Archive | September, 2013

Galway Adventures

30 Sep

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to travel to the western wonderland of Galway on the coast of Ireland. The bus ride took us about three hours through the winding roads of the Irish countryside. The ride went by quickly though because the hills and mountains were so scenic.

My favorite place we visited was the island of Inis Mor. From our hostel in the heart of Galway, we took an hour bus ride and then another 45 minute ferry ride to the island. With a population of less than a thousand, Inis Mor has a small town feel. The people in all the local shops were all friendly and welcoming.

Aside from taking in the beautiful scenery, we also had the opportunity to learn some new interesting things about Ireland. For example, on Inis Mor, our guide took us to a grave yard which was hundreds of years old. It was here that he revealed to us the value that Irish people put on place of burial. Since ruins are so common in Ireland, they are a big part of the Catholic culture and landscape. The people of Ireland wish to be buried in place that has a connection to important history. He mentioned that mothers try from their child’s birth to get them spots in prestigious burial sites.

 

We also visited a monastery where we discussed the fusion of Christian and Pagan identity in Ireland. Carved in the stone of this ruin was the Irish word for “two canons” which symbolized the fusion between the two cultures. Another fusion of these two beliefs can be found in the Celtic cross. The t-shaped cross is clearly a symbol of Christ and the Christian religion. The circle, however, comes from pagan beliefs and represents their sun God. As a polytheistic society, the pagan people believed in more than one deity—the sun god being most supreme. When the Christian missionaries came to Ireland, the Irish did not understand the idea of one god. The missionaries then explained to them that their god—who came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ—was like the sun god: and so the Celtic cross was born.

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The West of Ireland

30 Sep

As I boarded the bus headed for the West of Ireland I had no idea what to expect, but as the ride wore on, the scenery began to look more and more like the stereotypical Ireland. We passed burnt-red bogs and rolling green fields crisscrossed with stone walls. It took us three hours to get to Galway. When we arrived we set up shop in a hostel called Snoozles, a short walk from the city center. The city was like a toned down version of Dublin. It was a full-blown city with great night life and music, but it had a small town feel. 

 

The next day we learned that we would be headed to the Aran Islands. We took a ferry to Inis Mór, the biggest of the three islands. The group then piled into two buses for a tour of the major landmarks on the island. As we drove I was astonished to see how empty the island was. Small rock walls crisscrossed all over the island making up hundreds of small square fields. I learned from the tour guide that before the great Irish Potato Famine, each field was inhabited by one Irish family. Each family would grow potatoes on their land in order to survive. It was hard to believe that a whole family could live off an area so small. It was almost eerie to driving through such a desolate area that used to be so densely populated. Our first stop was the ancient monastic settlement of Na Seacht dTeampaíll (The Seven churches).  The site contained the ruins of two small churches and some domestic buildings. Like many other sites in Ireland, the settlement was a center for monastic learning and the blending of native Celtic religious beliefs with the Latin Christendom of the European mainland. Our next stop was the prehistoric fort called Dún Aonghusa. The fort was semi circular in shape and was backed by a gigantic cliff that dropped directly into the sea. It was exhilarating to sit on the edge of the cliff and look out across the ocean. The time we spent at Dún Aonghusa was probably my favorite part of the weekend. After having lunch at the base of the mountain, we boarded the ferry back towards the mainland. 

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The next morning we left Galway and headed towards the Ailwee Cave. The Cave had been the recent discovery of a farmer who had stumbled upon it by accident. I could hardly believe it when the tour guide told us that the man who discovered it had walked through the entire cave with nothing but a candlelight. After we toured the cave we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. It was hard to appreciate the true beauty of the cliffs because it was so foggy, but it was still fun to walk along the edge on the cliffs listening to the ocean thousands of feet below. There were some points along the walk were we were able to see the ocean far below. It was an amazing experience that I was glad to share with my friends in the program. 

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When it was time to board the bus back to Dublin I was sad to say goodbye to Galway. I had an amazing time seeing all the West of Ireland had to offer, and the weekend had been a great bonding experience for me and the rest of the N.U.in group. 

