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Thursday, January 15, 2009


As far as tourist appeal goes, the small island of Ireland punches far above its own weight. The country is so packed with delights that visitors are often reduced to describing its charms in hyperbolic clichés: it is the greenest country, full of the friendliest people, all of whom would be geniuses if they weren't distracted by the lure of the pub.Ireland is indeed a green country - so much rainfall must have its benefits - and the people are justifiably renowned for their friendliness. As for the geniuses, well, the Irish will proudly point to their four Nobel Laureates for Literature and declare that the success rate is unmatched in any other country of its size, all the while ensuring that the sacred 'round' system (where everyone buys a drink for everyone else in turn) is strictly adhered to.Yet Ireland's charms run far deeper than the legendary craic of the pub or the accomplishments of a bunch of (mostly) dead writers. It has a remarkable history that is woven into virtually everything, from the prehistoric stone monuments of the Boyne Valley to the monuments honouring its fallen patriots, men and women who dared challenge the imperious might of its longtime occupier and contemporary friend, Britain.