Over reading week, I decided to test myself physically and mentally. This resulted in a hike around The Dingle Way, which traverses the Dingle Peninsula clockwise from Tralee to Castlegregory. After hearing about “The West” so often from city folk and pristine Irish postcards, I decided I wanted to experience it for myself. And off I went!
Now, the first thing to consider when traveling in the Dingle Peninsula is that it is indeed a Gaeltacht region of Ireland. Based on what we’ve discussed in class I wasn’t too worried about the language barrier because it seems that people can cross back and forth from Irish to English quite easily. This was proven to be correct along The Way, however I forgot to prepare myself for the thick accents that came along with it. At pubs, we would join the locals for dinner and a pint. Conversations were a fluid mixture of Irish and English depending on the subject matter, and this fascinated me.
Hannah and I seemed to be quite the celebrities in these small towns we stayed in as well. No one quite seemed to understand why two American girls would be walking around the Dingle Peninsula in the end of February. Wherever we found ourselves for the evening, people wanted to know our story. It was never in a prying or uncomfortable manner, rather in a curious and honest way. For instance, in Anascaul we went to the one pub that was open on a Sunday night. There we sat with three local farmers and the bartender. We became known as the ‘French girls’ and were welcomed into the crack.
The West made me realize how different Ireland is despite its small size. When telling people that we were studying Irish culture in Dublin, it was often met with a scoff. One man told us that Dublin has no culture; it is the West that is truly Irish in being. This made me pause. Dublin obviously has a vibrant culture, I have been living there for two months now. But the more I thought, the more I realized Dublin is becoming an international city combining multiple cultures. Irish culture is definitely still alive in Dublin, however so are many others. People in the West have no real interest in going to Dublin, it seems they are content with their slow and predictable lives. Dublin was constantly referred to as having ‘too much buzz’ for the people out West. Neither view is bad, but it showed me another side of Ireland. The West seems like Dublin’s grandmother – wary of changes, more natural, and content with steadiness. I’m grateful to experience this wiser and calmer part of Ireland. It opened my eyes to the vastness of this seemingly small island.