Excerpts from Europe: “A Limerick in Limerick, Ireland”

Which came first – the town of Limerick in Ireland, or the five-line poem? According to history it seems that the town was established about 1,000 years before the origin of the naming of the poem was. And it seems that the origin of the naming of the poem is related to the mentioning of the town of Limerick in a song.

But nonetheless, when one visits Limerick, does one actually expect that they write a limerick while they’re there? I would suppose not, but that is what happened to me. No kidding.

During my travels to Limerick, I actually wrote a poem. Although it is technically not the true five-line limerick, it is close enough. Here is my journal entry about my couple of hours in Limerick, and the poem I wrote, which is a summary my travels of my first two months in Europe, and how I even got to Europe in the first place.

Sunday July 4, 2004 (Oh, it’s the Fourth of July today…)
I got up about 7:30 this morning after another good night’s sleep in the hostel in Wicklow. I must have been tired from my Wicklow walk yesterday. After getting ready, I hopped on a bus, my Irish mode of transportation, which was to take me to my next destination of Killarney, on the southwest part of Ireland.

Tallest Spire in Ireland at St. John's Cathedral Limerick
The Tallest Church Spire in Ireland

At about noon, the bus pulled into the town of Limerick, where I had originally planned to change buses right away. But as we were approaching this bus station, I noticed a church with a very tall spire. I just had to go see it! So instead of taking the 12:30 bus to Killarney, I chose to take a 14:30 bus, giving me two hours in Limerick.

Stained Glass St. John's Cathedral Limerick Ireland
Stained Glass in St. John’s Cathedral

I went to this church, St. John’s Cathedral, and inside it was beautiful – lots of stained glass. Oh, how I have become so enthralled with stained glass in churches! I sat quietly for a few minutes, contemplating. I found out that this church has the tallest spire in Ireland. No wonder I noticed it from the bus.

I then did some other sight-seeing. I walked around the graveyard of another church, St. Mary’s Cathedral. I looked at some pretty old gravestones which had the Celtic cross, as I had seen previously in Ireland. You know, the cross with the circle ring intersecting.

Celtic Cross Limerick Ireland Black & White Photo
Celtic cross in Black & White

I walked around King John’s Castle next, which was along a river. Here I was intrigued more by actually watching three people fishing. I always like to witness every-day life.

St. Mary's Cathedral & Graveyard Limerick Ireland
St. Mary’s Cathedral and Graveyard

But the funniest thing about my time today in Limerick was that on the bus just before I got to the town, I just happened to start to write a “limerick.” No kidding. And as I was walking around the town doing my sight-seeing, I continued to write my poem, even when I was contemplating in St. John’s Cathedral. No kidding.

I call it, “Living A Life Long Dream”.

There once was a girl from Seattle
Who needed to go and rattle
Her cage, so she could go travel
And see the world, and to her friends tattle.

So she quit her job, gave up her apt,
And put her car away.
She packed a bag, got on a plane,
And went on her merry way.

Off to London first, then on to Greece
To see the ancient sights.
And to hop around the islands,
With all of her might.

Then five days in Turkey;
A lifetime friend she made.
Who gave her a necklace,
The memory will never fade.

Off to Slovenia and Croatia,
With parks of waterfalls.
Experiencing, learning, growing,
And having a ball.

Italy was beautiful, with vineyards
In the rolling hills.
Exploring, wandering, playing,
Going wherever she wills.

Now she’s in Ireland, the town of Limerick,
Writing as she walks.
Looking at more churches and cathedrals,
Leaving her breathless, she can barely talk.

Who knows where she will travel to next.
That is left to be seen.
All she knows is that all this travel
Is living a life long dream.

Sweet (and poetic) Travels!

Doolin, Ireland: Till the Cows Come Home

Cows are quite the unhurried animal. Kind of like the tortoise, as opposed to the hare. They take their own sweet long time making their way home. Thus the notorious phrase.

Did you know that the saying quite possibly originates from farmers because they are actually familiar with the time that cows really do come home to their barns? Apparently cows come home especially early in the morning because they want to be milked.

