Ireland’s landscapes are so beautiful that not only the “Star Wars” director decided to turn his film there. Many of my friends had also lived on the island for a couple of months and fell in love with it. Those images and my friend’s words in my mind made me dreaming of travelling to the country for a long time. In march 2016 I finally took the plane to start a two week backpacking tour.
My journey began in Dublin on a Monday night; I arrived late from the airport at my friend’s place, Estelle, who I got to know when I lived in Paris in 2012. She and her German boyfriend warmly welcomed me and gave me some advice about the country before I left the next day. Even though I had gotten sick just a day before my flight to Ireland and still not felt very well on my first real travel day I decided not to stay any longer in Dublin. I really wanted to profit from each and every second and not stay in bed sick. And that was the right decision I realized: Travelling makes you happy and happiness makes you healthy.
My first stop was Cork, the second biggest city in Ireland and to many Irish the “true” capital. A nice city, in the south, close to the ocean. I stayed in a hostel which was a bar at the same time, so I could enjoy a life concert in the evening. The next day I visited its cute English market, the city centre, Fitzgerald Park and an interesting museum in that park, the Cork public museum, with free entrance. I must say, it is a cute city but nothing really special. But if you visit Ireland, you probably do not come to visit its cities but its landscapes. And that is why I took the bus the same evening to Killarney – one hour and a half from Cork.
By the way, it’s easy to get buses and with a student card they are less expensive. However, they are not cheap at all and prices are organized strangely: From Dublin to Cork it’s three and a half hours for about 15€ and from Cork to Killarney it’s 20€ for one and a half hour bus ride (https://national.buseireann.ie).
In Killarney, a small and touristic 14.000 inhabitant city, I stayed for a couple of nights in a cheap hostel (depending on the city, you normally pay between 10 and 20€ on weekdays and more than 20€ on weekends per night) where I met some really nice girls from Germany and France and also Amy from the US. We both decided to make a trip together to the surrounding villages by hitch-hiking.
However at that moment I did not yet know that this day was going to be one of the best during my trips. The day was filled with amazing views of the country – we discovered landscapes around Dingle and Dunquin – and a lot of interesting conversations as well as lovely people. Amy’s and mine highlight for sure was Keith, who took us from Tralee to Dunquin (about one and a half hour ride) and not enough – he became our personal Irish guide! He showed us great places, made us discover the corner he lives and told us a lot of interesting stuff about Ireland, America, Europe and so many more topics. We had great discussions and Amy and me could not stop laughing since his way of talking was really funny. For example, when he assured us that Dublin was not really a part of Ireland or even its capital: No tourist should go to Dublin when visiting Ireland, but instead visit the “true” Ireland, its landscapes. It was the way he was talking that made Amy and me laughing all the time. Eventually we even fetched his son from school all together and it somehow felt as if we had become something like friends.
Some drivers also asked us what we loved about their country – no doubt they wanted to make sure that we felt Ireland is the most beautiful country in the world – and I can somehow understand their patriotism and pride. So of course we mentioned the landscapes, but also the open-minded people, since that was our impression after such a great hitch-hiking day. But then one English woman told us that she has been living in Ireland since a couple of months and had real problems by making friends. Apparently many Irish are open-minded in the beginning, but it’s hard to stay in contact. A characteristic I already know from Brazil…
The next day I went on a trip by my own and discovered the “Ring of Kerry” on a bus tour, which was therefore more touristic than the day before. What can I say? Again great views, amazing actually. Those views you cannot describe by words, which is why I put the photos below.
Although I could have stayed for many more days without being bored, since Killarney and its surroundings really offer a lot of sightseeing tours, I had to leave to my next destination, Galway. So many people had told me that this city was really worth a visit, so I was quite curious.
And soon I realized that they were right. Galway is not a very big city and after a couple of days you won’t need any map no more (except for me since I always get lost). There are a lot of cultural things to see however. Whenever I walked through its city centre, and even on a Sunday, groups or individual people were making music or other activities in its streets. There was a small market in the centre with lots of local products, too. And of course I had to visit Ireland’s famous pubs and get a couple of Guinness, which by the way have different tastes in different Irish cities! I was more than lucky to meet two guys from France with whom I spent a lot of time and with whom I discussed about quite interesting subjects. That’s one reason why I love travelling in hostels: You get to know so many people, you can make friends all over the world by staying in only one place. On our last day together we prepared a big French/German/Irish brunch, it was the perfect way to say goodbye.
Now, Galway is not only popular for itself, but also for its surroundings. If you go there, you cannot miss the famous “Cliffs of Moher” and also Connemara! I visited both again on a bus trip. The photos will prove why they should be part of your “to do” list:
More than once I remembered the wonderful film “PS: I love you” travelling through Ireland and especially Galway, also because of the famous song “Galway girl”. If you do not know the film yet and want to get an idea of what Ireland can offer you, watch this YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ox6bFObL_A
Another big surprise during this day was when I put on my jacket I hadn’t used for a couple of days and discovered in its pocket a card from a game, it was a heart seven, and written on this card – a phone number! I had no clue who had put it in my pocket and when, but I found it a funny idea.
My last days I spend back in Dublin with my French/German friends Estelle, her boyfriend Jack and his sister Vicky. I am still very grateful for the funny and interesting days I spend with them, when I learned a lot about vegan lifestyle, communism, liberty of speech and many more topics.
And of course we celebrated all together Saint Patrick’s day!! That was why I had chosen this period to go to Ireland. Saint Patrick actually is the country’s primary saint who was active as a missionary during the second half of the fifth century. The 17 march, when Saint Patrick’s day in celebrated, is said to be his day of death.
So we started our day with a Hurling match, a typical Irish sports game where players use a stick (a “hurley”) to hit a small ball and to get it into a net. Of course everyone in the stadium and in the streets, including us, was dressed in green-orange-white colours, with flags and big hats. We made party the whole day and met some of Jack’s friends in the evening. What I realized was different to for example carnival in Cologne: Drinking alcohol in public is completely forbidden and people keep to that rule since otherwise they will get real problems. So they all go to pubs, which probably therefore is one reason why they are so successful in Ireland. People do not seem to care about how much money they spend, as long as they have a Guinness in their hands!
The following days we visited all together a big park, Powerscout Garden, about one hour from Dublin and of course Dublin itself. It was not my first time in the country’s capital, but this time I had the impression to see a lot of new places, which either means that it’s actually a really big city or that I have a short memory. I guess it’s a mixture of both.
Jack, who studies at Trinity College, could make Vicky and me visit its museum with the famous book of Kells for free. Walking through the city, I stopped to watch a really good street artist, I stayed in the crowd of people for at least twenty minutes, laughing and enjoying the moment. And I admired the architecture in Dublin’s city centre, which is different from other European countries. I would describe it as inviting and cosy, but it’s hard to explain.
After my two week journey I realized that I had spent a lot more money than I had planned – although people had warned me before, I wasn’t really prepared to Irish prices!
However, I did not only spend money, but also wonderful moments with great people, which you cannot buy with any currency in the world. The places I visited and the friendships I made and reinforced will always make part of me and of my souvenirs. Thanks to all those who made part of my journey!