Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Cork, Doolin & Ennis - Into the Fairy-Tale

We left Dublin Heuston Station for Cork on the intercity train system Irish Rail (Iarnród Éileann in Gaelic). Cork is a city if ~300,000, situated on the southern cost of Ireland, famous for the last port-of-call for much Irish-Canadian immigration for centuries, as well as considered "the Real Capital" by some due to its role in the Irish Independence and civil war in the 1920s from Britain.

The train was quick and smooth - but slow by European standards - at around 140km/h. Luckily Canadian trains are non-existent so I was very happy. I can't help but wonder why this train system couldn't be implemented in a similar distance of Calgary to Edmonton with far more population and intercity traffic. 

Trains of this speed are inexpensive compared to high-speed ideas of 300km/h thrown around in Alberta. The trains, stations and affiliated infrastructure is all minimal (I.e. Cheap) and would require far less effort than a over-kill high-speed line.

Travel in confort and style. Coffee, "long-life" milk and blogging can all be done while travelling. Why can't this work in Alberta?

Cork is a pretty - yet clearly gritty - city. The accent here is nearly impossible for me to understand and differs substantially from Dublin and elsewhere. Several Irishmen we met made fun of Cork for this too as they struggle too sometimes. 

The River Lee in central Cork:

We stayed for just one night and watched World Cup matches, however the pub we went to it was a second tier event - a playoff game for hurling was on and attracted the real crowd. Hurling is a weird lacross-like game. Look it up because I don't get it.

After Cork we took the train to Ennis - more on this later - in hopes of seeing the famous Cliffs of Moher. A bus/train transfer and we arrived in Doolin, a tiny hamlet famous for Irish folk music on the west coast of Ireland. This is the Ireland that you picture in your mind:

Green rolling hills, no trees, rock fences and a healthy dose of Irish culture. The hostel was beautiful and full of travelers from all over Europe:

One thing strange about Ireland: it always feels empty. All the streets don't have enough traffic. No one walks around anywhere. It took a few days to figure out why: pubs.

In the town of 50 houses there are 5 pubs, most older than Canada. Everyone goes there: babies, children, grandmas , teens, youths etc. It is common to sing and fiddle or play the recorder here; as well as a round of dancing to break out. It is also common to give beer to babies and children (albeit small amounts) which was surprising how prevalent it was. We left the pub at midnight and the whole town was still going hard on the Sunday night, singing, drinking and partying with babies still around. 

The pub operates much differently than in Canada. It operates as the main store , community hall, social spot and drink spot in an area. Unlike Canada, there is little culture for being outside or having patios. I suspect the typical wet weather and the reality that the country has little in the way of natural space - it has been inhabited and farmed for thousands of years. Everywhere you go, nearly Everyone is inside the pub all the time.

After chatting with locals all night, we went to the Cliffs of Moher in the morning. Spectacular :

The beauty in the landscape is very impressive here. Everything is green and a certain aura exists in the landscape that can't be explained until you experience it yourself.

Ennis was our next stop, staying at the Queens Hotel, famous for being mentioned by James Joyce built next to a 13th century friary. The town was an incredible network of narrow streets and cobblestone buildings:

Best part: an old man street busking with a banjo missing a string sounded very familiar. 

He was playing The Weight by The Band. In Gaelic. It was a beautiful and perfect rendition; better than the original :)

This whole country is truly a fairy-tale.   

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