I arrived overtired with very little sleep at 6 a.m. in Shannon: a baby was crying non-stop. Glad to exit the plane and the uncomfortable situation, I walked fast out toward the border control while fumbling to find my German passport. The officer, a middle-aged Irishman, looked at me and casually said, " You're on your way to the UK?" I looked back surprised. "No, I am planning to stay in Ireland for my vacation." He handed me back my passport and let me pass without further comment.
Was his comment related to my German passport? Was he thrown off that I am, as an Asian, of German nationality or the general fact that I am German?
I left the baggage claim with my bike box and went to the Shannon terminal to find a cab to get me to my B&B. It is a very small airport with a few small car rentals and a cab stand. I had imagined that it would be much larger.
As soon as I walked outdoors into the early morning sun and the crisp air, I felt back home. The clean streets, small houses and street signs reminded me of the small town I grew up in. Out of habit, I went to the right side of the car and the cab driver joked, "Are you driving?" I wondered how many times per day he would see tourists doing the same thing.
"You're from New York? And cycling? What is your route?” the cab-driver asked. “You should go by Clifton and take Sky Road. Most people just turn off there, but it is a beautiful drive out there. We love the Americans. They give a generous tip compared to the Germans!"
I decided then and there to travel on my American passport and will only mention that I grew up in Europe if pressed. Feeling a little guilty to be German, I tipped him 30 percent and he made sure to mention that he would love to pick me up.
The Hunt for a Castle
It was overcast and windy when I left in the afternoon to find lunch. The Hunt at New Market Fergus came highly recommended for its fish and chips. Just a mere 3 kilometers away, I started walking along the narrow roads with a still disassembled Jamie.
I saw long-missed weeds, flowers, bushes and trees that do not grow in the same abundance in the United States. I knew each by name and remembered the long hours as a kid that I spent in the forest memorizing them. Oddly enough, I really have missed them.
At the Pub, a charming place with a fireplace, as well as very narrow tables and chairs, I took the bartender up on his recommendation to visit the castle at the end of the road. A perfect small hike since it was still early in the day.
I followed the road past a supermarket when the stone wall appeared on the left. It must have been built in the middle ages. At the crossing, a small brown sign stood up, pointing me in the direction of the castle.
The view was just as one would imagine as I climbed up small hills and windy roads with endless green pastures and cows. The sun was out and there were just a few clouds in the sky. I continued for another 3 or 4 kilometers, but never found the castle. Instead, I found a forest area where people settled during the Bronze Age.
It has a big sign "Do not enter" and as I was about to pass it a local hiker told me it is safe to enter. "There are just a few fallen trees and in there and about a mile or two might be the castle I am looking for." Since I have come so far another mile seemed not much.
I entered the prohibited area and was suddenly in middle of a thick forest with tall trees and a narrow path leading down a hill. There was no one else-I was alone -and it crossed my mind that this might be dangerous as a woman. I brushed off the worry and blamed watching too much Law and Order SVU.
I continued until a monstrosity of a fallen tree covered the path. The only way would have been to climb underneath it. At this point I gave up on the mysterious castle and headed back into town for some dinner and WIFI.