The Land of the Irish

The Münster Semester is one of Luther's oldest study abroad programs. For more than two decades, this trip has been offered to students who wish to improve their German language skills and experience life in Germany.

The Münster program takes place biannually during the spring semester of even years. The next Münster Semester will take place in spring of 2020 (with applications due in March 2019). For more information, visit the Münster Semester website.

This past week, CJ and I had the opportunity to visit Ireland. It was absolutely gorgeous, and it did not even rain on us too much. We definitely lucked out with the weather. While in Ireland, we stayed in Dublin, Galway, and Killarney. If you are looking for some beautiful hiking and biking areas, I would definitely suggest the west side of Ireland. On the other hand, if you are just looking to enjoy a Guinness or glass of Jameson, it does not matter where you stay. The Irish are very proud of their Guinness Beer, and will be happy to tell you exactly how to pour and drink a Guinness. That is, of course, if you can understand them. We did run into a few with very heavy accents and wondered if they were really speaking English.

The first couple of days, CJ and I stayed in Dublin and learned quite a few things. First and foremost, Irish transportation is nothing like that of Germany's. Even after being there a week, I do not think either of us feel very confident on how exactly their transportation system works. However, we did talk to some Irish-men and -women who admitted that their public transportation system is not great at all. My personal suggestion if you ever come to Ireland: either prepare for a lot of walking or rent a car. On the west coast, I would definitely rent a car because there is so much to do and see! Just keep in mind that driving on the “wrong” side of the road is harder than you may imagine.

The second thing we learned was that the Irish take walking signs to be suggestions. The sign may be flashing red but, if someone believes they can beat the car coming, they walk. It was rather interesting watching everyone cross no matter what the traffic light said. Also, water is free in Ireland. We had a slightly odd encounter when a waiter asked us if we wanted water and we responded with “Is it free?” His response was “Yes, why wouldn’t it be?”. We apologized and told him we came from Germany, where you have to pay for water.

Lastly, if an Irish person asks “Are you okay?” they do not intend to imply something is wrong. Rather, they use this phrase more as a “May I help you?” while in a restaurant or while in a store. This was harder for us to figure out, but now it makes more sense.

Dublin itself is really nice (minus the public transportation). We had the opportunity to tour the Kilmainham Jail and learned quite a bit of Irish history that I never knew. What I found interesting is that, before the Great Famine in the 1850s, Ireland had a little over 8 million people. After the famine, and still to this day, Ireland only has a population around 4 million. Dublin also has two very popular tours: the Guinness Storehouse or the Jameson Distillery. We chose the Jameson Distillery and the tour itself was very well done. We did not have time to do the Guinness Tour, but we heard that it is also a really neat tour. It is one of the top attractions in Dublin so I guess we might have to take the tour the next time we are in Ireland. We also walked up Grafton Street which, if you love to shop, would be a good destination for you. At the end of the street is a really cute and peaceful park! If it is warm, I would recommend walking around it and maybe even having a little picnic. Lastly, I would suggest walking around the Temple Bar area. There are a lot of fun pubs, live music, and great food!

Our second stop was in Galway! This town was a lot of fun and there was plenty to do and see. It would probably be easier to explore Galway with a car, but they do have quite a few busses around. We spent a day biking around the Aran Islands. CJ and I would both highly recommend this. We had a blast, and even made a few hairy friends (pictured to the right). 😊 If you have heard of Aran sweaters, they take their name from the Aran Islands. These sweaters are very Irish, have unique stitch patterns, and are extremely warm. Naturally, we purchased one as everyone knows how cold Minnesota and Colorado can get! However, neither of us were super thrilled to learn that Ireland has a 22.5% tax rate. Also in Galway, we spent a day seeing Dunguaire Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Aillwee Caves. The Cliffs of Moher were beautiful and extremely windy! It is a very touristy place, but I would still suggest going there as the view is worth it.

Our last stop was in Killarney. I felt a little closer to home in this town. Although the mountains only range from 72 ft to 2,762ft (nothing compared to Colorado’s 14ners), it was nice to see lakes and waterfalls and hiking trails. As for the town of Killarney itself, it was probably the cutest place we stayed in. There were plenty of pubs, ice cream shops, and stores. If you are looking for a day or two outside of the town, just head on down to Killarney National Park like CJ and I did. We rented bikes for the day, biked around Muckross Lake, and saw Muckross House, Torc Waterfall, Muckross Abbey, and Old Weir Bridge (where the three Killarney Lakes meet). There are also several hiking trails along there which are not too strenuous. This is definitely a must-see area of Ireland if you ask me. We did not get to go over to the Gap of Dunloe or drive the Ring of Kerry, but it just means we have ideas for when we come back! 😊

Ireland was amazing, and overall, I would say we had a very successful spring break! We enjoyed the beautiful scenery including: the oceans and coasts, the mountains and lakes, and of course the horses, donkeys, and sheep! I hope you all also had wonderful spring breaks and have a very Happy Easter. Rather, I should say Frohe Ostern since we are back in fabulous Germany!

Cheers!

Taylor on Aran Island making new friends!
CJ and Taylor enjoying the sunshine in the park right outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
The Cliffs of Moher!
CJ enjoying the views of Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park!