by Michaela Kwoka-Coleman
Ireland is a beautiful country- lush, rolling, green hills and Guinness on every street corner. Yet, there is a dark and terrifying side to the Emerald Isle- the driving. Driving in Ireland may be the one of the scariest things I have ever done, and possibly will ever experience. Not only are the roads about as wide as the aisles in a supermarket, but no one seems to notice or care. The country is essentially engaged in an ongoing game of “chicken”, with those unfavorable outcomes appearing on RTI news almost every morning.
Now, my family didn't make the morning obituaries, but we sure came close... a couple times actually. My father, bless his heart, was tasked with the honor of chauffeuring us around for two weeks when we visited this past summer; my father, a man who has never driven a car with the steering wheel on the passenger side or driven on the opposite side of the road. Several times screams from the back seat emerged as we thought we were driving on the wrong side of the road, only to remember that the Irish drive on the opposite side. Other times, however, screams from the back seat emerged as we were actually driving on the wrong side of the road. Yet, no screams of panic were louder than those which cried out as my dad accidentally drove in and out of a farmers' market, while the shoppers' jaws dropped at us in disbelief (I wish I had made that up, but no, that actually happened).
Another metaphorical thorn in our paw was the abundance of roundabouts. Our routine usually went something like this: get on the roundabout, drive around about five to six times trying to figure out what exit to take, still take the wrong exit, and have to get back on the roundabout and start the process all over again. It was a vicious and unforgiving circle. However, the absolutely most terrifying part of the whole adventure was the roads themselves.
Let me first start by explaining that when the majority of cities and towns were constructed in Ireland, cars did not exist. So these cities were not meant to contain or control automobile traffic. Driving through towns, I saw side of buildings with large chunks taken out of the corners. Quickly I discovered that this was from cars frequently scraping the sides of the buildings as they attempt to squeeze past other vehicles. This knowledge was not bestowed upon me by a kind local, but rather acquired when my life flashed before my eyes as my dad came within a mere two inches of carving out a historical landmark as he tried to navigate us down a crowded street.
Additionally, parking, especially on streets, is something beyond your worst imaginable nightmare. Seriously, cars parked facing both directions on both sides of the street. You simply park wherever there's an available spot, no matter what side of the street it's on. And, with the streets already being tiny, the presence of parked cars makes it even smaller! This basically turns two way streets into one ways, with everyone thinking they have the right of way, including large farm vehicles. This lead to my father adopting sidewalks for his evasive traffic maneuvers (insert more screams here).
So, here's my advice to anyone planning on an Irish holiday in the near future: travel by Irish rail. Renting a car might seem like the logical thing to do, but believe me, between the roundabouts and tractor traffic, you don't need that much stress in your vacation. So, sit back in your coach seat, sip your twelfth cup of tea for the day, and be ready to enjoy some of the world's most stunning scenery.
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