Become the King of a Real Castle

Ballynagowan Castle

Ballynagowan Castle

As most boys, I grew up thinking castles, dragons and knights in shining armor were very cool; they were almost as cool as Ninjas and Transformers.  In a lot of ways this comes from the fact that in the US, if anything is older than 100 years it is placed under historical protection and you are not even allowed to breath on it.  We are so desperate for old stuff that we will buy a used bridge from London just to have ancient crap to call our own.  Europe, with all it's riches, has ancient artifacts just lying around all over the place.  It has so many that you can just rent them and that for what is actually a very reasonable price.

My family comes to Europe once every couple of years from the US.  I thought it would be cool if this time we all went to Ireland. First, it lessens the culture shock a bit when my family can get around easier in English and second, because we have a family history in Ireland.  After a quick search on Celtic Castles we found the castle of our choice.  We had the luck of getting to stay in Ballynagowan Castle in County Clare, Ireland.  From our experience there are many pros and cons to staying in a castle, the major ones are listed below.


  1. It's a Castle - Fact: castles are awesome.  Therefore it is awesome to stay in a castle.  I don't think it is needed to elaborate on that point any further.
  2. Price - the castle I stayed at could comfortably fit 7 adults.  We went with 6 people just before the main season which cost 1350 € + utilities (~200 €).  This means it cost us about 37 € ($50) per person per day.  That is very good for a family European holiday.  You, of course, have to add the price of a rental car to this; it is nearly impossible to get to the castle where we stayed without one.
  3. Size - Castles generally have plenty of room to offer.  In the one where we stayed each room was relatively comfortable and there was three bathrooms.   This meant everyone had their own space and there was no long waits or fighting for use of the bathroom. There was one main room with a lordly fireplace and a large kitchen for everyone.
  4. Location - there are a lot of options and locations to choose from. manages castles in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France.  You will have the flexibility to set your home base anywhere you like.  The castle we stayed at was deep in the Irish countryside.  In our immediate vicinity were ruins, typical villages and the Cliffs of Moher.  All very cool.
  5. Atmosphere - This is something that can't be beaten by a hotel.  You are living in a piece of history.  While in the castle I couldn't get over that we were casually eating a sleeping in a building that was built long before the foundation of the USA.  It had been part of real turmoil and war.  From the winding stairs that have been polished smooth by the centuries of people going up and down them to the large hall with gigantic fire place fit for a king.


  1. Stairs - If you have trouble going up narrow, winding slippery stairs this is not the place for you.   Remember you will also have to carry and luggage and possibly firewood up and down them.  This is not the US where things are altered in order to make it accessible for everyone.  The castle was here first and it doesn't have to accommodate you.  This is the general message for most historic places across Europe.  Also, we all enjoy our Guinness or Irish whiskey but getting plastered and falling down the stair could result in serious injury or death. No joke.
  2. Musty - Castles are not the top of modern architectural design.  The stone walls tend to pull in moisture from rain and the ground.  The castle from our visit had three humidifiers running which needed to be emptied regularly.  This meant that some of the rooms smelt damp and musty.  this is mostly from rooms closer to the ground floor but it was an issue everywhere never the less.
  3. Heating - Stone is not exactly an insulating material.  Ned Stark was right, "winter is coming" and a castle can be as cold as hell and it takes some time to warm up a bit.  It isn't a warm cozy hotel room.  What you lose in comfort you make up for style.   Plus it isn't a problem for too long until you get the big awesome fire going.


Finding a castle - There are a number of sites out there but I can definitely recommend

Car rental - We rented a car from Avis for 280€ for a week.  We picked up the car in Dublin which is definitely trial by fire if you haven't driven on the left side of the road before.  The hardest part is shifting and turning correctly on left and right turns.  The rental companies are use to dumb americans because full coverage damage insurance was standard for the rental.

Driving on the Left - If you are scared of driving on the left, as I was, you can find some tips here.

Pictures of Ireland - For some pictures of Ireland please take a look at my gallery here


In the end it was definitely a great experience, one that I am glad to have checked off my bucket list.  And if you can put up with the few downsides it is something I think that almost everyone can enjoy.   What do you think about staying in a castle?  Is it something you would like to try someday?

After a quick YouTube search I found this short video from Ballynagowan Castle where we stayed.



The island of Bali sets itself apart from the rest of Indonesia. It is the colorfully spiritual and uniquely Hindu center of this nation.

The smiles with which visitors are greeted never end. The stone temples and statues carefully decorated with fresh follows shows the dedication the people of Bali have to their faith. Tripping over offerings scattered everywhere happens constantly to clumsy outsiders, such as myself.

You are never far away from the next ceremony. Traffic will constantly grind to a halt as a local parade or wedding blocks the road.

I have had the luck to spend a month on this lush and colorful island. It is mystic and ripe for exploration. From the more populous and touristy south to the peacefully and isolated north of the island there is something for everyone. You can do yoga and spa treatments in Ubud or go diving in turquoise waters near Permuteran.

Bali is truly a magical island which must be visited by anyone who has any love for travel.

Wie Geht's? Think it's a harmless question... Think again.

