Kilkenny - The outing of the Irish-Austrian Society on October 8th
Trip Report by Alexander von Peez
Outings with The Irish Austrian society have become a much loved tradition attracting young and old, mainly Irish and Austrians from all walks of life. Last year it was Mountstewart in Northern Ireland, the palatial home of the Marquesses of Londonderry. This year we stayed, in true republican spirit in the South. Perhaps we will go up North again next year.
Our eyes were firmly set on Kilkenny and its very prominent Smithwicks Brewery. A city fittingly named after one of the twelve apostles of Ireland St Canice. Ironically St Canice is a patron saint of the shipwrecked. Kilkenny lies about 50 kilometres inland, so he must be there very relaxed and idle. Rosemary, our able and experienced guide, set the schedule and organized the transportation. Her husband Gerhard was always close by: our dynamic duo. Meeting point for the start of the journey was Tara Station on a a slightly greyish Saturday morning, but the weather and the mood would change significantly during the course of this memorable day. Rest assured, beer and good company does help.
As usual some familiar faces showed up and new potential members were quickly introduced and warmly welcomed.
Rosemary whizzing around with her flip chart ensured that we all hopped on the bus on time. It took us little more than 2 hours to get to Kilkenny. And since all of us found ourselves engaged in interesting conversations. It felt as if it took us even less time. We were in Kilkenny around lunch time and we took lunch in the Pembroke Hotel. A fine 4 star Hotel very centrally located. There we were served some refreshments, sandwiches and I must say a very delicious pumpkin soup. Freshly restored, we were invited to go upstairs to the roof top terrace where we enjoyed an enchanting view over Kilkenny and its meandering Nore River.
A member of the staff was kindly willing to explain to us the various churches, St Canice cathedral, the second largest in Ireland in particular, the Ormond Castle, the garden next to the Killkenny Art and Design Centre. We learned that Kilkenny was granted the status of a city by James I 1609 and is not only famous for its beer "Smithwicks" but is also well known for it marble - therefore the name The Marble City. This famous marble was even used for the new tomb of recently rediscovered King Richard III. A ruthless English monarch who was immortalised through William Shakespeare play (" A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse! ")
After reluctantly leaving, we went to Kilkenny Arts Design Centre opposite the castle. It was set up there in the mid sixties in order to promote Irish arts and design. The Irish government then invited several craftsmen from abroad. One of the more well known who left a huge imprint was goldsmith Rudolf Heltzel from Berlin. His jewellery is much appreciated by a lot of Irish families. Hidden within the Arts and Design Centre is the Dower House Garden. The garden is graced by a nice fountain surrounded by some stones with a remarkable history. These were the remnants of the famous Nelson's Pillar, once located there where we now can find the Spire in front of the GPO in Dublin.
Set up at this spot in 1809 to honor Admiral Horatio Nelson and his naval victories over Napoleon. A proud reminder of Dublin's Imperial past. Strongly despised by Irish Republicans it was destroyed in a huge explosion in 1966. Just in time for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Who say's the Irish have no sense of timing ? The remains had a chequered history. The head was even on tour with "The Dubliners" and found its final resting place in the library in Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive in Pearse Street.
The " body " of Nelson was here in the heart of Kilkenny and on some stone there were to be seen faded inscriptions of past British glories. After saying farewell to the resting place of this unceremoniously disposed of hero we went to the Smithwicks Brewery. However, the term brewery is not very fitting any more.The brewery ceased operations in 2013 and now there is a visiting centre instead for those who take an interest in beer and the history of the beer called Smithwicks in particular. Only a small portion of the former brewery is now occupied by the visitor centre. But size does not matter. The museum has a very well made exhibition with some interesting features. We were all very keen on participating.
Our young guide was very knowledgeable and he followed somehow a family tradition, ancestors and various family members were staff of this brewery for generations and although not a brewer he was now a tour guide. So the whole business is and was a truly family affair. It all began with the brewing tradition of the Irish monks in the Middle ages. The water enriched by its limestone was one of the most important ingredients. From then we were introduced to the illustrious Smithwicks family a few centuries later. We learned more about them in a room full of portraits, and like in an enjoyable Harry Potter movie, they were talking to the interested audience. It was set up by them in the 18th century and was owned by them with some interruptions up to the sixties when it was sold to the Guinness family. It was cleverly manoeuvred through the storms of history. Set up by a catholic despite the then the very punitive penal laws. You can say: where there is beer there is a will. We also learned that when the demand of beer was low the brewery sold butter and for a beer connoisseur quite shockingly: mineral water.
Although beer generally only consists of three ingredients, hops, malt and water, it was shown how important so much energy and knowledge was necessary to brew quality beer.
At the end we all became a little bit thirsty and one of the bonuses of our tickets was we could select between various Smithwick beers now being brewed in Guinness's St. James' location (Dublin). After enjoying our drink we marched well lubricated through Kilkenny. A remarkable, very charming city. Passing by a witch house owned by Alice Kyteler who survived miraculously four husbands. Quite an achievement in times where women had a shorter life expectancy due to hard work and the then dangers of child birth. At that time antibiotics and modern medicine were only a twinkle in the eye of history. In a twist of history somehow she escaped the witch hunters - but her maid Petronella was burned instead.
