I have been in Ireland for about two weeks now and I can honestly say it is not what I imagined it to be.
Whether it is due to nostalgic grandparents or clever marketing schemes by the tourism industry, Ireland has a reputation in the United States as a place of rolling green fields and wise old men in sweaters smoking pipes. While this may be true in some cases, it is certainly not all that Ireland has to offer.
I did not anticipate the sheer pace of Dublin before I landed here. I am used to large cities, but Dublin is something else altogether. Its size alone can explain many of its characteristics. Dublin is a small city, comparatively, having a little over 500,000 people in only 115 square kilometers. For contrast, Boston has over 636,000 people in 231 square kilometers. Being so densely populated, it seems that Dublin is always teeming with people of all backgrounds zipping around to do their everyday tasks. This gives Dublin the impression of a bustling city while still holding onto the idea of a small town. Almost every day, I see people spotting friends on the street, and stopping to chat. In this way, Dublin is very much like a village where everyone knows one another.
Additionally, I did not expect how crucial the simple act of walking would be here in Dublin. Everyone seems to walk everywhere. Of course there are cars, but at least on the routes where I walk, there are as many taxis as private cars, if not more. In the States, people mostly drive everywhere, perhaps due to the larger size of cities and towns. Evidence of this can be seen in what people wear on the streets. It is very common to see a businessman or woman wearing a suit or similar work clothes paired with flashy running sneakers. While this may come as a shock to some people who are not used to this unusual combination, it is in fact quite practical for the amount of walking that people do here.
The roads themselves also provide an interesting point to observe when examining the ways in which people move about the city. The roads are a mix of blacktop and cobblestone, which provide a very literal contrast in Dublin for the old and new elements that mix together to create the city as we see it today. One thing that took some adjusting to here was the presence of the many buses that run throughout the city. Being a very old place, Dublin was not designed for such large vehicles, and buses often run over sidewalks, nearly clip pedestrians, or get stuck when turning on the narrow streets. I find it extremely interesting that elements of both the rich history of Dublin and modern European society can blend so harmoniously to create the city I am growing to love.