The world is bigger than we could ever possibly imagine, and it’s scary to think we will never even scratch the surface in this lifetime. Even if we do travel to the same places, we see the world through different eyes, creating a unique experience. As I dive head first into travel, I am inspired by each of your adventures and am starting Sonderlust Secrets as a series showcasing this. Interested in being featured?
The Beautiful Crumbling Beneath the Paint of Cork City
Down the main street of Cork City, I bustled. I carried umteen number of groceries – the eggs balanced precariously on top – harried from too many stops because it was cheaper to go to the fish monger for the fish, the poultry counter for the eggs, Tesco for the hand soap… As the soft Irish light squinted over the sparkly streets of the Rebel City and the purple-haired heads of its people (everyone dyes their hair here, still not sure why), everything seemed busy, crowded, unpleasant. A city full of life apparently means too many people on the footpath every Sunday evening, chomping on McDonalds and grazing down the same small street for the dozenth time. Something almost District-One-esque hung over the air of craziness while it continued hurriedly, undisturbed by the gorgeous Spring sunset.
When I couldn’t carry the bags anymore (because that failure was always going to happen), I sat down on a random concrete block in the middle of the footpath. It was the kind of block that an artsy architect put there a decade ago in an attempt to re-face the almost derelict city, lending an oddly awkward look to the street and lying in the way of mindless bustling. I rang the boyf — new Irish/SEDiva slang for the boy, he doesn’t like it — and waited for baggage assistance.
And that’s when I saw it, while sitting there on my oddly placed block. The real Cork. Not the purple-haired one, not everyone-seems-to-dress-and-act-the-same-around-here one. Not the faux shiny, sleek, and re-vamped one. Not the one we’re trying to build to cover the old. I saw the one we’re always hiding around here, the one we keep covering up with another layer of paint instead of facing and cherishing. The one of old-fashioned beauty, filled with novel-like, romantic corners. The one that matches the ruins lining the Irish countryside in spirit and heart. Above all the tacky shop windows were floors upon floors of decrepit, crumbling, ancient buildings, all covered in the kind of falling apart we ignore because we can’t afford to fix it, the kind of ugly we ignore because we don’t know how to appreciate it. But those crumbling buildings, Cork’s charm, have always appealed to me. We don’t need new, I think; no shiny, modern-styled buildings, no re-building. We need restoration.
In between all the ass-numbingly slow and impersonabl
y rude crowds weaved a freckled guy with a redhead girl at his side. Between them they carried a six-sided box, and strolling behind them were a few more normal kids – a few Irish, a few not – carrying weirdly shaped black bags. They waited for the peeved crowds to move so as not to knock anyone’s McDonalds out of their hands. They set up in front of the saddest looking building, now only partially covered by last century’s crumbling yellow, nothing but the shadow of letters declaring what it used to be. They sat down on a concrete block similar to mine, and I was glad to see the use of the in-the-way pieces twice in one day. They unpacked their bags revealing the old, battered wood of fiddles and guitars; the freckled kid sat down on his six-sided box, hands poised to start tapping away.
And they ripped into music like no one’s ever played on the radio.
As a small few people stopped and stared, and as a good few more walked right past, I couldn’t stop picturing your man’s eyes hiding behind thick-rimmed glasses reflecting the plaid of his slightly buttoned but incredibly clean plaid shirt. They weren’t hipsters by our normal definitions, but they were definitely hipster-spirits. They found the most sincere, random, and cool place to play, and only those who appreciated the epic-ness of what they were doing, those people who appreciated the “Cork City Moment”, if you will, stopped and sat down next to me. They were hipster-spirits living in a District-One town.
A few minutes later, the boyf came and whisked my bags away. But he paused for a moment while I stared in wonder at the group, just as he does whenever there’s a good busker on the street or the sunlight hitting the cathedral just right. I don’t know if he’s a hipster spirit himself, but he stops for me every time.
Cork City is my little Irish home. It is the Republic’s largest city after Dublin, and it sits pretty nicely in a huge natural harbor, placing itself strategically as the gateway to the tourist’s favorite, County Kerry. However, Cork City, poor little thing, is often overlooked or purposely avoided by tourists.
But that’s half – more than half – of its charm. Cork City is decrepit in places, hipster in others, eery in some, and overflowing with college kids in others. There are a lot of problems here, as there are everywhere, and many changes face the City in the coming years. Lots of new buildings and investments the City – probably – desperately needs. But Cork has a charm all its own, and to change it in favor of a new city flavor, such as by building new buildings right on top of the old (something that actually happens here), is to lose Cork City itself. I can’t guarantee I’ll love those changes or that I’ll still be here when they’re finished. But I can write my love letter now because this City’s stolen my heart – exactly how it is.
An Old Virginian at heart, Sarah Elizabeth moved to Cork City, Ireland for school and just doesn’t really want to leave. She loves country music, hip-hop, and music technology; and you should know that her life goal is to play the villain in a Disney animated movie.