Before leaving for Ireland, my goal was to take every opportunity to travel during my study abroad- near and far. While this is an exciting prospect, it does have the power to strike fear into the heart of an Idahoan who is relatively unfamiliar with public transportation. Although I was thrilled by the thought of the new and rather exotic experiences that were soon to be within my reach, I was anxious about traveling on my own and trying to manage bus and train systems in an unfamiliar and somewhat scary place. Luckily for me Ireland is two things – friendly and full of opportunities to learn. At the time of writing this, I have been in Ireland almost two weeks and have traveled to three unique and beautiful locations – all within an hour of Dublin! The first is the town of Maynooth.
Although it is small – the university has a student population of about 13,000 and a town population to match – it is full of culture. Walking through the south part of campus and just beyond into the town feels like a stroll through history. With the Gothic style buildings and ancient ruins of a castle founded in the medieval period, it is easy for one to feel as though they have spent the day walking in the 21st century and suddenly rounded the corner into the 13th.
Just a short train ride south of Dublin, Wicklow is lovely little town nestled between the mountains and the ocean. The group of us from ISA spent a day walking between ruins of the Black Castle perched precariously above the waves and an all but abandoned lighthouse that bared striking resemblance to scenes from Game of Thrones. On the walk between what remained of Black Castle and the lighthouse, we discovered black raspberries growing on the side of the road. Cars whizzed by as we stood happily picking the berries that brought back memories from my childhood when my grandfather, sister, and I would fill plastic containers full of the bright black berries in northwestern Indiana. That is one of the wonders of travel – no matter where I go I always seem to find pieces of home even when it is oceans away.
The last destination is Howth– a twenty-minute train ride northeast of the city out into the mouth of the ocean. As a child, I remember being fascinated by the folklore of mythological beings that I read about in books. I would play in the woods and pretend that the trees were fairy rings to dance around until Tinkerbell and her friends came to join me. After being to Howth I know where the authors got their ideas. With the woods full of places like “Bog of Frogs” and trees with fairy doors inlaid into the bark, Howth is the stuff of fairytales.
Although I have only spent a couple weeks here I have already begun to feel at home. The proximity to so many new and fascinating places has both sparked my imagination and reminded me of my childhood – it has sent me to magical lands to walk on both when sleeping and awake.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.