Twelfth Email- Small towns and back to Dublin

Sent 18.1.06


This is the final of my Christmas break emails, you can read my earlier trip updates online at, along with seeing the accompanying pictures.

I still had two nights left before my flight out of Flughafen Friedrichshafen (which just means airport Friedrichshafen, but the name is cool to say), a small little town that Ryanair conveniently flies out of. Of course, you have to find a way to get there. I decided to make a stop along the way since I knew there wouldn't be a whole lot to do, so I headed to another small town named Feldkirch, on the border of Austria and Liechtenstein. Germany is also only 45 minutes or so away. Not exactly a metropolis, but small towns in Europe are always pretty to wander around and see, and it gave me the excuse to head to another country for the day.

When I got off the train in Feldkirch, I decided to head into the city centre because I figured that would be the obvious place to catch the bus to Liechtenstein. The information was pretty hard to find, but the tourist info centre was located in the Altstadt. Of course it was closed for lunch, but I did eventually find a sign pointing me in the right direction. My timing was actually good for once, and I only waited about ten minutes for the bus to come. I was originally going to stay the night in Liechtenstein, so I had my backpack and everything else with me on this somewhat crowded bus. However, that plan changed while on the bus. I hadn't looked close enough at my tour guide, which I noticed said that the one youth hostel in the country was only open in the summer. I also had a great moment with the bus. Looking at the map, I was pretty sure this bus would take me all the way to the capital, Vaduz. Since I spoke no German, it was hard to ask the mostly old locals for directions, since I knew they probably wouldn't speak English. So I just sat there and watched the scenery for a while. When we arrived at the stop where the bus either would or wouldn't go the way I thought it would, I decided to attempt asking the older man behind me if this bus went to Vaduz. It took a while for us to get on the same page, but once we did I realized this bus was not going where I wanted to go so quickly jumped off. I figured it out from there, and had no problem travelling after that. I guess it wouldn't have been the end of the world, I could have passed into Switzerland for a bit and hit up another country.

Once I got to Vaduz I did some of the typical tourist things- took some pictures, got my passport stamped, and ate a good meal at a restaurant in town. Of course, the meal was not cheap even though I looked around for the cheapest food, but the influence of Switzerland's high prices was fairly obvious even here. I ended up spending 16 CHF on the meal, which is about $12.50. Not terrible, but not cheap for a college student. After lunch, I walked around the city a little more then decided to head back to Feldkirch before it got completely dark, since I needed to find the youth hostel in the city. I stopped by the tourist info centre which was now open, and they gave me a huge map of the city, and circled where the hostel was located. It was a bit of a walk, but I could handle 20 minutes, especially knowing I had a bed that night. It was a good bed too, comfortable enough for a good night of sleep.

I figured there weren't too many huge bars in this small town, and I was right. I ended up at some small little place, sitting around by myself for a while since everyone at the bar spoke German and German only. Eventually I ended up talking to two guys that live in Liechtenstein, study in Switzerland, but were in Austria for the night. They were both my age and spoke pretty good English. I heard some interesting facts from them while talking- the population of Liechtenstein is only 34,000, and the border guards between Austria and Liechtenstein are actually Swiss. I headed back relatively early that night, because I knew I had a bit of a walk ahead of me and I wanted to head out relatively early the next day.

I thought there would be a bit to do in Friedrichshafen, which ended up being pretty far from the truth, but I still found enough to occupy myself for one day there. I spent a good two hours the first day trying to find the completely unadvertised youth hostel, which ended up being the biggest one I stayed in the entire trip. I actually found it by seeing street signs pointing in its direction; I later looked at a city map and the label couldn't have been much smaller. It was a bit of a walk with the backpack, and I had already walked a lot earlier in the day from the hostel in Feldkirch. I eventually get there around 1 pm, and there was a sign in the reception saying someone would be at the desk at 3 pm. Not a big deal, so I put my bag in a locker in the lobby and decide to walk around for a while and come back later in the afternoon. I walked around the town for a while, seeing pretty much everything I wanted to, and returned to the hostel around 4 pm. I go to open the door...and it's locked. I could tell the hostel wasn't that busy, so now I'm thinking it was just a fluke that the door was open earlier and the hostel is closed for the winter. I walked around looking for signs of life, and don't see a whole lot. I give the door a loud knock, and ring the buzzer next to it. Still no response from inside. This couldn't be much better: I'm locked out, all my stuff is locked inside and I can't get to it, and I wasn't dressed real great for the weather. The thought of breaking a window was even crossing through my head because there was no way I could be warm enough without my stuff from inside.