Ben Goossen

Weekend at Galway

30 Sep

Randall Blake

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go to one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and possibly the world, Galway. My first weekend trip took me to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands and I was rewarded for my travel with some one-of-a-kind views. On the first day, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, and saw a small castle and very large cliffs. When I imagined Ireland before I ever came to this country, this is what I expected. It took three weeks, but I found what I was looking for. 

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You could walk for miles and miles and you would still see some of the fantastic scenery these cliffs offer. The best part about these cliffs were that they were relatively unprotected. If these cliffs were in the United States, there would be fences and clear, glass walls blocking people from going anywhere near the edge. In Ireland, on the other hand, there was a small wall and a sign that cautioned people. You were actually able to walk up and feel the true height of the cliffs by dangling your feet off of them. That was the greatest part of the weekend. 
The next day, we went to the Aran Islands and had the opportunity to see the ancient fort and cliffs there. That fort was used 2500 years ago, and we had the opportunity to walk 

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around it. We stood on the same ground that, thousands of years ago, people stood on, prayed on, lived on. I love that feeling of history flowing through me. That day, there was a lot of fog and it only added to the ominous feeling of the ancient fort. 

Finally, Galway revealed itself as an exciting city with a lot to offer. The best part was Saturday night, when I got to take part in a “zombie night.” A lot of people dressed up and got their faces painted to look just like zombies. There were about a hundred people that started and people joined on as the night went on. The part I loved most was the fact that all of this was for charity. I’ve seen 5Ks, picnics, talent shows, but Galway showed me a new type of fundraiser that made me much more interested in the cause. 

Galway proved to be a city that was different from Dublin, but had its own beautiful aspects. The beauty offered by the outlying areas and the community-feeling that was offered by the citizens, even though I was only going to be there for the weekend, were parts that made Galway wonderful. This weekend has been something I will never forget. 

Galway Lovin’ (Elizabeth Zona)

30 Sep

This past weekend the NUin program took on Galway, Ireland. This was a trip that I was especially looking forward to. When I thought of Ireland before I visited it, I envisioned green fields strewn with cattle and sheep, as far as the eyes could see. SInce we had only really Dublin up to that point, I was thrilled to finally be able to experience stereotypical Ireland. During the three hour bus ride that evening, we could literally see the transition from the urbanized city center to the enchanting countryside we have all grown to love in films and stories. 988708_10151889595783501_740124037_nBuildings began to get smaller and further apart; farm animal sightings increased while human sightings decreased; and everything was a richer shade of green than I think I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

My first impression of Galway city center was definitely a good one. Not only was it a lot smaller than Dublin, it was a lot easier manage as well. My biggest issue in Dublin so far is getting lost, but in Galway we found that everything we could ever need was along one long street which was very similar to Grafton Street. It still had the Dublin feel to it, being filled with tourist shops and street performers, but you could always tell that you weren’t in the real city anymore. We awoke the first morning in our hostel, and immediately set out  on 40 minute ferry ride to the Aran Islands. The scenery was more than I could ever hope for, complete with quaint little towns and pastures just as I had expected. What I hadn’t expected was all the ruins of churches and monasteries which we also passed on our way. The cemetery we visited on our way to the cliffs was not something I expected either. Everything from the architecture of the church on its grounds, to the designs of the gravestones told the story of the culture of the island. The cliffs were my favorite part, on which we visited the Fort of Dún Aonghasa. Although the lack of railings or blockades from the edge of the cliff was daunting at first, the view was definitely worth the risk. I felt like I was on the scene of a movie where some epic battle was about to take 1229964_10151889574928501_1076223220_nplace; a cliff face literally vertical from the sharp rocks and crashing waves below was absolutely breathtaking (not to mention all the walking we did to make it to the top, that was definitely breathtaking as well).

On the second day our destination was the Cliffs of Moher, though we made a few stops along the way. In Ballyvaughan we saw the Aillwee Cave, in Clare we stopped at Burren and at Doolin we stopped at a fairy circle. Although it was extremely foggy when we finally reached the Cliffs, it was still incredibly easy to tell just how majestic they were. The cliffs were definitely more of a tourist attraction than the other places we visited in Galway. There were droves of people just like us piling on and off of tour buses and vans, although they must have all been as sad as we were at a lack of view.

