Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #7

Thursday, October 20, 2022

After I decided to separate from Beat and Urs, I dallied awhile to let them get ahead. I enjoyed handfuls of ripe blackberries from the roadside, and then was offered a ride by four German youths in an already-full VW Bug.

Together, we drove through Waterford, Dungarvan, and Cork, not stopping at tourist sites, but stopping twice along the way at pubs. Each time these young men showed disappointment that such a pub would not be open on a Sunday morning. Therefore, they beat upon the door until they had roused the tavernkeeper. Once inside, one of my comrades would order a round of beers, and I would add a round of chocolates. Many years later, in Tashkent, I met a young Uzbek who immediately observed that all Americans liked to travel. I corrected him to say that all Americans who had made it as far as Uzbekistan probably liked to travel. Thus, I must be careful against drawing too great a generality, based only upon the two groups of Germans whom I had encountered in less than twelve hours. I will say only that my small sample suggested that one attraction to draw young German men to visit Ireland in late September, 1972, would be the Irish beer.

Between pubs, we stopped only to search out bushes. I might have liked to at least have gotten out of the car in Cork. My grandmother told us Cork had been the birthplace of her immigrant grandfather. We now believe that he may have sailed from Cork, but probably lived closer to Dublin. Either way, I did not see much of Cork. I did, however, begin to question the wisdom of riding with a slightly drunk driver, over narrow and curvy roads, with visibility limited by hedges of blackberries. I decided to thank them for their company and the ride, and to walk on from there alone, with my target a Youth Hostel at Loo Bridge.

As I write this, I struggle to remember the Youth Hostel at Loo Bridge. Searching for a picture, I find one taken by Klaus Liphard, two years after I was there. He notes, “Unfortunately, I have no memory of my stay there.” That may explain why Loo Bridge no longer has a Youth Hostel. I do remember walking into a small store nearby, buying some bread and cheese, and parting from the shop keeper with a cherry, “Have a nice day.”

He looked at me strangely, and then answered, “Yes, I suppose we do.” I was reminded of the observation by Winston Churchill that the US and Great Britain (or in this case, the Irish) are “two nations divided by a common language.”

Looking at the map the next morning as I was leaving Loo Bridge, my eye was drawn to a loop through the Ring of Kerry, on a road marked, “Scenic Route.” I later suspected that ‘Scenic Route’ was Gaelic for ‘No cars travel on this 110 mile loop.’

I was fooled, though, because between Loo Bridge and Kilgarvan, a middle-aged man and his mother picked me up, and were quite excited when I told them I was from Los Angeles. “Oh, you know our cousin, then!”

“Well,” I tried to explain, “It’s a big city.”

“Oh, but you would know him. He owns the chemist shop.” (Meaning: drug store)

At tea time, we stopped and laid out a blanket and a picnic basket. They were very apologetic that they had no milk for my tea.

After that, I walked about two hours without seeing any vehicle pass. I began to feel concern that the loop might take me several days, as beautiful as the scenery was. My steps were still headed south along the eastern side of the peninsula. After that, I would still face the trip north on the west. However, besides just the beautiful scenery, I was still chuckling over the couple with a cousin in LA and the shopkeeper who misunderstood, “Have a nice day.” I began to praise God.

Almost immediately, I heard the clop of a horse behind me, and an elderly gentleman invited me up on his cart. I am still not sure what language he spoke. It may have been Gaelic, or it may have been English with a brogue too think for me to understand, but as much as we tried, communication was difficult. At one point, he tried very hard to express something. After multiple attempts, I figured out that he was referencing a certain flower that grew beside the road.

The rides I must have gotten don’t stand out in my mind, but I must have gotten some. I do remember walking one long stretch on the rugged western side of the peninsula.

However, I finished the scenic loop with enough time to catch a ride all the way to Limerick.

But Limerick is a story for our next episode.

Posted by Brian at 11:30 PM  


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