Rosemary in full form and always up to date showed us a new pub in old surroundings.The Hole in the Wall. Interested parties should check on you tube how the old building was restored and became a trendy bar.Then after all these activities we somehow found our way back to the bus stop. The return took a little bit longer but we were compensated by the view of a landscape covered in mist and the sun slowly setting, a truly magical impression.
Not far from O' Connell Bridge we parted company in the hope there will be a new outing in the near future. Certain traditions should most certainly be upheld.
On September 22nd 2016, His Excellency Ambassador Dr. Nader in the company of his wife as well as members of the Irish Austrian Society travelled to Skerries to attend "Classical Summer Breeze", an evening of light classical music with Karen Leitner (flute) and Teresa O'Donnell (harp), who set out to inspire and uplift their audience. All present had a most enjoyable time, as attested to by the attached images.
The event took place in beautiful Holmpatrick Church in Skerries and was part of the Skerries Soundwaves Festival. The Festival organisers expressed their gratitude for the generous support of Karin Leitner through the Austrian Embassy. The Irish Austrian Society provided much appreciated fine Austrian wines for the interval.
On 24 June we met for the traditional BBQ in Peta's home in Balbriggan. Weather was mixed but warm and sunny for the most part, so we were able to enjoy the afternoon outside in the court yard and the impressive garden, where Peta gave us a tour explaining all the various flowers, plants and vegtables. A big thank you to Peta for opening her home once again to entertain members to this great event.
On June 15th the Austrian Ambassador and Patron of the Society, Dr. Thomas Nader, seen on the picture together with the IAS-president Guy Johnston, and his wife welcomed the members of the Irish Austrian Society to the Society's annual Garden Party. All the guests enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with great weather in the Garden of the Austrian Residence
Nine members of the Irish-Austrian Society went on a culture and wine tour to Burgenland and South Styria from the 17th - 22nd April. The tour was organised by Ulrike Schoeller and we all met up at Dublin Airport for our Aer Lingus flight to Vienna on Sunday morning 17th April. From Vienna we travelled by coach to the village of Podersdorf in Burgenland - a journey of about an hour. Our Hotel Seewirt had lovely views over the lake (Neusiedlersee) - and we had an excellent dinner in a dining room of our own during which we sampled some local wines.
Next morning was overcast and dull and we had rain on our journey by coach to the town of Eisenstadt where we were met by our excellent guide, Waltraud Kumer. She was steeped in the history of the town, where the composer Haydn was in residence for so long, and gave us a very interesting tour including the wonderful Castle Esterhazy. The rain soon cleared and after lunch we headed for Frauenkirchen and the Umathum vineyard. The owner gave us a very interesting talk on the soil of the region and took us out to his vineyard. On our return to Podersdorf we stopped to see the basilica in Frauenkirchen.
On Tuesday we travelled to Riegersburg and visited the huge Goelles distillery - famous for its vinegars and Schnapps. I brought home a delicious rose wine vinegar. Not far away we stopped at a chocolate shop - selling beautifully wrapped homemade chocolates. Ideal presents!
After lunch we travelled through South Styria in lovely warm spring weather: acres of vineyards and peach, pear, apple and cherry orchards covered in blossom. We were really seeing the countryside at its best. We arrived at the village of Leutschach where we were to stay at the excellent Hotel Langgasthof Tscheppe for the next three days and enjoy its excellent cuisine and wine.
(Click on image above for full album)
On Wednesday we set off for Graz on a glorious sunny morning. We were met by our guide Martin Haller who told us he had lived for a number of years in Kilfenora, County Clare breeding Connemara ponies ! He also spoke English with a Clare accent! Graz is a 900 year old imperial city dominated by the Schlossberg on the hill with its famous clock tower and wonderful views over the city. To get there our guide took us through the tunnel built during World War 2 to serve as an air raid shelter - and then to the glass lift which brought us to the top. We were glad to sit up there and have cool drinks in the sunshine. Afterwards Martin took us to the beautiful baroque basilica in Stainz and told us of the influence and patronage of Archduke Johann - the "Styrian Prince" whose statue stands in the main square in Graz. He also mentioned that the great Austrian conductor, Nikolaus Harnoncourt (recently deceased) was a direct descendent of Archduke Johann and had given a special concert in the basilica. And we saw a small exhibition of photographs of Harnoncourt and his family at the back of the church. Then we returned to our hotel in Leutschach after a very fulfilled day.
(Click on map for full interactive map)
On Thursday morning we were taken on a walking tour of Leutschach by the town mayor and former school teacher, Karl Neubauer. Karl knew everyone in the village and we were constantly greeted by locals as we walked along ! He took us to sample some beer at a local small brewery and also pointed out a large house opposite our hotel which once belonged to a branch of the Trapp family. Karl came with us when we later visited the winemaker Skoff and all had lunch at his restaurant near the Slovenian border.
Friday was our last day and on our way to Vienna airport in the morning we visited a small family-owned pumpkin oil factory near Leutschach, Styria is famous for its delicious pumpkin oil which I find makes great salad dressings.