Don't ask Angela how she is doing.

One of the worst cases of culture shock I have ever experienced happened shortly after I started working in Germany.  During the first few months I was doing my best to integrate.  I was speaking German and doing everything I could to fit in.  I was being the happy, polite and chatty American which are infamous in Germany.  Doing so led me to saying “Wie geht’s?” or “How’s it going?” to my work colleagues as I passed them in the hall or as I walked into their offices.  This was a fatal flaw that went on for about two months until the department Christmas dinner.

During the dinner, my colleague, one who fulfills almost all of the German stereotypes you could ever imagine without remorse, happened to be sitting across from me.  After the appetizer and a few glasses of wine I noticed that he happened to be giving me a very stern look, not uncommon in Germany.  He finally said to me, “Why do you ask me ten times a day how I am doing? You must only ask once and mean it!” 

The only way to describe my reaction is that I was in shock and embarrassed.  Everyone got quiet and turned to enjoy the converstation that had just started.  I had spent years in Germany but I was completely unprepared for this. The best I could come up with was, “I don’t know. In America it is just something you say to pass the time and minimize the awkward silence in the hallway.”

His reaction, with the same firm expression was, “There is no awkward silence. You either say hi or nothing.  If you ask me how I am doing, you need to be sincere about it.”

This was not the tone of cultural understanding. He thought I was being rude.  This scared the shit out of me as I was trying to be nice and friendly and doing everything I could to fit it. All I can say is that this was a harshly learned lesson.  From that point on I have done anything in my power to only ask how Germans are doing with utmost sincerity.

Since then a very nice relationship has developed with my colleague and this incident has become a running gag. I have been "officially instructed" to inform all foreigners, especially Amis and Brits, that they are only to ask "wie gehts?" once daily.

This situation has forced me to analyze myself and my culture.  Why is it that we are so afraid of silence and why do we ask questions and not be really interested in the answer?  And why are Germans so damn sensitive when you ask them how they are doing? 

The officially certified process for German fun on a sunny day


Germany is not known for its good weather. When it is finally a beautiful day outside, there is a list of obligatory events which must take place in order to enjoy this even.

  • Ice cream must be consumed.

This one is pretty easy.  If you don't want ice cream, that's alright.  You can have a frozen yogurt. (Picture resulting from extensive testing)

  • Man capris are to be worn

Nothing says party like pants that are 10 cm shorter than your normal pants.  Capris, which are solely worn by women in the US, are the main summer attire of the German man.  The only people who wear them more are the French.  I think the French own stock in the companies because, man, they wear them all the damn time.

  • You must take part in nature.

You will be outside.  If you tell someone you weren't outside during a beautiful day you will get a look like you committed a cardinal sin.  Many places will assist you in this as they will not open until the sun has set. (Ex. Movie Theaters)

  • Extremely pale skin will be exposed

Nothing says great weather in Germany like the sudden display of white skin.  Followed the next day by the display of extremely red skin.  This is only topped by the British whose complexion is a mix between Golem and a vampire.  They really should stay out of the sun whenever possible.

  • You will amplify the heat by standing next to a grill

Nothing like celebrating a hot day like making it warmer by standing next to a fire, getting smoke in your face and eating meat.  Thank god for German beer.

  • You finally can put your top down on you convertible

Finally, one day of the ten days a year where you can put your top down on the convertible and finally enjoy why you paid thousands of Euro extra.  But in Germany make sure to leave you windows up and wind protector to avoid the Zug (For info on the Zug see post Here).

Follow these steps on you are on your way to the officially certified process for German fun.

Der Zug


The Zug, a draft in English, is the most feared phenomenon in Germany.   It is a thing of might which can render anyone, without warning, with a sore neck and a head cold.  It is a natural phenomenon, which is to be respected and feared and feared more than understood, like the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs or Bigfoot.

According to the experts of this terrible infliction, the danger lies in the fact that it is even possible to catch a Zug.  It is a sickness which must solely exist in Germany, as I have never found an English translation for this sickness and I am pretty sure that I have never heard anyone say, “I have caught a draft.”  As it has been explained to me by many a German, in the most serious of tones, is that one catches a Zug by air blowing on your neck and thereby infecting one with a kink in the neck and a head cold.

The only thing standing between you and the Zug

This would be avoidable if the situation was not further complicated by one other German necessity, Fresh air (to be discussed in a later post).  In order to get fresh air in a room, unfortunately for Germans, it must move from one position to another and thereby causing a draft.  The essential balance between these factors alone destroys working relationships, friendships and families at a cataclysmic rate in Germany.  Germany needs our help.

However, I am truly amazed the bravery with which Germans are not restricted by this infliction.  Germans kick so much ass at the Winter Olympics and the sheer audacity of the athletes over the fact that they even dare to go outside in winter with skimpy aerodynamic outfits.  According to German theory every skier, luger, bobsledder and ice skater should role across the finish line as an epileptic tumours mass with a horribly sore neck and the worst head cold ever.


Wikipedia Link on Luftzug - You will notice there is no English translation

German site warning of the dangers of the Zug.