As fate would have it, I got to go to Galway twice- once for two nights as I intended, and once again for two nights after my camera broke and I was advised my best course of action to replace it would be to return to Galway. I was actually ok with this (except for the spending a few hundred dollars for a new camera part of course) because Galway is a pretty neat place.
The shopping street of Galway, lined with pubs and stores trying to sell you tourist crap and a few bookstores where I’m certain they knew me by the time I left because I kept spending hours at a time in them (I was still in the “oh my, English!!!” phase). Note the blue sky- I don’t know what gods I pleased but one morning I woke up to blue skies and it stayed like that for five days. Probably so I could be the only person to talk about how nice the weather was while she was in Ireland.
Another interesting thing about walking around Galway is the sudden realization of how multicultural it is- thanks to the E.U. there are lots of Eastern Europeans who have moved to the city to the point where Galway is the city I overheard the most Hungarian outside Hungary itself (this didn’t stop the Hungarians from saying all sorts of things they would never say in public otherwise, as we all do that when outside Hungary). My Irish friends tell me that Ireland today is completely different to the country they knew even while growing up, and I completely believe it.
Me chatting with two writers, Oscar Wilde and Eduard Wilde, the latter being an Estonian writer who coincidentally has the same name as Oscar (the statue was a gift from the Estonians when they joined the E.U., as Ireland had the presidency then). The inscription reads the O. Wilde quote “we are all in the gutter… but some of us are looking at the stars.” Needless to say, we had a good conversation…
The cathedral in Galway, where I first realized how seriously Irish people take religion- it was a random day of the week, but there was still a sizable crowd of people there praying. If this sounds odd you have to realize I’ve gone into countless churches the past two months I’ve been in Europe, and frankly the tourists always overwhelm the people actually using the church for what it was originally intended.
Now I realized the Irish are pretty religious but after a bit of inspection into the matter I’m going to say they probably are more religious than us in some aspects- condoms were illegal until 1978, and divorce was only legalized in, get this, 1999. Considering the fact that this is in Europe, where non-religious people make up the majority of the population in Ireland’s neighbors, I find this to be rather interesting.
One of the set of taps in an Irish pub I visited, because apparently if you don’t have 14 taps you’re doing it wrong. If it seems odd to transition from religion to pub that’s because you don’t know Ireland- for a few hundred years during British rule Catholicism was illegal, so the Irish got around this by holding Mass in secret backrooms in pubs (because who would suspect an Irish family going to a pub Sunday morning had an ulterior motive? what nonsense!). And this is probably why the Irish like their pubs so much today- they became the center of the community rather quickly under this arrangement. The cruddy weather probably didn’t hurt either.
The Guinness at another pub settling after being poured- I admit this is a process I hadn’t watched much before because I don’t really like Guinness (too dark for my taste), but my physicist self spent a ridiculous amount of time happily watching while listening to the plethora of talented musicians around every corner and striking up conversations with everyone.
A word on the last bit- after much experimentation, I have concluded it is impossible to go into an Irish pub and not make a friend before you finish the first pint. During my time in Galway I ended up talking hours to a brother/sister pair, a musician who played harmonica on the streets, and a guy from the other side of the country who had driven to Galway to escape the fact that his fiance had cheated on him. And while this might seem odd in most other countries in Ireland it’s totally ok and happens all the time.
My Sunday lamb roast in the pub, because I have enough experience to know you need to eat a Sunday roast in countries with British influence as it will be delicious. And I realize the pint above reads Guinness on it but I was actually drinking a black and tan, as that’s the closest I can get to drinking the real thing when it comes to taste.
As a random aside, Irish people, I am sorry but I don’t know if I can get behind Bulmers as my choice in hard cider. Too acidic in taste. Though before someone starts accusing me of not liking Irish alcohol I am in happy agreement with Smithwick’s, Bailey’s, and your whiskey.
A sign in the front of one of the bookstores in Galway I really took a fancy to. See one nice thing about Irish people is they have a good sense of humor about their hordes of tourists. I suspect it’s because of all the practical jokes they play on their visitors to keep them giggling- “Hey, kiss this awkwardly-positioned stone in a castle that thousands of people kissed already today and the local boys pissed on last night! Oh, and jump in the freezing cold water to swim with a dolphin who might be around! Sure we all do it ourselves, that’s why we aren’t now…”
I confess I have begun to suspect I have some Irish genes in me somewhere that I was never informed about- the Irish people seemed to agree about this as I am apparently more outgoing than the average tourist and we share a similar sense of humor and sarcasm. But then they were on the whole relieved I wasn’t one of those countless people who come here “searching for their Irish roots,” so perhaps I’ll let this one go. Cheers!