And because of this early morning timeframe, many people use the phrase to imply how late they might stay up at night in bars or nightclubs…or I suppose in pubs, too…

cows 1 (450 x 235)

And I can attest to all this, having really experienced the cows coming home…and I am not a farmer. It was actually during my travels…

I was on a payphone using an international calling card (yes, not a cell phone) to talk to my mother from Doolin, Ireland. It was 7:00 am on July 9, 2004. It was a brisk and clear morning. The previous night, I had been at one of the three pubs in all of Doolin, listening to some great traditional Irish music, and talking with some local fisherman. (And probably having a Guinness.)

That morning, I was actually hoping to get on a fishing boat to experience fishing off the coast of Ireland. Ah, but no such luck (pun intended). It was not meant to be a day for being on the seas. But before I began the rest of my day (which turned out to be a wonderful bicycle ride), I called my mother instead to update her on my travels.

This payphone happened to be located on a quiet country Doolin road, literally just across the street from one of those three pubs. Surrounding this pub and me were green grassy fields and the blue ocean beyond.

When all of a sudden, I heard cowbells and mooing not too far off in the distance. I turned around and saw a farmer herding his cows down a nearby street. At first, I thought nothing of it. But then, slowly but surely, the sounds became louder, and the cows headed towards the road that I was on. The next thing I knew, they were strolling leisurely right in front of me, right between me on the phone and Gus O’Connor’s pub across the way.

cows 2 (450 x 206)

I said to my mom, as we both heard more mooing, “Well, Mom, the cows are actually coming home….” I explained to her what was happening, and we both got a good laugh.

And I now that I know more about the origins of the phrase “till the cows come home,” it has been proven to me that the cows really do come home quite early in the morning. At 7:00 am, to be exact, in Doolin, Ireland. And, yes, at a snail’s pace, too.

And what is more appropriate is that not only do the cows come home early, they even pass by the pubs on their way…

And not only do they pass by pubs, they meander next to O’Brien’s crafts store as well.

Sweet Travels!

History of the phrase compliments of urbandictionary.com and phrases.org.uk.

The 6,800 Stairs of Europe

The rooftops of homes, sometimes colorful and varied, sometimes similar in texture and style; churches and cathedrals with their ornate spires, rounded domes, and soaring bell towers scattered throughout, yet seemingly dominating, the scenery; majestic castles and towers, and functional bridges; trees, vineyards, rolling hills and farmland, or perhaps waters, surrounding beyond; the activity of people below.

Tallin (300 x 199)
Tallin from the Tower of Oleviste Church

This describes some of what you will experience when surveying a general overview of a European city. This fabulous way of getting a sense of what Europe is all about is accomplished by obtaining the highest point possible in any given city. Church bell towers, cathedral domes, observation towers, hills…getting to the top of any one of these gets you high above a city to see the spectacular views.

Prague 1 (232 x 250) Prague 2 (184 x 250)
Views of Prague from St. Vitas Cathedral

While I was on two separate journeys to Europe, one a five-month solo trip, the other a 15-day circumnavigation of the Baltic Sea, I made it a goal to climb to the top of every possible viewpoint that I could. And when I say climb, I mean I didn’t take the elevator – I took the stairs!

Approximately 6,800 stairs, give or take, at the very least, to be almost exact!

Bratislava Roof (137 x 200) Florence Roof (143 x 200) Tallin Roof (158 x 200)
Rooftops of Bratislava, Florence & Tallin

Not only did I want to see the cities from above, I also needed the exercise. Yes, I did quite a lot of walking in Europe in general, and climbing stairs, sometimes several hundred at one time, kept me in shape. It also allowed me to eat all the spectacular European food without any guilt.

The accountant in me actually kept track as best as I could of how many stairs I stepped on each time I meandered up a bell tower, or church dome, or whatever it was that I was climbing. Many times the ticket booth actually tells you how many stairs there are to complete, usually as a kind warning to make sure one is in good physical condition. Other times, I actually counted the steps myself, as I was always curious.

Riga (250 x 174) Zadar (250 x 123)
Views of Riga, Latvia and Zadar, Croatia

To name a couple of places that I climbed, in Italy for example, there was the bell tower of the Duomo of Florence (414 steps), the Torre Guinnigi in Lucca (227 steps), and two towers in Sienna – Torre al Mangia (400) and the tower of the Museo dell’ Opera (132). There was also the bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica overlooking St. Mark’s Square, but for some reason I don’t have a count on the steps there. If I recall correctly, they only allowed an ascent by an elevator.

