By Keri Brady-Benzing Abroad writer
Galway and appreciate the beauty of the arts. Every few feet, there is a new performance. A big band with banjos, guitars, a violin and strange types of drums I don’t recognize performs in one part of the street.
Even if you keep walking, you’ll run into more and more performers. It is like you’re at a music festival, but the whole street is the stage.
The streets are beautiful. If you ever get lost in Galway, just follow the little blue and white triangle flags that zigzag overhead. The flags have hearts on them and say “Gaillimh 2020 Galway.”
Follow the flags back onto Shop Street where you can find all the shops, restaurants, pubs and people. All the store windows have stickers that match the flags. Some have even bigger signs explicitly saying “Vote Galway for the European Capital of Culture for 2020.” They already won but the signs are still up, bragging to everyone. Every storefront in town is a different color and all the restaurants have seating areas outside even though it rains almost every day. You can walk around in the evening or at night, and everyone stands or sits outside the pubs enjoying pints of beer.
On Saturday or Sunday, you can walk through the market and buy fresh produce from the farmers. Or you can get homemade desserts and crepes from the little stands that barely fit in the narrow streets of the market as you move through the crowd.
The first language of the Republic of Ireland is Gaelic, and as you walk around, you’ll notice that all the signs will list everything in Irish first before putting it in English. In the month I’ve been here, I haven’t heard anyone speaking Irish—or if I had, I didn’t realize. It’s the western region of Ireland that keeps the nearly dead language alive. If you keep going out into the Atlantic to the Aran Islands you’ll find a community where Gaelic is still taught as a first language to everyone who lives there.
But even in Galway, you’ll probably hear it if you listen closely, as well as many other languages.
Students come from all over to study at the university, and given the welcoming nature of the city, it is a big tourist destination for people from a variety of countries. About 20 percent of Galway’s population is non-Irish, making for a somewhat diverse area.
The area is strong with people who aren’t Irish while maintaining its beautiful Irish charm. Gay pride flags can be seen frequently, as well as life buoys hanging every few feet beside every body of water with stickers saying that you aren’t alone, and numbers to call if you need help. The city wants everyone to be safe and well. The city wants to welcome everyone. And while it’s doing that, it wants to show you a wonderful Irish experience.
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