Our trip to Galway is something that I will always remember. There’s just something about climbing cliffs and visiting graveyards that really brings a group of people together. More so than that, I was able to experience the kind of Ireland that I’ve been hoping to visit for many years now. Galway, its been real, I hope I can return one day if my future travels ever take me back in your direction.

My Trip to Galway (Avery Cok)

30 Sep

I would like to consider myself a curious and adventurous man. So, when I heard about the trip to Galway, I knew that exploring another portion of Ireland would be another thing I can check off my bucket list. Although a good amount of the trip was spent driving from place to place, it was a great experience. That weekend was action-packed and there was something to do every single moment of the day. My first day was filled with great excitement in which I got the privilege to visit a mysterious cave and to be able to visit the Cliffs of Moher. I would like to add that I was too afraid to be able to hang my legs over the cliff, which somewhat disappoints me. However, being there was just as good enough for me. I enjoyed every part of that day. The nature of the cliffs was so serene and beautiful and I found myself to stare at the waves as it clashed against the broken rock at the bottom of the cliffs. I literally loved every single part of the cliffs. There is nothing I can complain about. I felt so peaceful, while I was there. I am so grateful to have experienced something like that and feel so privileged to be able to see things like that. I have a few people to thank for that. The first is the wonderful people at the NU.in program that made these trips able to happen. And the second, for obvious reasons, are my parents who have given me so many opportunities that I’m so thankful for and I feel as if I can’t thank them enough. My trip to both Dublin and Galway has been a humbling experience. I have learned many things since my arrival, which revolve around growing up and becoming a man. I am actually so thankful to college because, without it, I don’t know where my life would be headed nor would I have ever been coercing myself to learn how to live independently.  But, I don’t want to stray from the topic of Galway too much. Galway is an interesting area. The places we went to were breathtaking, if that is fair enough to say because I feel as if that is an understatement. Truthfully, my trip is really hard to explain in words.  Let me put it like this. Day One: filled with amazing and interesting sites to see. The view of the cliffs cannot be done justice with words or just pictures; it is a place that has to be visited and adored with the human eyes. The cave was filled with exuberantly colored minerals and has this natural rocky smell to it, which I loved. The sites on the road were very enhancing and the views of the bodies of water were extraordinary. The water looked so crisp and clean. In addition, the vegetation at the cliffs was so lively and abundant. The picture of the rocky terrain was just so cool and interesting and I feel as if there is an elaborate story that can be told from it. In plain, all of the sites were just beautiful and gorgeous.  The next day was filled with just as much excitement.  There were more cliffs to look down from (I took a picture of how close to the edge I was able to place my feet without freaking out), but there was really no beauty to stare into. Well, one could marvel at the natural beauty of  how it was built, but it was really hard to see through the exorbitant amount of fog that permeated the air. The day was filled with exploration of the island. We went to a graveyard, which was really cool. I was extremely interested in the way that the tombstones looked and how the overall design of the graveyard was. In sum, I had a great time on the weekend trip; I just wish I didn’t have to leave so early, but we all have to do things in life that we don’t want to do. As a result of this trip, I feel more connected to the Irish culture, that I have come to know and love, during my stay in Ireland. Thanks for reading!

-Avery Cok

graveyardcliff

wowzers

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cave

 

Inishmore

29 Sep

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Sitting on the boat as it rocked back and forth over each wave brought unease to my stomach. I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning because I couldn’t find anything gluten-free at our hostel’s complimentary breakfast so I was starting to feel nauseous. Fortunately, my excitement to see Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands, outweighed my feeling of illness enough to hold me over until our boat finally docked. As I stepped off the boat into the unpolluted, fresh Irish air, I immediately felt better. The brisk breeze awakened me to the breathtakingly beautiful views that surrounded us. Miles behind us was the Galway mainland which was barely visible now, making the island seem like a whole new world. The village was small and consisted of a handful of sweater and souvenir shops, which immediately caught my attention. Luckily we were given enough free time to roam the markets so I could buy some real Irish wool sweaters, socks, and a cap for my dad. We then took a bus tour across the island. Nine of us squeezed into a van with a tour guide named Martin, who was a native of Inishmore. He spoke with a thick irish accent and was very hard to understand at times, but we would all nod and smile as if we understood anyways. The population of Inishmore is 840 people, which is only a few hundred people more than my small high school in Maine. The island was covered green fields and rolling hills, scattered with houses and farm animals. On the main road we took that winded along the coast, we would see only one house every mile or so; I think I saw more horses and cows than I did homes. 

