By: Emily Lovasz
While traveling through Ireland during the past few weeks, I have been able to visit and see some of the most beautiful and breathtaking places I have ever been to. From the fast-paced streets of Dublin to the cliffs of Northern Ireland, everything we visited had something new and different to offer.
During our few days in Dublin, Rohan and I went to a few different parks around the city. One park was called St. Stephen’s Green and it was like a little oasis in the craziness of the city. It was near Grafton Street, which is a major road that only pedestrians can walk down and is lined with shops. A few days later we also visited Phoenix Park, which is so large it can fit two Central Park’s in it. Over seven miles, this park had a fish pond, a zoo, the Irish White House, lots of green area for people to sit and hang out, a castle, a hospital and much, much more. While Central Park is cool and has a lot of stuff for people to do, nothing really compared to Phoenix Park in Dublin.
Before heading to Phoenix Park, Rohan and I rented bicycles to tour around the city. It made it a lot easier to get from place to place and we were able to see a lot more in just a few hours. The bikes, called Dublin Bikes, were located throughout the city, so when you were done with your bike or needed a place to park it while you went to an attraction, you could hook it up to the stand. When you wanted a bike again, all you had to do was swipe your card at the kiosk and unlock a bike again. It was super easy to rent a bike for the day and I could see why a lot of people would use that as transportation around the city.
It isn’t as common to see a bike system in U.S. cities as it is in Dublin or some of the other cities we have visited in the U.K. A lot of people here use bikes as their main mode of transportation, whether they have their own or they rent one from one of the stands. Some of the major cities in the U.S. have subway systems and bus systems, which make it easier to get around, but it isn’t as common as it is in Ireland, England and Scotland.
The transportation in Europe is a lot different than in the U.S. and while it would be nice to have some of the same transportation that they have here, it would only make sense in larger cities. People in Dublin rely less on cars and more on bikes, trams and buses. Traffic is normally heavy in the city center, so it was common to see bicycles throughout the streets. Most major roads also had bike lanes designated just for people on bikes. Sometimes they shared a lane with buses, but most of the time it was only for bikes. It was kind of scary riding through the streets of Dublin on a bike, but it helped me learn the city better. The use of the bike lanes also made it easier to navigate and avoid getting hit by a car. It also made it easier riding through Phoenix Park. I enjoyed getting to ride on the side of the road and get to things faster than if we walked the entire park (which wouldn’t happen).
Another thing I noticed while visiting the parks in Dublin was that there were a lot more people sitting around. At some of the parks near my house in Michigan, no one really goes to a park to hangout. There are larger parks where families go to have barbecues, and people go to walk and run, but the parks aren’t really used as a gathering space as much as they are in Dublin.
Rohan and I went to the first park, St. Stephen’s Green, about mid-afternoon of our second day in Dublin. Lots of people were walking around the streets and the shopping center nearby. As we walked through the archway to the park there was a large pond with low hanging trees surrounding it. The sun was starting to go down and it was reflecting off of the water making it glow. There were some people walking on the pathway that circled the pond, some people sitting, and like us, some taking pictures. As we continued around the pond, the trees opened up into a huge green space with a water fountain. To my amazement, most of the green spaces were filled with people laying on the grass in the sun, talking with friends or enjoying a meal.
During our fourth and final day in Dublin, when Rohan and I took the bikes to Phoenix Park, we witnessed the same thing. Upon entering the park, there was a large green space with the Wellington Monument in the middle. Groups of people sat on the grass, talked with friends and played frisbee. Not as many people sat in this park as St. Stephen’s Green because it was more of a place to walk around and experience everything the park had to offer, but there was still a significant amount.
It was cool to see such a different atmosphere in the parks around the city. The parks in Dublin are used a communication space for friends and families to socialize and hang out. Not a lot of parks near me in the U.S. have that same atmosphere, although I wish they did.
People in Europe, Dublin especially, have different ways of communicating. Today, so many people are wrapped up in their phones that they use that as their primary way to communicate. With the use of parks and even pubs in Dublin, the people that live there meet face to face and hang out. Even observing students on campus at Michigan State University, when it is nice out, the green spaces we have are filled with people hanging out and relaxing. But, a lot of people are just on their phones. In Dublin, this wasn’t the case. Not being overly involved with your phone creates a more welcoming and social environment, just like the parks in Dublin did for Rohan and I during the few days we visited.