Blog by US Ambassador Lidia Mowad
It’s just about that time when the days start to race by and suitcases are being stuffed to the brim with treasures. About a year ago, I was towing my bags onto a bus from Victoria Lodge to get on my plane in Dublin. Even though it was a year ago, the time seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. These last memories I made in my final days in Cork are some of my most cherished of my study abroad experience at UCC.
So what’s on in Cork during the winter time?
One of my favorite wintery experiences was the Christmas Market in downtown Cork. If you take about a twenty minute jaunt from campus into downtown Cork, you’ll begin to see the city come alive. Christmas Markets take over many big cities in Ireland, but being so close to Cork, it was one of my favorites. There’s a specific schedule of events, but the Christmas Market lasts for about two weeks and during a few of these days, a Craft Fair takes over the city. There are painters, sculptors, jewelers, and makers of every type of homemade craft you can imagine. They’re all so tenderly made that you can’t help picking up a few things to take as presents back to the family! I bought this cute terracotta sheep ornament for our family tree back home so we could all remember our time in Ireland. Definitely a well-received present! There were so many beautiful treasures; just looking at the talent of such a humble city of artisans was a memory.
The Christmas Market is also open at night, and when the winter days begin to roll in, you’ll notice that the entire city of Cork is lit up. Each of the buildings is gleaming and decorated with bows; the interesting modern-architectural-spikes that are on either side of the streets are sparkling with lights, and metallic garland lines the sky. There was a beautiful, huge tree in front of the City Hall and the Courthouse. All of the restaurants are decorated. I can still picture Debenham’s and this one particular restaurant on the left hand-side of St. Patrick’s street that were so ornately and carefully decked that everyone would just stop and stare at their windows.
Reflecting on it all reminds me that Cork had this unique feel to it. Cork has all of the perks of being a big city without being overwhelming. Anyways, when you first step onto the Grand Parade, the first thing you’ll notice is the HUGE Ferris wheel in front of Bishop Lucey Park. It’s funny to watch all of the parents being dragged by their children to ride. Surrounding the Ferris wheel are dozens of pop-up shops. Depending on the day, these booths will have different cuisines. My roommate Kelsey and I ate this shwarma from a Lebanese food cart the first day we went and it was so good that we took a bus all the way back into town the next day just to have it again. There were many other foods as well. There was pizza, fish and chips, smoked salmon, and crepes in the other stalls. Those crepes… We decided to have them as our desserts and I got a banana and marshmallow crepe while Kelsey got a Nutella and marshmallow. They were out of this world. Definitely a food that more Americans need to know about!
If you were in the mood for something lighter, there were hot chocolate vendors everywhere, and toasted nuts and popcorn to snack on. Although it wasn’t that cold in Cork compared to Ohio in the US (where I’m from), all of the lights and comfort foods made me feel so warm. While you were chowing down, there were plenty of things to keep you entertained. Beside the large tree at the end of the Grand Parade, there was a stage where different choirs would perform. When we first got there, younger children dressed in their winter clothes, earmuffs and all, were singing Christmas carols that they had practiced in school. As the night went on, an older choir sang some livelier tunes and eventually a folk singer with a guitar graced the stage. These performances added a sense of community to the festivities. I actually think my Irish language teacher was in one of the choirs!
Across from all of this excitement was Bishop Lucey Park, which contained even more to experience! The park is probably geared more for young children, but it was too beautiful to pass up. The front of the park had this large light decoration that beckoned with a welcoming “Tír na Nollag”. Each of the trees was strung with lights as they turned the park into a magical world. Walking in the park, you had to follow a path that took you through a fairy village. You could see their huts, their town, and even actual fairies running around. It was so ethereal and there was glitter everywhere, adding to the other-worldly feel. Young children could also bring their letters for Santa to a North Pole Mailbox and even sit in a sleigh with some elves to take a memorable picture.
After admiring the scene and taking a few snapshots, my roommates and I strolled around the square, taking it all in and finally submitted to our childish side to get in line for the Ferris wheel. As we sat all bunched together in the little cart, we looked out over the incredible city that we adored. We were lucky enough to be in the amazing city of Cork, with all of its hidden treasures, and we were happy enough to end our time together in one of its most magical: the Christmas Market.
Hello to all! My name is Lidia Mowad. I am a senior at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio studying International Relations, Pre-Law and Music Performance. I studied at UCC for the Fall semester of 2013 and had the time of my life! While I was abroad I studied Government, Gender Relations and Music. I also played as the principal oboist with the Cork School of Music during my time there. I was previously enraptured by the conflict plaguing Northern Ireland and spent some time living on a farm there, so I had to find a way to return to my favorite country. I was privileged enough to study at UCC as a way to satisfy this desire and additionally got to spend five months observing the world through a foreigner’s eyes. Within five minutes of leaving and still a year later, I can say that my semester abroad at UCC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.