Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kissing the Blarney Stone

a.k.a. Tourist Trap Hell
Seldom has so much hokum been lavished on one place. Just about five miles north of Cork sits a tall square roofless stone box next to dozens of tour coaches, which belch out a steady stream of gullible visitors. Said tourists duck inside the stone ruins of a second rate castle to make an arduous climb up stairs – up, up, up to more and more steps – to find that they’re at the end of a line that moves at the pace of continental drift. There is no protection from the sun or elements, and a day with rain and wind only adds to the misery -- I mean fun.

There’s this parapet thing that follows the perimeter of the roof line, but there’s no floor to the part that projects out from the castle walls. All the better to cast stones upon the heads of an approaching enemy. Those waiting in line bond with their inner vertigo. Suddenly the guy behind you gives your shin a kick, and you realize it’s your turn. At last! You sit down on a floor mat with your back to the wall (literally), while a complete stranger grabs you where you haven’t been grabbed in some time and pushes on your shoulders until you are bent over backwards (again, literally). Next you find yourself face-to-face with a dark stained slightly slimy block of stone that you’re encouraged to kiss, maximizing the opportunity to share the germs and God-knows-what diseases of those who have come before you. Someone snaps a picture, which you cannot preview (there are no alternate poses). Later, you pay a rip-off price for a snapshot that is guaranteed to be the most unflattering pose ever captured on film. Not to worry, however, because now you are possessed with the “magical gift of eloquence.” Right.

But wait – there’s more! After staggering down stairs and more stairs you follow the signs outside to the next opportunity to make a fool of yourself – the Witches’ Hole. Here you must walk backwards down the hole with your eyes closed – and then walk back up (backwards, of course) out of the mangy place. The payoff is that the wish you made while doing this foolish business will come true. Worked for me, because my wish was to be able to get the hell out of the musty place, all limbs intact. I made another wish, which also came true – that no one I knew would see me performing such foolishness.

It somehow seems appropriate that the next assault on the tender tourist is a march through the adjacent Blarney Woollen Mills – everything 50%-75% off! Right.

Post script: as of June, 2010, scaffolding obscures much of two sides of Blarney Castle, so much cropping of photos will be necessary, sad to say.

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