Monday 19 August 2019

A pint of plain in every capital city in Europe

Ted's ends 15-year quest to taste Guinness across the continent

Margaret and Ted Richards
Margaret and Ted Richards

Mary Fogarty

The husband of a Bray woman has completed his quest to have a pint of Guinness in every European capital city.

Ted Richards (21) from Cardiff has just finished the 15-year task, and is planning his return to Dublin, where it all began, to celebrate the achievement.

Ted is married to Margaret Richards, formerly O'Brien, from Bray. They married there in 1986 and are currently living in Wales. Margaret joined Ted on around 20 of his trips abroad in search of Guinness.

Ted managed the challenge without injury but Margaret fell and broke her arm just an hour before they were due to meet people for the Guinness in Edinburgh. Despite this, she still made the rendezvous and only went to hospital for treatment afterwards.

This particular challenge started in Dublin in 2004 as Ted was nearing the end of his bid to walk 3,500 miles around the coast of England and Wales, a project that had kept him occupied for the previous 20 years. While finishing the walk would be satisfying, he feared that without new goals be destined to a life of DIY and crosswords.

Ted settled on two challenges: climbing the mountains of England and Wales, and drinking a pint of the black stuff in every capital city in Europe.

After much deliberation, he came up with a list of 52 countries and managed to get a pint of Guinness in each one, never once having to resort to drinking the emergency can he took with him.

In most places he tracked down a bar serving Guinness, even in such unlikely places as Baku, Azerbaijan and Minsk, Belarus - but it was touch and go in one or two destinations.

Vatican City was problematic.

'We looked but didn't find any on sale there. We were rescued by a local Irish bar who, under the cover of darkness, brought some Guinness into St Peter's Square and served it up to us with great panache,' said Ted.

In Yerevan, Armenia, Ted's normal pre-trip homework was turning up nothing. Out of desperation he contacted the Irish consul in Yerevan. He replied that he thought Ted would be out of luck but to bring some with him and meet him for a drink.

'When I arrived in Yerevan, the man who picked me up from the airport to take me to my hotel, embraced my challenge, called around a lot of his contacts and that night took him on a tour of bars in Yerevan that might serve Guinness.'

In the last one, they looked in the fridge and found one lone can. Ted did end up meeting the Irish consul and his wife and enjoyed a lovely evening drinking Armenian wine.

Reports of an Irish bar in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, turned out to be fake news but luckily for Ted a member of the Danish Air Force living there had flown some Guinness in for Ted and invited him around to enjoy it.

There were a number of Irish bars advertising Guinness in Skopje, Macedonia, but all had run out. Eventually, Ted found some in a supermarket and took it back to the hostel where he shared some cans with other visitors.

By the time Ted got to Tira, Albania, the Irish bar had closed down and all that remained was an Irish tea towel hanging on the wall. However, on the way back to the apartment, Ted spotted a shop selling Guinness and managed to have that evening's tipple.

There were plenty of other adventures during these trips.

In Borjomi, Georgia, Ted was almost arrested. The President has a summer residence in the city and when Ted walked out of town to have a look, he was jumping up and down to peep over the wall by two armed police. They didn't speak any English nor Ted any Georgian but after ten minutes, they realised their interrogation was getting nowhere and ushered him on.

'In Chisinau, Moldova, the Irish bar was kind enough to not only give me the Guinness free but also gift me a bottle of whiskey,' said Ted. 'It was only afterwards did we realise that we had come with only hand luggage so couldn't take it home.'

As an admirer of the author and comedian Tony Hawks, who wrote the book 'Playing the Moldovans at Tennis' and afterwards set up a charity and children's home in Chisinau, Ted felt compelled to pay it a vist.

'We visited the home and donated them the bottle of whiskey - the most unlikely gift they have ever had,' he said.

The other challenge on Ted's 'to do' list - climbing the mountains of England and Wales - he began in 2004 and completed three years ago.

He still won't be putting his feet up though.

A retired toxicologist, Ted is currently delivering a number of talks about people who have been murdered by poison.

He is also chairman of the Roath Local History Society so spends a lot of his time researching the history of east Cardiff.

He hasn't stopped travelling and a new challenge is no doubt on the horizon.

Bray People