I headed over to the Cologne train station after saying farewell to Michael and packing my luggage at the hostel. I grabbed the evening train to Charleroi finding that the first class ticket was cheaper than the 2nd class seats…most unusual.
I bought my ticket for the three hour ride and then waited on the platform. I was joined by two others for the first leg of my journey, a young Bulgarian man, and another gentleman he was traveling with.
In Liege we changed trains and headed on toward Charleroi Sud…the south station which had connections to the airport. From Charleroi Sud the Bulgarian man and I headed on our way toward the airport while his friend caught a connecting train to Brussels.
From the station we caught the bus to the airport and arrived just after 10pm. The final flight arrived at 11:15 and the airport shops went silent around 11:45. I’d made friends with the young Bulgarian and we decided to swap music. He had has laptop out. I opened my Ipod and transfered a small selection of the music I have to his HD. We spent the next three hours comparing bands and favorite songs. He shared a few Bulgarian bands with me with some pretty neat traditional tunes.
Around 3am the cleaning crews started in…sweeping, mopping, and working their way slowly through the small terminal. It was tedious work and slow at best. By 5am they reached our spot where we’d decided to take a nap. At 6am I shook my friend’s hand, headed to check in and got through security without a problem. Excited I passed through passport control and customs to get my EU exit stamps and then waited at the terminal gate for the boarding to begin for my 6:35 flight to Dublin.
Boarding started and together with a young Belgian couple we began down the steps toward the aircraft and open air. Unfortunately someone had forgotten to inform the ground crew that we were boarding, as they had forgotten to unlock the doors leading out of the tight, unventilated stairwell. Cramped and heating up rapidly as more and more eager passengers pushed themselves down into the stairwell we finally managed to get word up to the desk to unlock the doors. A crew member ran through the crowd and opened up the stairwell and we breached into the fresh cool air. We made our way up the ramps to the plane doors and found seats for our short journey.
The plane ride across the sea was even and short…only 30 minutes at altitude and around an hour and fifteen minutes total for the flight.
We touched down in Dublin on Greenwich standard time at 7:00am. I headed out of the airport to enter Ireland. Ready and excited to stay in Dublin and eager to meet my brother the next morning I hurriedly walked through bag check, passed through customs, and then stopped to have my passport checked to enter Ireland.
At the passport control office I ran into a little flack. Unfortunately, because I am young and traveling, the immigration officer did not believe I was going to leave Ireland. Instead they began to hassle me about how much money I had on me, how much I had direct access to, and when I was leaving Ireland. Now keep in mind that they are asking for these very personal details whilst nosey and quite impatient passengers are striving forward, as if crowding me and the immigration booths would hurry their decision.
Finally the immigration officer asked me for my return ticket home. I told him that I didn’t have it. That my ticket for leaving Ireland was on the 16th (I’d arrived the 11th). Because it was an online check in from Ryan air, I wouldn’t print it until the day before I flew out. I then noted that if he’d permit I’d be happy to show him the flight confirmation on my email. After a grimace and a frustrated look he grabbed my passport from the desk, slapped it down, stamped it and wrote me a four day visa expiring the 16th of July. He then noted that should I ignore that exit date I’d be subject to court and heavy fines and told me to pass along.
Happy with what I had, I grabbed my passport and headed through the doors to freedom. I caught the bus into the city and with hostel address in hand I hit the hostel and dropped my bags in a locker.
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