If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, you (hopefully) know that there’s a unspoken etiquette that all boils down to be a respectful human being while sharing a dorm room with anywhere from 3 to 15+ people who are often complete strangers. For example, when your alarm goes off, turn it off as soon as possible and don’t repeatedly hit snooze for almost an hour (particularly if it’s early). Well one of the people in my dorm room did exactly that this morning starting around 5:15 AM. Finally, another individual yelled at him to turn it off. But an hour later, that individual did the same thing. So much for sleeping in this morning.
I decided to just get up and start my day since I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep at that point. I took my sweet time packing and getting ready before leisurely enjoying some coffee and breakfast at a nearby café right by the River Liffey.
The free walking tour I had done my first day in Dublin offered discounted tickets for the Irish Whiskey Museum, and one thing I don’t need much convincing for is a tour and tasting of anything alcohol related. Part of the reason why I’ve learned to enjoy these experiences as much as I do (even though they often can be tourist traps) is because it’s an interesting lens through which to learn the history of the country you’re in. Alcohol has been used throughout the years as a bargaining tool, a reason to start war, and helped forge some of the first societies. For better or for worse, alcohol has shaped global history. These tours give you a taste of that history (both literally and metaphorically).
I also thought it would be cool to compare and contrast the Irish Whiskey Museum to the Scotch Whisky Experience that I visited just two weeks prior. So once I wrapped up breakfast I made my way to the museum for the 11:00 tour. Since it was the morning, the tour group was pretty small which gave it an intimate, personalised feeling. Our guide had a very blunt sense of humour, which I greatly appreciated. He took us through the history of whiskey, specifically as it relates to the history of Ireland. For example, the Irish accidentally discovered the benefits of aging alcohol in barrels after storing it in barrels to hide from the police and forgetting where they put it.
Throughout the entire tour, he would make frequent jabs about Scotch whisky. While the Scotch Whisky Experience made comparisons to Irish Whiskey, they didn’t completely shit on Irish Whiskey like this tour did on Scotch whisky. Also, note the spelling difference. I learned that Irish whiskey started adding an “e” to whisky as a way to distinguish them as the superior form of whiskey.
At the end of the tour we tasted three different kinds of Irish whiskey. While the Scotch Whisky Experience had a more engaging, entertaining tour, the Irish whiskey I tasted was far superior. The first one we tried was only distilled twice whereas the next two were distilled three times – which is typical for Irish whiskey. I was amazed how big of a difference an extra distillation made: a smoother drink with a nice warming affect compared to the typical burning sensation of hard liquor.
Satisfied and slightly tipsy from my experience, I started to explore parts of the city I had yet to visit. I finally made it outside of the typical touristy areas and my enjoyment of the city skyrocketed. Since the weather was so nice, I decided to take a stroll through St. Stephen’s Green.
However, the beautiful weather did not last long as grey clouds started rolling in as I made my way to Leinster House, the seat of the Parliament of Ireland. (I will never understand why I enjoy government buildings as much as I do).
By the time I made it the old Parliament Square, part of Trinity College, it was pouring rain.
Thankful for my obnoxiously bright orange raincoat, I stuffed my camera inside my jacket and kept on wandering towards the river to check out the northern part of the city, which from the little bit I saw had nothing more than a few statues and a bunch of shops.
Soon it was time to make my way to the hostel to grab my luggage and get to the airport for my flight to Prague. Once I landed in Prague, the line in passport control for non-EU passport holders was pretty ridiculous. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling with Calvin and the Monsoon Diaries is that there’s almost always a way to bypass chaos. I notice the priority lane for crew and first class passengers had two people at the desks, and only two people waiting – both of whom were clearly not crew and based on their typical backpacker gear probably weren’t first class passengers. So I made my way there hoping they wouldn’t care (they didn’t) and was through passport control and customs in less than 3 minutes.
Natalie, one of my good friends from my MA program who studied in Prague and decided to join me on this adventure, greeted me at the hostel. Once I dumped my bags we went out for drinks. Natalie led the way and took me to Café Vlese right near the hostel. I wanted a typical Czech drink so Natalie recommended Becherovka for a liquor and then basically any beer. The Becherovka was given to me as a shot, but upon trying it I discovered it tasted really nice and wanted to enjoy it rather than down it as quickly as I would cheap Smirmoff vodka in college. It had a slight minty flavour to it which I loved. This was followed by a Kácov beer, since beer is what Czechia is known for.
Somehow it was already past midnight already and were both tired from traveling so we walked back to our hostel and discovered that our 12 person dorm room is still completely empty aside from us. Score! This "hostel" also feels more like a fancy hotel than a hostel. Pictures to come.
Looking back on today feels slightly surreal. I think part of it is still getting used to how close everything is in Europe compared to America. But I also think part of it is knowing that I’ll soon be spending an entire year bouncing between cities and countries and getting beyond excited about that experience. But for now, it’s time bed so I can explore Prague tomorrow.