I’ve been on the move since I left Dublin, but I am still in Ireland, as it is certainly tough to leave! As mentioned in my previous “Food and Drink” post, my first stop post-Dublin was to the vibrant and energetic city of Cork. In regards to the various cities in the Republic of Ireland, Cork suffers a bit from the “Number 2″ syndrome, in that it is constantly living in Dublin’s shadow — being that it is the second largest city. The relationship between the two is not unlike that of Chicago and New York; however, as the larger city (Dublin in this case) prides itself on its history and tradition whereas the smaller city (Cork in this case) takes the cake when it comes to innovation, forward-thinking, and culture.
Another factor adding to the uniqueness of the city of Cork is that several rivers create what is essentially an island directly in the middle of the city. This is known as the City Centre, and houses the majority of the pubs, restaurants, and shops. Basically, if you want to get out and about in the city, this is where you go. And as a side note, the infamous Blarney Castle and Blaney Stone are just outside of the city. I chose to skip this portion of the country, however, as I had no intention of wading through the crowds, being hung upside down by my ankles, and kissing a stone that millions of others have kissed (and locals frequently urinate on, at least supposedly).
After a few days in Cork, I decided to catch another bus to the town of Killarney a few hours away. As you’ll notice, I’m not actually posting any pictures of the city itself, as it is a bit too touristy for my tastes, but it does offer access to several points of interest nearby. Just outside of town is the Killarney National Park, where there are a multitude of walking, hiking, and biking paths (“hill-walking” as they call it, is pretty much a national pastime here, at least judging by the number of trails traversing the country).
The other big draw to this part of Ireland is what is known as the Ring of Kerry. Essentially, it is a 190-ish km loop around some of the more scenice vistas on the island. You can certainly walk or hike the ring, but if you’re on a time-schedule, many bus tours are available.
(Another interesting note is that through the first 6 days of my trip, I didn’t meet a single other American, yet when taking this tour, I met a group of 4 from none other than Columbus, OH, several of which live just down the street from me. Small World.)
And after the scenic vistas in the Killarney regions, I caught another bus for my final destination in the Republic of Ireland: the city of Galway. Essentially a college town (as students make up over 1/4 of the population), Galway has a more eccentric and bohemian feel to it, but is a great spot to take in some of the up-and-coming arts, music, and culture of the country. It is the type of place that you’ll find populated by hippies and street performers, along with one of the most raucaus night life scenes.
Besides the entertaining craic (basically meaning “talk and good times”) and the vibrant pub scene, Galway also affords easy access to an area of Ireland known as the Burren. This is a barren, rocky region of limestone where rocky, cliffside vistas replace the usual green pastures and farmland. Again, tours are easily available from anywhere in town:
The tour of the Burren (and for many, all of Ireland) culminates with the dramatic Cliffs of Buren, offering views out to the Atlantic Ocean from over 700 feet sheer cliff faces. Usually, the pictures would be a bit more dramatic than they are below, but as it has a tendancey to do in this country, there was a wee bit of rain.
Tomorrow morning, I’m finally leaving the Republic of Ireland, as I’ll be making my way towards Belfast in Northern Ireland, a separate region that technically belongs to the UK (though to say that this has been disputed is an understatement). But before I left, as promised, I had to dive into a Full Irish Breakfast — the glorious union of fried eggs, 2 saugsage links, 2 rashers of bacon, black pudding, white pudding, toast (not pictured), and tomatoes for good measure. I’ll be having my first heart attach in 5…4…3…