Thank you, Ulli for a truly Austrian experience. I know I speak for everyone on the trip when I say we appreciate all your dedication and hard work.
On the glorious morning of 14 May 2016
twelve members of the Irish-Austrian Society – all of them Austrians except
Rosemary and Ursula - met outside the National Sea Life Centre in Bray in order
to complete the classic cliff walk from Bray to Greystones. We were told by
Ulrike to be there at 10:30 am “sharp”, however the Austrians (most of whom
have been living on the Green Island for many years) have apparently been
infected by the Irish sense of time, so we left close to 11 am.
leader, suggested that we take the higher route via Bray Head, but he found
little support so we stuck to the lower route. The only one who wanted to go
via Bray Head was little Konstantin, Christopher’s son. However, his protests
were ignored. He was consoled when we later came across an ice cream van which
he would have missed had we gone via Bray Head. All the world was on the way
from Bray to Greystones and back. No wonder as it was what the Irish call a “pet
day”. The sky was blue, the sun heated up the earth to mighty 15 degrees
celsius which makes most inhabitants of Ireland think that they are in Spain,
the bird were singing in praise of the Weather God and the seals were popping
up from the deep blue sea looking in amazement at the hords of walkers.
By one o clock,
shortly after we made our way through the Greystones Marina we arrived at the
Beach House Pub in Greystones. I had been there 10 years ago when it was a
small and ordinary pub. It now is a formidable establishment with a nice back
garden and good food. Obviously, those Russian oligarchs who moor their yachts
in the Marina bring good business to Greystones.
eaten and drunk sufficiently most of the group took the DART back to Bray.
Reinhard the Younger was more upmarket: he had arranged
to be picked up by car. Konstantin expressed no wish to climb Bray Head. Once
he was told that there was no ice cream van up there his enthusiasm for
conquering heights evaporated.
Leader had thus only three followers on the way back via Bray Head: Rosemary,
Ursula and myself. Wonderful as the walk
from Bray to Greystones had been, the walk back from Greystones to Bray via
Bray Head was even more wonderful. I have no words to describe it, all I can
say is that we four felt very sorry for the eight who had decided not to come
with us. But maybe they do not need our sympathy because they will never know
what they missed.
A big “thank you” to Roseymary and Reinhard
Dutter for setting it all up and to Gerhard who led us. Do it again soon!
(Click on image above for full album)
The Winners of the 2016 German Language Essay Competition were announced today at a ceremony hosted by the Austrian Ambassador Dr. Thomas Nader in Dublin. At the ceremony, the Dr. Nader thanked the Irish Austrian Society for organizing the competition and the schools, teachers and pupils for their participation. He also expressed his thanks to the Austrian Lecturers in Ireland for reviewing and assessing all essays. The President of the Irish Austrian Society, Guy Johnston, also thanked all participants and teachers for their participation and comittment to the german language, which they will find valuable in years to come.
Andrew Roche, St Mary's Knockbeg College, Carlow
Winner of the St. Fergal Trophy
Teacher: Ms Louise Dillon-Reeves
Jessica Byrne, St. Leo's College, Carlow
Teacher: Ms Ann Tully
Aoife Madden, St. Joseph's Secondary School Castlebar, Mayo
Winner of Paul Dubsky's Environment Trophy
Teacher: Ms Caroline Loftus
Alice O'Donnell, Midleton College, Cork
Teacher: Ms Melanie Henry
Weiran Bian, Midleton College, Cork
Winner of Dr. Otto Glaser Trophy
Teacher: Ms Melanie Henry
Mikolaj Glegolski, CBS High School Clonmel, Tipperary
Teacher: Ms Martina O'Reilly
Winner of Catriona Dowling Memorial Trophy for Best Teacher:
Ms Marion Cronin, Presentation Secondary School Tralee, Kerry
The Irish Austrian Society congratulates all participants and winners and thanks all schools for their participation in this year's competition.
On a cold and sunny day at Glasnevin Cemetery last Saturday 9 April , we had a tour of the cemetery linked in with a fascinating lecture on Irish History and some of it's iconic figures such as Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins, Constance Markievicz and some rather more contemporary ones like Éamon de Valera, James Larkin and Seán MacBride. Proceedings were brought to a fitting conclusion at the Gravediggers Pub.
Click on picture above for photo gallery.
On Wednesday, 9 March, we had our first ever Whiskey Tasting, with a line up premium Irish Whiskies. It was a relaxed gathering of members, new members and friends who all enjoyed the tasting of the various whiskies as well as some entertaining facts about the making and the history of Irish Whiskey. The tasting was hosted by our member and Whiskey expert Reinhard Schoeller. Line up: Bushmills Black Bush, Writers Tears Copper Pot, Green Spot, Powers John's Lane, Redbreast 12, Connemara
On 11 February, the annual general meeting took place at St John's House in Dublin. Hon Secretary Peta Taffe read the minutes of the previous AGM from the 2015, which were adopted. Hon Treasurer Ulrike Schoeller presented the accounts and financial statement. President Guy Johnston then gave on overview of the past year and the events held. The current committee was re-elected.