Friday, December 26, 2008

Why Aren't You Watching the Road?! : Our First Impressions in Ireland

Ireland is wonderful, to sum things up simply and neatly. We were drawn to its lovely rolling hills and beautiful rocky coastline. People are genuinely friendly, and perhaps a cynic would insist that the friendliness is only because we were obviously tourists, but we never felt that way during our visit. Even Dublin, one of the larger cities in Ireland, has a very welcoming and comfortable feeling. You don’t feel like a stranger in Ireland- a visitor, yes, but never like an outsider. Perhaps our excellent experience can be highly attributed to our incomparable hosts, Erin and Terry.

Before I really get going, I have to say “thank you” so sincerely to them. They welcomed us to their home, put us on interesting paths to follow, and really made our vacation an incredible event. I hope we can return the favor one day.

To address the title of this post, I have to explain that one of the first things you are likely to do when you arrive in Ireland, is have to drive somewhere. Perhaps you will not be doing the driving (this is wise), but you will find yourself in some form of public transportation or a private car. Unless you are from Ireland, the UK, or Japan, you will probably feel nauseated for the duration of your time in this beautiful country. Of course, I’m referring to the driving- on the other side of the road. You might think it will not affect you, but I can only say that I, personally, was proven so wrong in this opinion. Because the Irish are used to driving on the wrong side of the road (har har har), they drive very fast and, in some cases, rather recklessly. You might consider saving your Dramamine for the ride upon landing, instead of wasting it on the plane ride. I am only looking out for your well-being.

Terry was kind enough to drive within a reasonable speed, and for that I thank him heartily. Still, every turn brought fear to my being- we were going the wrong way! It’s hard to teach your brain not to fear this reverse maneuvering. I gave up and just tried to watch the beautiful cities and country pass me by, instead of looking forward while in a moving vehicle.

Now I’ve gone and scared you off, eh? I can assure you that if you choose to visit any part of the Irish coast, your arrival at the sea will make the journey all worth while.

I love the ocean. Being able to stand next to the Atlantic and feel the salty breeze on my face was enough to make me want to pack up all of my belongings and leave my landlocked German home far behind.

Of course, we were able to recognize the very real aspects of daily life, which are not so different from life in the United States. Housing is similar, although decidedly more European in form. The country has several types of public transportation, and cars are smaller than in America but nearly as prevalent. Shopping may be done at small markets, in boutiques or department stores, or even in some large malls. English is spoken nearly always, but all signs include the Irish language. There is a blend of commerce similar to that seen in the United States, shoved together into a much smaller space. Google has a headquarters in Dublin, but you can buy hand-spun yarn from Irish sheep a few miles down the road at the Dun Laoghaire farmer’s market each Sunday. These aspects of life seem well-balanced and appealing.

In addition to the natural beauty of Ireland, there is an inherent charm and magic about the island. Somewhere within the fascinating history of Celtic culture and its modern counterparts, the lovely sound and look of the Gaelic language, the stoic stone architecture and the sincere inhabitants of the country, it is easy to become immersed in a permanent daydream. Tolkein wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” I think those who wander in Ireland are happy to lose themselves, for a time.

No comments: