10 , 2004
I believe I am about at the halfway point of my time on the Emerald
Isle. I think I have a pretty good feel for the culture and what
life is like here. I've learned that punctuality is optional and
that it is bad manners to turn down a drink. Still, I'm sure I won't
have time to see and do all the things I want to do while I'm here.
This week is ‘reading week’ at Queens, and I’m
taking advantage of the time off to visit some of the other parts
of the island. I just returned yesterday from an action-packed 4-day
tour of the Republic of Ireland, the south part of the island.
The first stop on the tour was Dublin where my housemate Sandy and
I met up with ten other backpackers from Australia and a crazy Irish
bus driver. Dublin is a really lively place. It is also, I think,
a city of contradictions. It’s the supposed heart of Irish
culture with its traditional pubs, spirited music, and green pennant
flags. But it’s also the most modern city on the island and
the largest. Sometimes you can see the old and new coming together
quite literally, as in the old cobblestone road that leads you right
to the huge shopping mall. Dublin is also a very international city.
I was quite shocked when I heard foreign languages in the streets
more frequently than the distinct Irish accent.
After a night of shopping in Dublin, we
drove on into the gorgeous Irish countryside. Clonmacnoise, an ancient
monastic settlement nestled on the banks of the river Shannon, was
a thoroughly moving experience. The monastery is known for the intricate
artistry of its stone Celtic crosses. Despite numerous attacks from
invaders, many of the crosses are still well-preserved. Religion
plays an enormous role in the shaping of Irish history. The period
of Protestant and Catholic infighting, known as ‘the Troubles,’