On the other end of the island, we stopped at a cafe that had the most delicious Irish food I’ve had since we have been here. I ordered potatoes gratin, a very tasty meal that acted as fuel for the hike up to the cliffs and Dun Aengus, a prehistoric stone fort. The hike up to the top was short compared to the amount of walking we were used to since moving to Dublin. When we made it to Dun Aengus, beauty was striking me from every direction. In front of me, the cliffs towered 330 feet over the Atlantic ocean. We were surrounded by a fort, built circa 1100 BC, that seemed majestic in a way. Beyond the fort to our backs were those rolling hills, covered in grids of stone walls. These walls were built way back in the day when new settlers were trying to clear the rocks that covered the land in order to establish civilization by building houses and having fields for growing and raising food. The feeling of being atop these cliffs and seeing the picturesque views felt like an out of body experience. As I stared across the sea towards my homeland, I thought about my friends back home in the States and what they were doing at that exact moment, which was most likely doing homework in the library or watching netflix. And here I was, a freshman in college in my first semester staring out over the cliffs of Dun Aengus on Inishmore. This was one of the unforgettable moments that made me that much more appreciative to have the opportunity to live in such a beautiful country this semester.

Michaela Forde

Galway

29 Sep

Galway is a city that I had absolutely no preconceptions about, so last weekend, when we had the privilege of going, I was excited about what I would see when I first went. Galway is almost a straight-shot west from Dublin. The bus ride, about three hours, was during dusk and was an utterly beautiful view.

Staying in a hostel for the first time is a real experience. You share a room with three to five other people as well as a single bathroom. Being the younger child of only two, I thought that sharing a room with one other person was difficult, however Snoozles proved me wrong. Regardless, staying in the hostel is an experience I don’t regret.

Fortunately, the weather in Ireland has been the best in years, and on our multiple excursions, we have had amazing weather. On the first day in Galway, while one group went to the Cliffs of Moher, my group went to the Aran Islands, Inis Mor. We took a 45 minute ferry ride to a small, quaint sea-side town. There were small cafes and restaurant as well as a large wool-sweater store for which the Aran Islands are famous. A few of us had the chance to start the hike early, so we took it. I really am not accustomed to hiking. There are not many hiking places in Atlanta, Georgia, but the more hiking we do, the better I get at it. We arrived at the cliffs and the view was absolutely phenomenal. I had never seen anything like that view in my entire lifetime. There was silence as the each of us took the time to take in what we were looking at. We then proceeded to take pictures of people falling off of the cliffs, pretending of course. We returned to the ferry (with a new wool sweater!) and from all of the excitement, passed out with fatigue on the way back. Returning to the hostel, we stopped at and learned about fairy circles – Hawthorne trees that are surrounded by rocks, from what I understand. You walk clockwise around the Hawthorne tree while making a wish. It all seems very mysterious to me how these legends come about.

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The next day we were on our way to the Cliffs of Moher, but first we stopped at the Ailwee Caves. These caves are large and vast (except for when people bumped their heads on the low ceiling).  There are stalagmites and stalactites everywhere, and they have been forming for hundreds of years. At one point, our tour guide turned off all of the lights. It was so dark, no one could even see their hands in front of their faces. After lunch, we went off in search of the cliffs. Unfortunately on this day, our good luck had run out as the weather was so foggy, it was difficult to see more than ten feet in front of you. Regardless, we hiked forward and were rewarded with an amazing, though limited, view off of the cliffs. The view and height at which we were at were phenomenal and terrifying.

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The next day we had the morning to roam around, and what I found was a city filled with lively people and lively places to see. Everyone was awake and ready to go see their friends, open their stores, or grab a bite to eat. We found a river that runs through Galway, and the way everything seemed to move around it was stunning.

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Overall, the trip to Galway took my breath away with the amazing sites and the amazing liveliness that they all beheld. While Dublin is still my favorite, I’m happy to have experienced another part of Ireland and to have been able to see all of these sites that many people never even dream of experiencing in their lifetime. 

Amanda Duong