Tag Archives: Ireland

Na Ceiltigh in Éire

Fáilte. This was the first thing I read after my plane had landed at Dublin Airport. In Irish this means ‘Welcome’. I’d always known that the Irish had a language of their own, but I figured that they’d completely adopted English. But, of course, there’s still a lot that remains of the Gaelic language.

The origin of the Gaelic language

It’s assumed that around 600 B.C. the Celts, from Northern France, made their way to Ireland. Shortly after their arrival, the Celts mixed with the original inhabitants of the island and formed about 150 small kingdoms, in which the Druids, as mediators between the gods and the people, wielded power.

As the Celts didn’t have a writing system, all we know of them derives from archaeological findings. We also know that the Druids generally passed on their knowledge to the next generation orally. In this way, their secrets were kept. Later, the Celts invented an early medieval alphabet called Ogham – a simple form of writing only used by Druids. The inscriptions on tombs, for example, were the first records in the Irish language.

The Gaelic language today

Although the Celtic culture ceased to exist centuries ago, the Irish preserve their Celtic heritage by keeping their Gaelic language alive. Even though English is the dominant language, Irish is still an official language; in 2007 it became one of the twenty-four official languages in the European Union. Although only 1% of the Irish population actually speak the Celtic language at home, at least 30% say that they can or could speak it, but don’t. There are a few parts of the country called Gealtacht in which Irish is still the predominant language, most of which are located on the west coast. For example, the Aran Islands in County Galway, so tourists wouldn’t be able to communicate in English here.

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Irish in public and media

The Irish language is very present in today’s Ireland. Official signposting is not only in English but in Irish as well; legal texts have to be published in both languages and some official institutions only have Irish names, for example, the parliament is called An tOireachtas which basically just means ‘assembly’. And there are many radio stations and TV channels broadcasting only in Irish, but compared to the small number of speakers, there’s a huge variety of Irish literature in Irish.

Irish in the educational system

In schools, Irish is compulsory. As one of the official languages, everyone has to learn it, but most lessons are usually in English. There are a few schools called Gaelscoileanna in which Irish is the language of instruction. Thus, all subjects are taught in Irish.

Celtic heritage: the importance of the Gaelic language

The Gaelic language is of utmost importance for Ireland. The Irish identify with it; it’s part of their identity. For example, the Gaelic language distinguishes them from Northern Ireland and it increases their sense of solidarity.

Text and pictures: Aileen Reifenrath

One ticket – boundless fun

As the semester break is slowly approaching, it’s time to plan your activities, if you haven’t already. If you love backpacking, you should definitely try Interrail. It’s one ticket that allows you to travel by train across Europe. You can choose between one country (One Country Pass) or several (Global Pass, 30 countries). I did this two years ago and had lots of fun. Three weeks with the Global Pass gave me the chance to travel to three countries, the UK, Ireland and France in the summer.

A beach in Cornwall.
A beach in Cornwall

First stop: England

I took the plane from Memmingen to London, so I visited the UK capital first. However, other parts of England you don’t usually visit much were more interesting. So I travelled to Cornwall and was stunned by its natural beauty. St. Ives (Cornwall) is a really small town, but it’s as beautiful as the rest of this region. When visiting Land’s End, you feel like you’re in a different country, because it’s not how I had imagined England: blue sea, sunshine and very nice paths along the coast. Even beaches. The windy weather is dangerous for sunburn, as I experienced painfully.

Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park

Second stop: Ireland

A ferry to Ireland was next. The journey went by very fast and then Dublin was a blast. Street musicians, lovely people, cosy pubs, it has everything. Next stop was the small town of Killarney. With a national park in sight, I rented a bike and explored it. Everything is green and you feel really healthy.

So far so good – but trouble was brewing, unbeknown to me. I mixed up the dates at the end of July. I’d almost boarded the train to the port of Rosslare, when I noticed my blunder. The ferry was departing in a few hours that very day whereas I thought I had an extra day, which is why I booked an extra night in Ireland. Things then got very hectic. Will I ever get to France in time? When does the next ferry depart? Where do I stay till then? I contacted Irish Ferries, and thank God, they were very kind. The next ferry was departing in three days and they cancelled my reservation on the other one. And they got me a ticket for the next trip. I even found a nice hostel in Dublin until then.

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Seine sightseeing tour

Third stop: France

Paris was my first choice in France and I wasn’t disappointed. I can very much recommend a Seine sightseeing tour. There are boats leaving every 30 minutes at the Pont Neuf, and it’s a really different view from down on the river, especially at sunset. After only three hours aboard the TGV, I found myself on the Côte d’Azur in Marseille. Finally, 35°C and a beach to relax on. And the restaurants have delicious food, especially fish and vegetables from the region.

Go try it yourself!

In the end, it was a fantastic trip. You even get discounts on ferries, and as long as you’re under 28, the pass is cheaper. So don’t hold back – explore Europe!

