When this spring it turned out I will be travelling to Ireland by business, I can’t say I wasn’t excited. It was a new place I’ve never visited before. However, the excitement wasn’t as big as it usually is, simply because it has never been on my bucket list.
Sure, I heard nice stories from few friends who went drinking to Dublin and I have seen few movies that involved Irish scenery . So, in my mind, it was all about greenery and good beer. I don’t drink beer. And I wasn’t going to Dublin.
To make things more interesting, I had very little time to prepare and explore my posibilities. Actually, as I recall my whole preparation consisted of checking out the weather prognostics. High five, Ana. High five.
So, I flew myself straight to Cork, with a very heavy (yes, I know, one should travel light, but you have to understand I am always cold, and it rains all the time in Ireland) suitcase and very few expectations.
Little did I know. Very soon, this beautiful country and these positive people surprised me to the extent that I still feel guilty for taking my trip for granted and not understanding how incredible this country is. Let me introduce you to my great discoveries of Ireland.
From the moment I stepped out of a plane, I felt the positive vibe. Chatty driver with a constant grin on his face, who did not make fun of me when I attempted to sit on a driver’s seat because I was too uninformed to know they drive on the same side of the road like English people. (But for some reason I thought they use pounds there-another mental high five to myself.) Amazing staff in the Guesthouse-I honestly thought the lady at the reception is going to cry because I came with my heavy load and they didn’t have the elevator and the only available room was on the second floor. I think she apologised 5+ times.
As it turned out in next few days, that is just how Irish people are. If you ask ten people for directions, ten out of them will be happy to point you where ever you need to go or even walk you there. And ginger boys have certain charm, I am tellin’ ya.
What you need to know about Cork and the area around (and from what I have heard, it applies to Ireland as a whole) is that it is very multi-culti. I have made Nepali, Polish, English and Romanian friend just within few days. And while other places I have been to have always at least a bit animosity towards foreigners, here they all seem to co-exist as a super friendly community of smiling, cheerfull and talkative people. Nope, all the rain did not make them grumpy. And the accent makes them just more charming.
As I would roam around the town, very often I’d come across posters announcing stand-up comedy shows on various days and various places. Turns out they are quite popular there. When I’d sit for coffee in one of the numerous coffee shops or pubs they have, I’d see waiters joking and teasing each other. When I’d walk into souvenir shops I’d see funny mugs (as I have major love for coffee mugs) with witty Irish blessings or shirts with quotes about drinking. Drinking team 2015. Don’t know about you but I find it quite humorous. I don’t recall any of the countries I’ve been to, having such funny and cool souvenirs.
However, my personal favorite, source of best laughs in my time there-their accent. I like to think my English is pretty good, but after sitting down for a drink with someone, two rounds later I would have a lot of problems understanding what they are saying. Few more rounds after I would be completely lost in the translation. Because I had no other option, I’d explain that I do not have a clue what is the conversation about and they’d just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh, okay” and giggle about it. First time I felt like an idiot, but then I realised they are used to this and very cool about it. Well, okay then. Let’s have another one!
Ok, this one is pretty obvious. Still, I’d like to be more detailed about it. Much more. Because it is absolutely not just about being green. It about all colors you can imagine. It is blue, and golden. And beige and yellow. It’s sand and it’s ocean. It is everything cool you can think of.
After I took a bus tour around Ring of Kerry, I remember I was walking home completely mindblown. And it wasn’t just because it was the first day in two weeks it didn’t rain.
Just within in few hours, I have seen it all: picturesque villages, rivers, old wooden bridges, beaches with sheeps casually walking around (when was the last time you’ve seen that?), ocean, cliffs, rocks, amazing Torc waterfall hidden in the forrest which actually reminded me of Hobbit movie (I was told by the driver many people made that comment before me) and nice lakes. Whoooa.
Charlie Chaplin sure knew what he was doing when he bought a house in Waterwille, beautiful little village near beach. Perfect place to mend your soul tired of city noise. In my memory this is how I feel about the nature I have seen in that area: It is a place to go and find your peace of mind.
CULTURE AND FOLKLORE
I am sure you all know about St. Paddy and his jolly day. Probably majority of you participated in celebration on that particular date, with a shamrock drawn on your face. Still, I think you’d all be amazed how rich Irish mythology is. Just as I was. Even though green color and leprechauns were always somewhere in the back of my mind when Ireland would get mentioned, my interest about it grew as I’d walk around souvenir shops in and out of town. They were everywhere. So I did a bit of research and I found tons of interesting stuff. Myths and legends about Druids, warrior bands, Swan Woman, fairies that would bring good or bad (majority of the times), and would have many, many shapes-sometimes being beautiful and sometimes old and ugly.
My personal fav are of course naughty leprechauns, fairies in a shape of an old man, which curse, drink and hide their pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. Well, if that is not interesting, I don’t know what is!
Also, let’s not forget amazing Irish folklore music (Celtic and Gaelic) which they are very proud of for a reason. It can either put you in a happy mood (even though you have no clue what they sing about) or it can awaken your inner drama queen. If you want to go out and get hammered with appropriate music, also no problem. Their music can’t do just one thing: leave you indifferent.
ANIMALS-EVERYWHERE YOU GO
Let’s just say a place I stayed in, had a nice big garden. With bunnies. No joke. If you felt like you don’t want to hang out with people that day, you just go to the garden and hang out with those little furry guys. Also, at breakfast they’d serve eggs from their own chickens. That were in that same garden, with bunnies. Preeetty unusal, I know. Pretty great too.
Another thing that I have seen in Ireland, and I have never seen before (and neither have you, I am positive about this one). So, while doing a bit of sightseeing, I witnessed a dog sat on donkey’s back. Two of them apparently lounge around all day long. Sometimes the dog sits, sometime he stands up, still on donkey’s back. But very rarely leaves the donkey. It left me kinda speechless.
On the very same day I made acquiantance with the donkey-dog duo, I held and pet a baby fox (so so sooooft).
Let me take it one step further, on the same day I held a lamb and played with a baby goat. Just few meters further down, near the ocean water, there were sheeps, lounging and feeding themselves. Because it is perfectly normal to see sheeps near the water.
You know, I am from Croatia, we have country side, we have seaside. We have sheeps and let me tell you-this doesn’t really happen. Needless to say-I loved it. And so did everyone around me.
Well, these are the main things Ireland surprised me with. List could go on and on. I could tell you how this is the first country in which I got tipsy before noon. Simply by drinking Irish coffee. I was naive enough to think it will be coffee with whiskey. While as a matter of fact, it was a whiskey with coffee.
If you have cool stories or surprises from Ireland, I would love to hear them in comments.
Untill the next post, lots of love from