The merry Irish from Corcaigh - Cork is a county in Ireland, and the main city – the only city within its borders – is also named Cork, but is referred to as Cork City. This follows a pattern here, where the county and the main city or town are named the same. In 1995, Cork was designated Europe’s Capital of Culture, which meant lots of art, music, theatre, dancing, singing, literature, and children’s performances. It is a vibrant little place, with a university and plenty of historical features like churches, and castles, which are particularly interesting to a non-European visitor, because we just don’t have those.

The main drag is going very ‘art deco’ and has only recently been brightened up by lights and some strange sort of artworks. A real effort is being made by the council to make Cork a beautiful city where people want to be. They are succeeding. In saying that, on arrival, you may not understand a word that is being said. Corkians have very strong accents which are giggled at even by other Irish. Nowbiddy understands what dem Carkmen do be sayin’ at all! It do be grand.

Things to do in Cork
The Cork Midsummer Festival is held in summer, and in 2006 the dates were June 20th to July 1st. This festival is very popular, and has performers and artists from all over the world participating, as well as locals. There are quite a few music festivals in 2006, so if you’re into music, these dates are worth having a look at. The Irish love to dance and sing, and drink Guinness and in Cork, Murphy’s of course! Any party in Ireland is bound to be plenty of fun. Drinking is a big part of their culture, with the local pub being a second home to many. So, if you’re looking for some entertainment, find a pub that has live music – of which there are plenty – and get your Irish groove on.

Head to Washington Street, Oliver Plunkett Street and MacCurtain Street and you will find as many pubs and clubs as you can handle. Ireland has employed the no-smoking-in-enclosed-places rule, so inside all pubs, bars and restaurants is a no-smoking-zone. This, like New Zealand, means you can actually smell everybody and if you happen to be in a packed nightclub, you will wish they would let people smoke again. Guinness wreaks havoc with digestive systems. Murphy’s and Beamish both have breweries here, so there is a greater variety of drink than other places in Ireland.

The Four Faced Liar
Another fun (and perhaps annoying to others) thing you can do is go to the Shandon Tower and belt out a tune on the bells. The tower has been dubbed “The Four Faced Liar” because each of the four clocks tells a different time, at any given time. The viewing deck, on a nice day, gives good views over the city. It closes at 5pm. If you’re into whiskey, the Jameson’s Heritage Centre is open for tours, which take about 20 minutes and have audio visual presentations. It is an interesting trip.

The People
The Irish are a breed all of their own, with many quirks and mannerisms that make them unique in the world. Because the population is so small, around 4 million people, there is a lot of room for personality within the country, and within counties, cities and towns. A typical Irish household is packed full of photos, memorabilia, and knickknacks, and you will most likely be welcomed in and told to “make yer self at ‘ome”.

Irish music is loved by young and old, there isn’t really any such thing as ‘trendy’ or ‘cool’ in most of Ireland. People from Cork are known throughout the country as ‘a funny bunch’ though the area is well-liked and often visited by the Irish as well as everyone else. They are hard to understand when they speak, and it is necessary to listen very carefully, and learn to decipher the slang.

Overall, a great place to visit with very friendly and welcoming hosts. International guests are treated very well, and there is very little trouble getting around, despite the condition of many of the roads. A safe bet is to go where everyone else goes – the pub – and have a pint of the local brew. Get a bit tiddly, and you’ll fit right in!

Outside of Cork City
The surrounding areas of Cork City provide plenty of activities too, but you have to get there through all the farmland in between, which makes up most of the rest of Ireland. The natural resources of Cork are huge, with a fully decked out wildlife park (complete with giraffes, monkeys, kangaroos, and cheetahs), a beautiful harbour, and numerous historical sites with grand castles and tombs and funny shaped rocks you can kiss (Blarney stone, at Blarney Castle). If you want to see some seals, take the ferry to Garinish Island, from Glengariff.

Cork has an international airport, so it is easy to land right in the middle of it. The weather is on the cool side, with lots of clouds and rain (and some nice sun, occasionally) to make you feel right at home. Take an umbrella because the weather changes every hour. The roads are notoriously bad, so if you are driving, take it easy.


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