Author & Pictures: Thomas Kienast

Tips for a great Dublin experience

Spending a semester abroad has been on my to-do-list ever since I started studying, but you know how things can go sometimes. Plans change, things get in the way, and in the end you have to set your priorities. Last term I finally did get my chance to take an Erasmus semester in Dublin and I honestly have to say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. So here are some things you absolutely shouldn’t miss while you’re on the green island.

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Explore the country. Ireland is really not all that big. With the Bus Éireann lines you can get from Dublin to Belfast in a few hours relatively cheaply. Landmarks like Tara, the Giant’s Causeway or the Cliffs of Moher are just a wee bit away. If you’re taking a semester abroad, the international societies like the Erasmus Student Network organise trips regularly as well. Ireland is beautiful. Go see for yourself!

Grab a few friends and visit Temple Bar in Dublin. I don’t think I’ll have to say much about it, but one bit of advice: the famous pubs aredublin2 cool, but, well… famous. My favourite place was a small cafe a bit further down the road. You still had the whole setting, but you could actually talk without having to shout at each other or having to cope with getting elbowed in the back. Keep your eyes open and you’ll find a bunch of places that are not on tourists’ radar.

Check out Grafton Street. There’s always stuff going on in one of Dublin’s busiest shopping streets. Very close to Saint Stephen’s Green (a beautiful park), it leads you straight to Trinity College. On the way you will not only find the Gaiety Theatre, all sorts of shops and restaurant, but also street performers and buskers. You can find some real gems there and occasionally even catch some more famous bands. If you are there around Christmas, prepare yourself for an incredible experience. Choirs, Christmas music and the lights and decorations transform Grafton Street into an absolute winter wonderland. The snow generally gets substituted with cold rain, though.

dublin

One really important tip for all fellow students: you probably won’t be able to get a room at the on-campus residences, at least not until well into the semester. So arrive a week or two earlier, embrace the hostel lifestyle and then use Daft.ie, the local newspapers and the Facebook pages of the international societies (again, ESN helped me a lot here) to find a place to stay. You’ll probably be able to get something that’s significantly cheaper than on-campus accommodation, too.

Other than that, just be open-minded. The Irish are extremely welcoming (and chatty) people and if you approach them with a smile, they’ll pay it back with nothing but kindness. I’ll never forget my time in Dublin and I can’t wait to return to catch up with all the friends I have made there.

Author & Pictures: Andreas Böhm

A trip to the Aran Islands

Leabharlann – that’s the one Irish word I learned and can remember from my recent trip to Ireland. In one part of the country my group and I went to the Irish language is still spoken by many: the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. You can only reach Inisheer, Inishmaan and the largest island, Innishmore (Inis Mór) by boat or plane. If you take the boat and you’re lucky, the weather will be fine so you can stand on deck and try to spot dolphins. During our boat ride to Innishmore it was raining, but it cleared up almost as soon as we arrived, and the sun shone for the rest of the day. Sadly, there were no dolphins, but we saw a few seals along one part of the coast, so our daily dose of cuteness was filled!

aran islands 5Once on the island, you can rent bikes, or if you’re a bit on the lazy side like we were, you can choose a minibus that comes fully equipped with a driver (in our case, a Que sera, sera-singing driver). If you’re romantically inclined, you might want to go for one of the horse-drawn carriages waiting for business at the quay. In any case, when you’re touring the island, you’ll see many of the typical stone walls, which mostly function as enclosures for cattle and which are astonishingly resilient (the walls and cows, just look at them!). There are some green fields that farmers have had to cultivate with seaweed and sand because the island doesn’t have naturally fertile soil.

Innishmore is home to about 900 residents, who mostly live in villages that, to me, seemed more like loose clusters of a few solitary houses than anything else. You can still find a few of the traditional thatched cottages, too. Many families used to live off fishing, but now tourism has taken on a major role. The island’s past and present have been connected cleverly, though. The knitwear from the Aran Islands is widely renowned. You can buy sweaters, scarves, and many other garments sporting traditional patterns. Every fishing family has developed their own pattern, for a rather gruesome reason: sometimes fishermen went missing at sea and their bodies would be washed ashore days later. They could only be identified from the pattern on their clothes. So a Jennings sweater looks different from an O’Flaherty or a Sheehan sweater!

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Like on the mainland, you can find church ruins and a lot of ancient history on Innishmore. One stone fort, called Dún Aengus, was especially impressive. It dates back to prehistoric times and was built right on a cliff with a 60m drop to the sea below. Lying on your stomach and looking down to where the sea is crashing against the cliff is an amazing feeling!

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But a one-day trip is definitely not enough to explore all there is to see on Innishmore. Like me, you’ll probably want to go back and give your calves a work-out biking across the island in order to discover its many stunning sights! Oh, and btw, Leabharlann means library :).

Text & Pictures: Lena Schwarz