The West of Ireland — Rebecca Leung

29 Sep

Last weekend, we went on a group trip to Galway in the West of Ireland. Prior to our Galway trip, I thought that Dublin was the most interesting city in Ireland, considering it was the capital of Ireland. This trip proved me wrong. I found that Galway was a unique and great town in its own way, and the Irish countryside to be quite relaxing after being in the city.

I had my first hostel experience in Galway. It was 6 people in a room and we all slept in bunk beds, with one shared bathroom. It was truly something different, having to share a small space with so many bodies. I will not go into details about how it was, but I can say I am glad that it was only a temporary arrangement. Nevertheless, living in hostels is truly an exclusively European experience and I am glad that I was able to experience that.

On our first day, we went to the beautiful Aran Islands and visited the Fort of Dun Aonghasa on Inishmore. The Fort dates back to 1100 B.C. and sits on a cliffside with a beautiful view. We sat on the edge of the fort and dangled our legs off the cliff side, feeling the rush of vertigo going through our heads. One can imagine how it would be like to defend a large and desolate fort as this, to feel safe within its walls from neighboring attacking tribes since it was the biggest fort construction at its time. It was truly massive, and one can very clearly imagine how intimidating the fort must have been to invaders.

We also visited the Aran Sweater Shop, where we learned that the different pattern of knitting and stitches on the sweaters were supposed to mean something different symbolically. The Aran sweater is also called the “fisherman’s jumper”, because it had been worn pre-dominantly by fishermen in the Aran Islands. Our tour guide also told us that families would stitch a unique design into the fishermen’s jumpers so that in case the fishermen got caught out at sea and drowned, people would be able to identify whose body it was that washed up on shore.

On the next day, we visited the Cliffs of Moher. I was especially excited for this part of our journey, because the movie The Princess Bride had been filmed there(in the scene where Intigo Montoya is scaling the Cliffs of Insanity to avenge his father). Unfortunately, there was a significant amount of fog that day which meant viewing the cliffs was practically near impossible. However, we were able to get to a point where we were able to see the sea below, all 230 feet below, which was at the very least completely breathtaking.

Our tour also took us to see some dolmans, which were old tombs with propped up stone slabs as markers. Each stone slab was about several tons, and one can only imagine how prehistoric people were able to build them. It still remains an intriguing mystery to this day. We were also able to visit a fairy ring, which, in traditional Irish belief, was formed by fairies. We walked around the ring in a clockwise fashion, which was supposed to be good luck.

If I had only remained in Dublin, I would have thought I had Ireland completely figured out. As it turns out, I found that there was much of this country I would never be able to explain. The trip to Galway taught me about the intriguing mysteries of nature, prehistoric legends, and superstitions. Galway was truly a great experience, and I really hope to return some time in the future.20130920_151440 (1) 20130921_095306

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