A couple weeks back we took our weekend trip to Galway and the surrounding Aran Islands. After a four hour bus ride we had the opportunity to walk around the city by ourselves, we bobbed and weaved through store after store, seeing bogwood sculptures, Irish pottery and even the fabled Aran Island sweaters. The sweaters made on the Aran Islands are traditionally made by different families, each with their own knitting pattern and worn by fisherman when they go fishing. The different patters would allow the people on shore to identify them if they washed ashore after being lost at sea. I was particularly struck by our visit to Inis Mór, the biggest of the Aran Islands. The Islands being a Gaeltacht, a governmentally protected area of Irish speakers, provided us a chance to test out the simple phrases that we had learned in our Irish Life & Cultures class. The most surprising part for my was walking through the little village and hearing Irish spoken by the locals, it made it seem even more real despite the fact that I was not the one speaking it.
One of the points of note about the Aran Islands is their ability to be farmed, because of the synthetically created soil, made of seaweed and sand and the superfluous amounts of rocks in that soil, the locals have had to create walls after excavating this plethora of boulders and pebbles alike in order to grow their food. Taking the bus around the island, these walls divided the countryside into a pseudo-grid, much like the streets in New York City divide the city into a grid. However, the countryside melted away as we drew near to Dún Aengus, an ancient prehistoric fort seated on a 100m cliff. The cliffs were just as magnificent as the fort itself, however, the fort’s history overshadowed the ancient cliffs that it is built on. Our tour guide Rob took us to the other side of the fort and told us about what appeared to be a field with jagged rocks sticking straight up out of it. The field was meant to slow down the enemy during an attack so the archers had a better chance of hitting their target. It is this rich history that permeates all of Ireland that makes it such a new experience, while the United States has it’s own history, there are no prehistoric forts off the coast of Boston.