Personal Journeys


August 29, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Weathering the soggy skies of Ireland

By Evan L. Balkan


The old saw about Ireland is that it rains incessantly. Unfortunately, on my one trip there, it proved to be accurate.

Ireland was country No. 4 on a five-month trip through Europe. Eventually, I would get as far east as the Julian Alps in Slovenia and as far south as the confluence of the Mediterranean and Atlantic on Spain's southern coast.

I had crossed into Ireland from Wales. During the next two weeks, I headed north (Dublin and Drogheda), west (Galway and the Aran Islands) and south (Cork and Kilkenny).

It rained every day.

Brooding skies followed me everywhere, and it was only the extraordinary friendliness of the Irish people that kept things from getting gloomy. Even the most constant drizzle could be beaten back by a peat fire, a pint of Guinness, Uilleann pipes and that famous Irish hospitality.

When it was time to leave, I headed to the southeastern coast to catch the ferry across the English Channel from Rosslare Harbour to France. I stayed in a small hostel on the water's edge in Rosslare, a sleepy, windswept town. The ferry wouldn't be leaving until morning, so I rented a bike and headed down the coast. Of course, it was raining.

I rode to Carnsore Point and laid the bike in the grass. I walked out to the water's edge, staring at St. George's Channel, the meeting point of the Celtic and Irish seas. The water, like the sky, was a rough gray, capping in white waves.

I sat for a long while, contemplating the jagged beauty before me. When I turned a bit to the left, away from the cove on my right, and looked out into the sea, it felt as if I were staring at the end of the earth -- only rough, hoary water and an occasional gull floating on the constant breeze.

Then I realized the sky was parting. The clouds grew wispier until the wall of lead that they had been became a patchwork. I turned to my right and saw slants of amber begin to paint the undersides of the clouds.

I ran down to where a few boats were moored and looked to the other side of the cove. And then there were no clouds at all. The sun sat alone in the sky and threw an orange reflection on the water. Then, inevitably, it began to sink and the sky grew darker.

I knew I would have a tough ride back to Rosslare; there were no streetlights, and the tall grass made it difficult to see beyond a few feet on the twisty road. But I didn't care. My first and last Irish sunset was worth waiting for. I would be heading off in the morning, and it felt like Ireland saying goodbye.

Evan L. Balkan lives in Baltimore.

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