To the West (Gallway and more) – Joe Hester

29 Oct

            I packed my backpack full of a weekends worth of clothes and toiletries. We were about to embark on our first major excursion, Galway. We loaded up into two coach buses and left Dublin. We drove for quite some time passing farm after farm and we even got to see the Irish sunset over the rolling green country-side. It was a nice change of pace. Having been in the bustling city of Dublin for about a month it was nice to get away from the city and see what rural Ireland had to offer.


            We arrived at Galway during the night everyone was ready to get off the bus and explore the city.  It was different from Dublin. The streets were rather quaint and everything seemed closer together.  The sound street performers rang through the air as the city of Galway let us down its winding roads.


            The next morning we woke up and boarded our buses to go to the Aaron Islands. We took a bus to the ferry seeing more farmland and the Irish west coast. We also passed the largest area of bog that I have seen.  We arrived at the ferry and this was a particularly special moment for me. You see I am not really a big fan of boats or the ocean for that matter. Large vessels like cruise ships are no problem, but stick me in a smaller boat where every wave rocks the boat and I get a little more uncomfortable.  Nonetheless, I was determined not let this voyage ruin my trip and I carried on.


            The Aaron Island’s sweater shops greeted us. I learned that each family had its own pattern, which were used to identify dead fishermen when they washed up onto shore. This was a rather gruesome, but nonetheless interesting. We then took a tour of the Aaron Islands visiting ancient monasteries and fortresses. The terrain was particularly rocky here, which made me wonder how this land was suitable for farming. I then learned that all of the farmland was man made. The highlight of the Aaron Island was the cliffs. Looking over the cliffs and just experiencing the vertigo that came with it was truly humbling. Knowing that people actually die on these cliffs every year from eroding rocks falling beneath peoples feet was truly terrifying and exciting at the same time.


            The next day we were able go out and “see” the Cliffs of Moher. Now I say, “see” because on that day we had experienced the worst fog that I had ever seen. The fog was so thick that you could not even see the faint outline of the cliffs without a strong gust of wind. I was even led to believe that the cliffs did in fact not exist and that it was all a rouse set up with fog machines, fans and speakers blasting ocean noises. This was disappointing to say the least, but I can still say that I was at the Cliffs of Moher.


            One would think that Ireland, being the small nation that it is, would not be so different from coast to coast. However, I was surprised at the differences in culture between the west and the east. The largest surprise was the fact that some of the folks on the Aaron Islands did not speak English as their first language. It was interesting to listen in on Irish conversations. Coming to Ireland initially, I thought that Irish was a dead language, however it seems that I was very wrong, the Irish language is very well alive in Ireland. That fact shows just how proud the Irish are in holding onto their very unique culture and history.


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