Occasionally, I climbed stairs not to overlook a city, but to get to a city, such as the town of Corniglia in the Cinque Terre part of Italy. On that occasion, I climbed the 370 stairs, not only once, but twice, as I visited the town on two different days. (Of course, I could have taken a bus, but chose to hike.)

Venice 1 (181 x 250) Venice 2 (177 x 250)
Venice, Italy from St. Mark’s Tower

The longest flight of stairs was actually the first ones that I encountered during my solo trip to Europe – the 530 stairs of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral to the Golden Gallery in London.

I would have liked to have climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but alas, there they make you take an elevator. Although I did get to climb the 299 steps of Petrin Tower of Prague, also known as the “mini Eiffel Tower.” However, in Paris, I did get to ascend the 444 steps of the tower of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the 284 steps of the Arc de Triomphe.

Florence (191 x 250)
Florence, Italy

Most of the cities had churches or cathedrals with staircases, but in Berlin there was a synagogue with 125 steps, so that I observed Berlin from both the Berlin Cathedral (267 steps) and the synagogue. In Milan, I climbed 250 stairs so that I could actually walk on the roof of that city’s cathedral. There was a castle in Ireland with 51 stairs, and there were 400 steps leading to a monastery built against a cliff wall on the island of Amorgos in Greece.

In Copenhagen, the Round Tower offered a quite different way to the top. Instead of stairs, this building had a spiral walkway turning 7 ½ times as you approached the views. (This is not part of my 6,800 accomplishments, as I really couldn’t count definitive steps.)

Lucca (180 x 250)
Lucca, Italy

Furthermore, however, I would have to say that my accounting of the 6,800 stairs of Europe does not really include the stairs in the hostels that I would climb to get to my room, or the staircases to the second or third floors of museums, or the occasional couple of steps here and there to various other buildings, restaurants and stores that I visited. Thus, must have conquered more than 6,800 steps!

Siena (193 x 250)
Siena, Italy

A definite bonus in climbing all these flights of stairs, particularly in the bell towers of churches and cathedrals, aside from the views and the exercise, was the actual church bells. Not only seeing these large sources of European sound up close, but on several occasions hearing them ring their spectacular melodies and chimes just as I was up there next to them.

You know, now that I think about it, I really must have actually climbed at least 13,600 steps, for each time I went up, I had to come back down…

Sweet Travels!

All photos Copyright Debby Lee 2009.

P.S. Here is a list of the stairs I climbed:

South Tower of St. Stephan’s Cathedral – Vienna, Austria – 343
Zadar Tower – Zadar, Croatia – 178
Bell Tower (approx) – Split, Croatia – 50
St. Vitas Cathedral in Prague Castle – Prague, Czech Republic – 287
Petrin Tower (“mini Eiffel Tower”) – Prague, Czech Republic – 299
St. Nicholas Cathedral – Prague, Czech Republic – 60
Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral to Golden Gallery – London, England – 530
Tower of Oleviste Church – Tallin, Estonia – 258
Hall Tower – Tallin, Estonia – 118
Tower of Notre Dame – Paris, France – 444
Arc de Triomphe – Paris, France – 284
Dome of Berlin Cathedral – Berlin, Germany – 267
Neue Synagogue Museum – Berlin, Germany – 125
Monastery near town of Hora – Amorgos, Greece – 400
Lykavittos Hill (approx) – Athens, Greece – 75
St. Stephen’s Basilica – Budapest, Hungary – 302
Castle near Gallarus Oratory – Dingle Peninsula, Ireland – 51
Bell Tower of St. Mark’s Basilica (elevator only?) – Venice, Italy – ?
Bell Tower of Duomo of Florence – Florence, Italy – 414
Torre Guinigi – Lucca, Italy – 227
Torre del Mangia – Siena, Italy – 400
Tower of Museo dell’ Opera – Siena, Italy – 132
Bell Tower of Duomo…Torre del Moro – Orvieto, Italy – 250
Duomo of Milan…to roof – Milan, Italy – 250
Town of Corniglia, from trail below up to town – CinqueTerre, Italy – 370
Town of Corniglia, from trail below up to town – CinqueTerre, Italy – 370
Riga Cathedral Dome – Riga, Latvia – 58
Michael’s Tower (approx) – Bratislava, Slovak Republic – 50
Grossmunster Church – Zurich, Switzerland – 187
TOTAL: 6779