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 Return of Going Kraut

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
— George Bernard Shaw

This has been in the works for a long time. Over the past two years I didn't really know how to continue. On the one side, I was working a job that was for me the emotional equivalent of being pressed through a meat grinder. Any extra time that I had I wanted to devote to my wife and any other distractions that could be used in order to let me forget the shit going on at work. In addition to that, I was no longer living in Germany and a blog based solely on that fact didn't seem to make sense anymore. Because of all of this I have decided it was time for a change.  I have redesigned the site and to explore all new topics

New Design

A picture is worth a thousand words

Going Kraut is now a bit more visual than it was before with pictures and galleries displayed prominently on the site.  I have a lot of pictures from my travels in the US, Europe and the rest of the world that I would love to share with you.

One little touch that I think is very cool is that there is now a mobile version of the site.  So, if you are on the go you can still check it out.

New Mobile design

New Mobile design



  • Travel - There are a lot of travel blogs out there.  I am going to do what I can in order to cover something new or at least fun on this topic.
  • Photography - This has always been one of my passions.  I want to make it a central topic and place to post some of my favorite photos.  They are far from great but what the hell it's fun to put them out there anyway.  Take and gander at the gallery and let me know what you like (First galleries: Cologne, MonschauBali, Barcelona, Ireland, Edinburgh, Israel and more to come)
  • Sports/Fitness - This is something where you can help me.  When it comes to exercise I have always spent far too much time learning than doing.  I am not in horrible shape - insert old joke that round is a shape as well - but I am just holding everything in steady state and I want to change.  I need a platform to hold myself accountable and this blog will be it.  I am going to set goals and regularly update you on my progress or lack thereof.  It's a bit nerve racking putting everything out there but I think that is the only way in which I will move forward and perhaps achieve something I am proud of.
  • Film/TV -  I have always loved film and TV is just getting better and better.  One quick tip, if you haven't started watch Breaking Bad, just do it.  It really is as good as everyone is saying.
  • Video Games - I have never really grown out of video games and nor do I really want to.  They are just my way of shutting off and relaxing even if my wife says I don't look too relaxed at times.  If the uber cool Kevin Spacey can play them in House of Cards then so can I.  I need an outlet to share my nerd with the world.
  • Other Odds and Ends - Let's see what I can come up with.  I have been thinking about tech, expat life, things I have learned while living abroad, tips and tricks for living in The Netherlands and Germany.  Everything is possible.

I am sure I will make many mistakes on the way but I feel that it is better than sitting and doing nothing.  Let me know what you think.  Enjoy Going Kraut!



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.

Photo Essay: Monschau, Germany

Monschau, Germany is a tiny village nestled in a valley near the Belgium border.  Sure it is a little touristy but it is incredibly picturesque  The pace of this town is very relaxed and layed back.  It doesn't feel artificial.  You will find families in their back yards celebrating their kids birthdays in the shadow of the amazing castle.  Monschau is an amazingly beautiful place and if you get the chance you should drop in for a visit.


The view from the ruins opposite the castle


Seal on the Red House "Das Rote Haus"


The castle which was first founded in 1100 has been sieged many time but now the castle is a hostel


Belgian and German Beer meet


Crooked houses in the center of town


HDR shot of the narrow roads in Monschau


The, for Monschau famous, red house "das Rote Haus"


The view of the village from the castle in HDR


A perfect end of the day with a warm piece of Apfel Strudel

To see all the picture visit my Monschau gallery (Here).