A trip down memory lane to Ireland.
Today we’re taking a short trip back to 2014, to the west of Ireland, so let’s start by turning up The Rocky Road to Dublin to set the mood. Back in those days I was a huge metalhead and although my taste in clothing and music has changed a lot since then, I still listen to some of the bands and wouldn’t describe myself as a normie just yet. Anyhow, Slovenia has a rather famous metal festival called Metalcamp and now Metaldays, where I met some of my Irish friends and ended up going to visit one of them in Galway.
About a week before my flight, my friend Ciaran was talking to his other friend Ciaran about how his friend from Slovenia was coming over and the other Ciaran was like “my friend from Slovenia is coming over too!”. Turns out both of us were even accidentally on the same flights and Tia, the other Slovenian, and I hit it off right away. You can find her art at Green Rat and she’s now actually living in Ireland with her Ciaran, because they’d just started dating back then.
All the streets of Galway
Of course I bumped my head first thing when we boarded the bus from the airport and the reality of being in Ireland really hit me when the bus driver said “Welcome to Dublin, love!” in that ultra stereotypical Dublin accent. My mum made me take all sorts of Slovenian stuff and food for my hosts, which included bear salami, and I kept worrying my backpack would get confiscated at the airport if the drug dogs would smell it. Well, they didn’t, but the dog in the house in Galway I was staying at with Ciaran and his flatmates did, and he had a field day.
I’ll be honest with you, that house was probably the dirtiest place I’ve ever stayed at and I don’t think anyone there was proud of it. But, that’s student life for you and I was still super grateful to get free accommodation and hang out with friends, and I was even more grateful because Ciaran gave up his bedroom and I didn’t have to sleep on the nasty couch.
Since I’d already seen quite a lot of Ireland with my mother on a previous trip, what followed was less of a tourist holiday and more of a living the local life experience, which was awesome. In true Irish fashion we went to all the pubs in Galway, I met all the people and we checked out every corner of the town, including museums (yes, actually). We even went to the dole office (how’s that for authentic experiences?). We also got drunk, a lot – obviously. I remember lots of music, dancing, a metal gig or two, live Irish traditional music, cheap vodka nights and lots of next day hangover cartoons. I’m pretty sure we got halfway through all the episodes of Archer and Ugly Americans and it was a great party week or so.
Impressions of Galway
Westport, Gaelic football and lots of islands
After that we went on to Westport, a small town on the west coast of Ireland that Ciaran was originally from and where his mom lives. We stayed at their family house and it was as lovely as it gets, which is no wonder since Westport was voted as the best town to live in Ireland several times (if you ask their tourism board, they’re “an award-winning seaside heritage town”). Since I was there during the Gaelic football season, I also got to experience the local Mayo 4 Sam euphoria in the pubs. Hurling and Gaelic football are two special kinds of sports native to Ireland, which are possibly the most dangerous, no holds barred and epically brain damaged team activities ever, which obviously makes them immensely popular and interesting to watch. There’s an annual All-Ireland Senior Football Championship where the winner gets the Sam Maguire cup and the County Mayo team has gotten famous for its curse of reaching the finals and losing 11 times (most recently in 2021). The last time they’d actually won the Sam cup was in 1951 – in 2014 when I was there, they lost in the semi-final replay, but it was super close and the hype was real.
2014 was also the time of the ALS Ice bucket challenge that Ciaran completed outside in one of the pubs, which meant we got free beers and new drinking buddies for the afternoon. We wanted to go on a camping trip, but it was pouring rain for several days straight, so we hung out with his local friends, played pool, went to Irish trad music sessions and got acquainted with all the happy hour offers. In case you’re wondering how I paid for all that drinking, the answer would be that I may or may not have brought the largest legal quantity of cigarettes over from Slovenia and sold them to eager Irish smokers at a profit.
Impressions of Westport
However, we did manage to visit all the local sights and go on a boat trip out to Clew bay, which is famous for its large number of islands. Legend has it that there are 365 islands in Clew bay, one for every day of the year, but most of the islands are in fact visible sunken drumlins, a sort of geological Ice Age oval hill formations that look like half-buried eggs and usually form in clusters. Either way, it’s a wonderful bay to visit and you can also see lots of sheep grazing everywhere on land. The boat trip was almost private due to the bad weather and the boat owner was a friend of Ciaran’s mom. In fact, since she works with the coast guard and it’s a small town, everybody knew her and when I had to hitch a ride into town one day, the driver that picked me up knew all about me and where I was staying within a minute.
So, after 10 days of all the drinking, Irish breakfasts and general junk food (I gained 8 kg and no, I’m not exaggerating, it was horrendous), Ciaran made me go up a mountain once the weather cleared out enough, meaning it wasn’t raining. Croagh Patrick or “the Reek” is the local mountain in Wesport and it’s a popular pilgrimage site in honour of St. Patrick, Ireland’s favourite saint. On the last Sunday in July, tons of people go up there every year and some even do it barefoot as part of the tradition. It’s only 764 meters above sea level, so I’m not proud to say I almost died on the way up, but I made it and the view was well worth it, because we could see all those islands in Clew bay.
Up Croagh Patrick
A parting glass or three
The last night before my flight I had a 2 or 3 am bus from Galway and we decided to go to the pub for a quieter final night out, but ended up meeting all the people and they all wanted to have a farewell drink with me. Needless to say, I was hammered when I boarded the bus and I wasn’t any less hammered when I got off the bus in Dublin.
It was all going reasonably alright, until the woman at the counter told me I’d have to check my backpack as special baggage because it wasn’t a suitcase and she had to explain the concept 3 times until I finally managed to move the 3 metres to the next counter and hand the bag over to a guy who thought I was hilarious. Then I had to get through the security check and the real fun started. They asked me to empty my pockets and take off my shoes, which was an Olympic level acrobatic challenge at the time, but I managed. Then the security guy came running after me, because I forgot to put my shoes back on and left them at the X-ray machine… Along with my passport.
Luckily, the Irish have a pint for everything and there’s afternoon pints, train pints, bus pints, boredom pints and of course, airport pints, so the security guy was quite understanding after I mentioned farewell pints. I fell asleep on the plane even before it took off and woke up to two very disapproving Asian ladies who were stuck trying to get past me on the aisle seat to get to the toilet. Tough luck I guess (sorry!).
All in all, Ireland, the people I met there and the life I got a glimpse of still hold a special warm place in my heart and I can’t wait to go back again. Listening to Irish songs or making seafood chowder, my favourite food from the Isle, for dinner always takes me back a bit. Luckily my boyfriend loves their songs too, so he’s coming along next time!