the station, there were machines where I could get a ticket for the bus to the airport (phew).

Once at the airport there were no hold-ups going through security and baggage checks and the flight went smoothly to London Stansted.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:05 Archived in Austria Tagged bridges churches trains salzburg airport cemetery austria museum christmas traditions explorations fortifications unesco_world_heritage_site cave_system austrian_cuisine spittal_an_der_drau Comments (0)

Wanderings around Spittal and the foothills of the Alps

Spittal an der Drau and Schwaig

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My feet are hurting, most likely because before this week I hadn't taught face to face since last November and therefore wasn't used to wearing my work shoes for 5 hours a day Monday to Friday, and now my elbow and knee are a bit too after a minor accident earlier today (see below). However, overall I've still had a good time since my last post, with some lovely experiences!


Since the course I was teaching this week included some Gastronomy-related English lessons, in one of the double lessons today one of the classes cooked, served and tried an English breakfast! They had already done some work on how to describe cooking processes, as well as looking at other vocabulary related to food, cooking and serving, so this was a chance to put some of it into action, as well as to try something close to an English dish. They did well despite not all the items (like the bacon and mushrooms) being the same sort we would get in the UK. There were also no baked beans, though that was for the best in my opinion (I can't stand baked beans!)

After lunch (a starter I've forgotten now and a delicious meaty goulash with green beans, carrots and dumplings for the main, with a side salad), and a rest at the hotel, I went for a late-afternoon walk round town. I soon came across a simple stone wall shrine with a terracotta figure of Mary and Jesus, and nearby I noticed a house with what I guessed was an old yew tree in front - neither of which is something you see every day in the UK. (We have yew trees, of course, but usually in graveyards/ cemeteries rather than outside people's houses).


After looking out over the Lieser, a tributary of the main river here (the Drava) I started circling into the centre of town, admiring on my way round some of the architecture and exterior building decoration.


I also admired the Easter display in a bakery window, though it wasn't open for me to go in.



After lunch on Thursday the contact teacher kindly took us into the teachers' café at school and served us glasses of different types of local fruit schnapps - cherry, pear and Gurktal Alpine herbs. Cheers!


I had been thinking of trying to get a bus to the Millstätter See, a lake nearby which would be over an hour each way to walk, but at this time of year there didn't seem to be that many buses going and after staying later than usual at school today I would have had hardly any time at the lake before I'd have to get the bus back again, so I decided to leave it until the next day.

Instead of that I decided to look round Schloss Porcia and the Folk Culture Museum, as this was also something I had in mind to do before the end of the week. I admired the impressive galleried courtyard of Schloss Porcia as I wandered through, but the museum turned out to be closed, despite Google Maps saying that it would be open.


Luckily, I discovered that there was a window by the museum entrance which allowed me to look through into one of the rooms - an old schoolroom, early 20th century from the look of it, with original wooden desks and walls covered in educational maps and posters, including one of different types of early aeroplane. I was glad that I had managed to see a bit of the museum after all.


Today (Friday)

At school, the end-of-week project presentations turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax because over half the class was missing due to testing positive for Covid. There is a spike of Covid cases at the moment in this region of Austria and it is certainly spreading round the school. On Wednesday one or two students were missing, then more were yesterday, including one really lovely girl who came down ill mid-lesson, was taken out and didn't reappear this morning. We had originally planned to combine classes for the final presentations, but in light of the Covid situation made the decision yesterday not to, as we thought it would most definitely be unwise. Fingers crossed that everyone will end up being OK.

This afternoon I had thought to go to the lake then come back and go for a walk/hike to a castle ruin further along the valley from Spittal, but I missed the bus and the next one wouldn't be for another hour, so regretfully decided just to give the lake a miss as if I went there I'd have to really rush round to do the walk too before it got dark.

On the walk, I accidentally took a wrong turn somewhere but didn't realise for quite a while, so I ended up somewhere different to where I'd intended! I went on a zig-zagging walk up a forested hill slope, where I slipped on the icy path and banged my elbow and knee. Not badly, luckily, but it was still a bit painful. By the time I realised where I was, the sun was getting low and it was too late to get to the ruin and back before dark, so a short while afterwards I started heading back. Nevertheless, aside from getting a bit lost, and the fall, I enjoyed the walk a lot - there was a blue sky, crisp and ultra-clean air and and fabulous scenery.


My only other regret came when I got back down to the road leading back to Spittal and discovered that a cup of iced coffee I'd brought from a supermarket had exploded inside my handbag, soaking it. It must have happened when I slipped over. Luckily, there wasn't much inside it to get wet. Back in the hotel room I managed to clean my bag out, wash the inner lining and put the whole thing next to a radiator to dry out.

Posted by 3Traveller 19:43 Archived in Austria Tagged landscapes mountains buildings snow austria museum explorations english_teaching austrian_cuisine spittal_an_der_drau Comments (2)

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