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Galway, Wild Irish Beauty

Settembre 2019
Questa città aperta e ospitale, con un’antica tradizione di commercianti, poeti e drammaturghi, che si affaccia sull’oceano Atlantico e offre uno dei paesaggi più suggestivi e selvaggi dell’Irlanda, è stata scelta per rappresentare la cultura europea il prossimo anno.

di Alex Phillips

Galway is located in the far west of Ireland on the River Corrib and on the northeast side of Galway Bay. To the north is the beautiful and desolate Connemara National Park, with its mountains, lakes and Connemara ponies, a breed that is hardy, strong and good-tempered. A short ferry trip into the bay, the Aran Islands are three islands that seem lost in time. Inis Mor is the largest with its famous 2000-year-old fortress, Dun Aonghasa. The Irish playwright JM Synge (1871-1909) found artistic inspiration on the islands.


A lively university town with a young population, Galway has cobbled medieval streets with colourful facades. It is home to all sorts of pubs, craft shops and cafés, and busking musicians or street performers are a common sight, especially along Kirwin’s Lane. In many pubs, such as Monroe’s Tavern in the heart of the city, live music is played nightly. An Art Festival is held in the city in July, and the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival in September is a major event.


Galway is also a place that has inspired musicians from all over the world. British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran released a song called Galway Girl, and American musician Steve Earle wrote one on the same theme. John Lennon’s 1972 song The Luck of the Irish contains the evocative lines: ‘If we could make chains with the morning dew / The world would be like Galway Bay’. It is no surprise then that in 2020 Galway will be the European Capital of Culture, an honour it shares with the Croatian coastal city of Rijeka.


A local-international connection dates back to medieval times. For centuries, Galway was ruled by fourteen powerful merchant families and a modern representation of their flags can be seen flying over Eyre Square, a delightful park in the city centre. In the middle ages, the city thrived on global trade, particularly with Spain and France. The main import was wine and exports included wool and leather. In 1477, the Italian sailor Christopher Columbus visited Galway on one of his voyages. The Spanish Arch, built in 1584, was once part of the city wall. In 1755, it was nearly destroyed when a tsunami created by the devastating Lisbon Earthquake hit the coast. Today the Spanish Arch is the location of the Galway Museum.


A decline in trade in the 19th century led to food shortages in Ireland. Then in 1845 the potato crop failed, leading to a terrible famine across the country that lasted for years. Galway too suffered from terrible starvation and disease, with the British government, who ruled Ireland at the time, doing nothing to help. Many people now fled the country, with about 20 per cent of them dying on the journey.


By the late 19th century, Galway was thriving again. Yet while it was once supportive of British rule, it had now become a centre for the Irish cultural revival movement, whose figureheads included the poet William Butler Yeats and the playwright George Bernard Shaw. Independence in much of Ireland was formalised in 1922, and in 1928, An Taibhdhearc, the national Irish language theatre, was founded in Galway. Built on the remains of an Augustine friary dating back to the medieval period, it incorporates some of its structure. A short trip south of the city, a beautiful 16th-century tower house known as Dunguaire Castle is located near the small port village of Kinvarathe. Once used as a venue for meetings of revivalists, it is now government-owned and open to visitors all year round.  

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