Ireland

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The Irish often told me that the true face of their country is in the provinces. So I got an idea to rent a car and go by endless roads to Galway and Kannemary. Yellow and green fields, bosks, small rivulets and hidden villages were everywhere. Galway ahead. Being an official capital of western Ireland, Galway, doubtless smaller than Dublin, is a combination of provincial comfort and big-city atmosphere. There are a lot of beautiful churches there. For example, St. Nicholas Church, founded in 1320, has a wonderful ornamental design, and is a medieval relic. Christopher Columbus had been listening to the mass there before he departed for a voyage. Joyce's wife's house (Nora Barnacle House), located in Bowling Green, was also near. That building is a combination of Victorian (traditional) and modern architecture.

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The cathedral. The Galway Irish Crystal Heritage Centre, which keeps the secrets of magic crystals, is a place I couldn't pass by. The town itself was very friendly and sunny, people there were very hospitable: they looked forward to talking about the sights of the city, and were always unselfish if someone sought for help. Showing a way to a strayed person, often walking with him or her to the place, helping with the luggage are matters-of-course. Mutual aid and involvement are, in my opinion, major characteristics of an Irish person.

Galway hotels are very cheap. Most of them are quite good and it is possible that the mistress of one of them is an angelic woman with agile manners.

Alhenry Heritage Centre, founded in 1235, can be reached in half-an-hour by car. This is a storage of best medieval monuments. Streets, walls, towers, and gates haven't changed for hundreds of years. This is the place for lovers of ancient things. Going along the seashore, which is cut by cliffy mountains and brings the coolness of the sea, we made a visit to Dangaaire Castle (the 16th century), which is famous for summer celebrations of medieval holidays.

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Castles are everywhere in Ireland. Covered with moss, they are open for tourists. Our group reached Aillwee Caves by midday. These are subterranean caves with lots of horrible deep and tangled passages. Low ceilings are frighteningly hanging over your head, knotty stalactites are sparkling in the drops of the flowing waters. An excursion is like an archeological research. I remember a narrow bridge: when we were crossing it, a clinking waterfall sprinkled somewhere over our heads. A flickering stream was falling down and shattering, bringing aquatic transparent shroud.

Pretending we were the diggers, we finally felt better, when we got to the surface. After we've passed Leamanagh Castle, covered with moss, looking like a dying Cyclops, we reached the most terrific place of our trip - the Cliffs of Moher. A very beautiful view: tall cliffs, watered by squally waves of the blue Atlantic ocean. The cliffs' ledges were flat in some places, so it was possible even to lay on them, observing the vertical sides and stormy waters downhill. However, you can fall down because of strong winds; but the views from that point forced me to neglect the danger.

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Kannemary, wild and barren land, stretches to the north-west. Its most remarkable thing was the long stone fences, which were built along the seashore by the local dwellers who were trying to clean the fruitless soil out. The mountains, which look like long caravans crossing the deserts and disappearing behind the skyline, are truly fascinating. The charming panoramas of the labyrinths of rocky islands, meandering creeks, and sparkling snow-white banks are seen from the top of the Twelve Bens Mountains. Kannemary is a land of Gaelic - the Irish language, which sounds like a sad song or heartfelt poetry. We've entered Kylemore Abbe while listening to this melody. Kylemore Abbe was a castle since the 18th century. It enchanted us by its luxuriant decoration: every nook of that wistful giant has been carefully preserved by the posterity.

The National Park, green and moist because of dews, was near the abbacy, and gave me some wonderful minutes of repose. Ireland has a lot of parks. Even a great number of the crowded commercial streets at the centre of Dublin did not prevent Central Park from becoming its heart. Now, thanks to its clean ponds, it is a shelter for ducks and a real paradise for tourists and residents who go there to escape from the city fuss.

There is comfort and luxury in the cruise along the sea shore. The cold wind in your face makes you make short stops to climb the coastal stones and silently watch the waves or collect sea shells thrown out of the sea with sand.

Ireland may not captivate you with exotics, but charms you with naturalness and seeming inscrutability. There are a lot of familiar things here for a Russian person: flora, mountain ranges, mere, and even climate - a warm September all year long. However, everything has a sharp relief, reproducing the appearance of a gothic church or a castle. This relief is majestic, inaccessible, always seeking to break free. This beauty is seen everywhere in Dublin's architecture: a tiny chapel behind the corner, or a church. Sometimes it makes you stop, astonished by the sight of a cathedral. For example, St. Patrick Cathedral, in which Jonathan Swift is buried.

Sometimes this cold cathedral shapes did not go with the lively personality of the Irish, always dancing and singing. If you don't know them you will hardly understand the sources of their humor and kindness, strong desire to live. Once I was lucky to be at the epicentre of this energy - Johnie Fox' Pub (The Dublin Mountains, Glencullen, Co. Dublin). This is the pub located in the mountains, higher than any other pub in the country. The narrow road edged by the sleeping houses leads to this pub. The first thing I saw when I reached the pub was a public call-box of the beginning of the 20th century with the relic green telephone set with big handset and dialer, on which you couldn't see the numbers. I got into the telephone box, and took the handset as if I was expecting to hear toots. This was the first time in my life when I realized how time machine should look. There was an old, probably presented to some antiquarian, car near the call-box and many other interesting things: pots and pans, implements. Everything was very old, it fixed my attention. When I entered the pub, I was enchanted... That house was a labyrinth and a museum. Dozens of rooms were linked with each other by many tangled passages. The interior was fascinating: old furniture, lamps, armchairs, which were near the fireplaces with tapestries above it, elaborate crockery, juke-boxes, and pictures, unique 200-year-old bottles of whisky on the shelves, woven baskets, lone jackboot, and a shoe. So much stuff! This was what Ireland was a few centuries ago. That place was built in 1798, and was now a folk museum. Then it embodied in hospitality: this wasn't just a museum, it served also good food, and marvelous Irish dances with astonishing moves of the feet, heel clicks, interesting music and fancy national dresses.

And I cried when it was time to say good bye to this fairy house, to the winding fussy streets at the heart of Dublin, and the silent outskirts half-asleep in the mornings, and the paved yards of Trinity with trees, which made noise in the wind and bent to the ground. They always echoed me when I was going through them. On my way to the airport, where I was taken to by a taxi, and the curves of the highway left behind promised to take care of my memory, the night breath of the sleeping sea was calming my soul, which was not ready for the inevitable parting with Ireland.

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Copyright ╘ 2003 by Galina Chunayeva
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