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Monday, 23 July 2012

IRELAND AFTER ELEVEN years

I’ve been to Eire for one month in 2001, mostly in western part but also in Dublin for a couple of days. At present I’m spending the same amount of time mainly in the capital city. How much can a place be changed during such a period? Which changes seem visible and important for a foreign observer like me? What things didn’t change and seem to be constant in this most western European country?

THE SAME 
First of all – Irish people. As friendly, open, positive and kind-hearted as I remembered. Whether you ask the way, do shopping, go to any institution or even cross the road not exactly on the pedestrian passage, the reaction is always polite, patient, relaxed and still effective. Honestly, I haven’t met any nervous drivers, any rude officials, any complaining or negative attitudes at all!

Next – the Emerald Island, as green and beautiful from the plane’s window as for the eye of a walker. Dublin – huge, international city, which looks like a nice, lovely town (apart from the crowded centre and industrial areas), thanks to omnipresent parks, meadows, pleasure grounds, grasslands, trees and bushes and these fabulous terraced houses with gorgeous gardens. From what I’ve seen their style is typical for each district. Very few blocks or skyscrapers don’t ruin the landscape. This place is a dream for everybody tired with hustle and bustle of urban agglomerations. 

Weather – yeah, that’s something you can rely on in Ireland. Changeable all the time but no extremes, almost always mild and temperate. And I’ve heard that the best Irish weather forecaster is simply a stone. Why? Well, when you observe the nearest stone and it’s wet, that definitely means rain. Stone is dry – it doesn’t rain. You can see stone’s shadow on the ground – it’s sunny. Stone’s white on top – it must be snowing. What if you can’t see the stone? It’s foggy. Stone’s swinging – windy day. Stone jumps up and down – earthquake, watch out! Stone’s gone and your house too – tornado…

DIFFERENT 
Main difference I’ve noticed is connected with my homeland: in 2001 I was a scout volunteer in Killaloe Water Activity Centre near Limerick and I was the first Polish person the local people have ever met. Poland wasn’t a member of the EU at that time or didn’t have direct flights to Dublin, so I had to travel via Frankfurt and London, at the airports talk to the immigrant officers, go through detailed passport and luggage controls, wait for the permission to stay. After 2004 things really changed. Now there are plenty of Polish people everywhere in Ireland: living, working, staying, sightseeing. There wasn’t a day out during which I didn’t hear my mother tongue somewhere: at a shop, in the bank, on a bus, in the concert hall, while walking around Wicklow mountains and so on...

Secondly – O’Connell street. At first sight it looked exactly the same – multicultural, busy, colourful. Oh, but right in the middle there is this Spire of Dublin, over 120 metres high steel and shiny, pin-like Monument of Light. Installed in 2003, it’s the world’s tallest sculpture and immediately became the most popular meeting point both for residents and visitors. It is amazing, gleaming at dusk, and even the annual cleaning with an enormous crane seems to be a great tourist attraction, considering amount of photos and YT films showing that ‘event’.

Finally, it was very impressive to find out that Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce an environmental levy for plastic shopping bags in 2002 and a public smoking ban in 2004. Added to all advantages of recycling it makes the country rather clean and tidy, with fresh air inside buildings and also outside.

All in all - Eire is a fantastic land worth visiting and coming back...