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Rollercoaster ride

Considering that the Irish have just come out of a boom period referred to as "The Celtic Tiger", many of the roads are in poor shape; full of bumps ands patches. Apart from the motorways most of the roads are narrow and winding. You can meet a large tractor around any corner, and with very little shoulder to veer off into, it is nervewracking to say the least! I am amazed that there are not more head-on collisions; apparently only 65 fatalities in 4 months, which is nothing compared to one Easter weekend in SA. The speed limit is a generous 100km/hr, which may not seem very fast, but I did not feel safe around those corners at even 70-80km/hr. The trees and hedges are so close to the road that it gives the impression of flying!
Our GPS, which we named Molly, was a real boon most of the time, although she got very confused when we drove on a new motorway of which she had no record. She then gets quite agitated saying "recalculating, recalculating" as she tries to get back on track. She was a great help when the national road was blocked due to a fatal accident, and she took us along a detour of tiny country roads, still getting us to the surgery before the 0900 starting time!
When we drove up to N Ireland the only way one can tell that one has crossed the border is by noting that the roadmarkings along the shoulder of the roads change from yellow [Republic] to white [UK]. There are no border posts or even "welcome" signs! Many Irish people go up into N Ireland to shop, because the pound/euro exchange rate is almost on a par at the moment, and there is a big difference in VAT [15% vs 22% in the Republic].

Everywhere the landscape is impossibly green; fields and pastures neatly packaged and divided by bright yellow gorse hedgerows or ubiquitous dry stone walls.
We cannot imagine where the endless supply of stone comes from; is it dug up from under the pastures? We never saw any stone quarries. Even though no cement is used and the stone looks loose, they remain intact for centuries. Sheep and cows are everywhere; I wonder if they know how lucky they are to have such lush green grass to feed on all year round? 80% of the trees are weighed down with ivy growing up and around the trunks, as are many telephone poles [they look like trees with wires coming out the tops].
Another spin-off from the Celtic Tiger years is that the countryside is punctuated with large solid, double story mansions, called dormers.
They are opulent and apparently most of them built on credit. The saying goes that the Irish used to live in 2-roomed houses and had 12 children. Now they live in 12-roomed houses and have 2 kids!

Posted by davidsandi 07:50 Archived in Ireland

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