Eventually I sit down on a bench for a bit, thinking everything over, thinking how similar this is my first night in Austria when I used a snowball to get inside. After 10 or 15 minutes, I decide to try the door again, ringing the bell. As I am walking to the door, I saw someone moving around in the hallway behind the reception area. I quickly ring the bell and knock on the door, and a dog comes barking. Finally. A women inside comes out into the hallway and looks toward me outside, motioning me to open the door. I clearly look a bit angry, and show her right back that the door is locked. She then comes to the door, tries it herself because I clearly wasn't doing it right, then realizes it really is locked and lets me inside. She wasn't aware of the fact that I have been walking around her hostel for a half-hour. I ask her if they are open, and she looks at me all funny and pretty much says "of course we are". My last half-hour sure didn't make that very obvious.

I ended up being one of ten guests in this huge hostel that night, and I do have to give the hostel some credit; it was one of the nicest I had stayed in yet. I paid €23 for the night, but got a double room all to myself with a private bathroom and shower. It was more like a small hotel room than a hostel. Breakfast was also included, where I took advantage of the buffet as usual. This hostel was more of a big "group hostel", very similar to the ones we stayed at when on the band trip. I spent the night there repacking my bags for the flight back, as I had just been stuffing everything in when moving from place to place, and I went out for a few cheaper drinks before coming back to Dublin and getting price shock.

The next day my flight was not until 4:50 pm, so I had some time to kill before heading to the airport. I also had to check out of the hostel by 9 am, so I couldn't sleep in, which would have been nice considering I had a night to spend in London Stansted airport ahead of me. I decided to just walk slowly into the city, and find some stuff to do there. Eventually I headed for some lunch and my last (cheap) meal here, which was a huge Kebap pizza and a soda for €6. I then was planning on taking a bus to the airport. Of course, this bus didn't run as planned, so I was sitting there not really knowing what to take. I too lazy to look up other options, so it seemed logical to me at the time to just walk to the airport. On the map, it really didn't look too bad, and it really wasn't terrible since my bag was well-packed. However, it was probably about a 6 km walk, which took me just under an hour to do. Once I reached the main terminal, I looked back outside and saw both a train station and the bus stop, and saw a bus and a train in my first 10 minutes there. Oh well, the walk was healthy and I was going to be cramped up on planes and in airports for the next 16 hours anyway.

The view out of the plane was nice- the Swiss Alps were sticking through the clouds, and the sun was just setting. The view at Stansted was typical, at least for the two other times I have been there- foggy and dark. I've actually never been at that airport in daylight hours. The only redeeming factor at the airport was the short line at immigration for non-EU nationals; we may have actually got through immigration faster than those with EU passports. That never happens anywhere in Europe. Of course, the quick line just led me to expensive food that I needed unless I wanted to starve myself that night. I paid £2.40 for a cup of soup and another £2 for a sandwich, which total is around $7.80. That isn't cheap for two small things of fast food. The night in Stansted wasn't too bad besides that though. It was really crowded, but I had a seat and was able to get about 3 hours of sleep that night.

This email is long, but I'm sure you can all read one more paragraph. The day I got back to Dublin was typical Irish weather, but warm compared to what I had been in for the past three weeks. Dublin bus had decided to increase all their fares by €0.05 without really announcing it, even though I left only 11 days before it happened. They are not my favourite organisation here in Dublin; I have had a lot of bad luck with them since I've returned. Enough complaining about that. The new students from ND arrived three days after I returned, on Wednesday. Of course the weather was great for their arrival, very similar to mine when I arrived in the fall. Not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was quite warm. It was weird for me, because I was helping out with some of the basic orientation, helping people get checked into their dorm and figure out the busses and such. I had to learn much of that on my own, but it is very nice to have some basic guidance when you first arrive. It is weird to think that I know so much after living here only four months. I still don't tell them everything I've learned though. Things like good pubs or good sights to see vary from person to person, so I just offer some basic advice and tell people the best thing is to find stuff on your own.

I will probably take at least a week off from writing emails after this one, because this typing is starting to get to me a little bit, although this will also form a sort of journal for me at the end of the trip. If you have any questions about anything Irish or European or completely random, feel free to send me and email.

Keep in touch,

Dan McGee
Mobile: +353 87 056 4163