When you hear of Ireland a picture is painted. IMG_5596 One of rolling lush green hills, historic farm houses with stone fences, and small cozy towns serving up hearty stews and heavy lagers.

This may be a part of Ireland, but not the best of it.

After a sixteen hour flight, a bus ride, two taxis, and a twenty minute trek I had made it.  I was in the heart of Dublin City and hungry to experience all Ireland had to offer.

I met up with my travel mate and we started our journey, walking about 15 minutes before ducking in to the first dive bar that crossed our path.  What better way to start the experience?

Upon first inspection, there was nothing special about the place.  In fact is was like any other “Irish Pub” in America.  American pop music was the ambient sound and dark wood was the design style, broken up only by etched glass and mirrors.   IMG_5371

We bellied up to the empty bar and asked for the most natural selection. “Whiskey please.”

This was a little like walking into an antique shop and asking for something old.  The bartender scoffed it off and proceeded to enlighten us with his vast whiskey knowledge and supply.

We decided on the most expensive selection and had a sláinte  to the days ahead.  The conversation continued for hours.  The bartender told us of the politics of the time, his life choices and the social importance of the pub in Ireland.

Everyone who stopped in joined the conversation, if only for a few words.  Quick wit and gentle sarcasm were the norm, and everyone was a friend upon first meeting.

This was the running theme in every pub we visited throughout the country.  In the small town of Clifdon we laughed as elderly women drank stout beers and razed the bartender for his faulty Gaelic.

We were welcomed into every nearby discussion as we heard stories of recession, country pride, local upbringings, and international travels.  It was like walking into a distant relatives living room every night.

The countryside was gorgeous and the history of every stone was felt immensely, but there was not so much true history as that of the local watering hole.

Bars here were not about the consumption of spirits but a consumption of the spirit.  Many regulars came to sit and wait for conversation, refusing drink.  It was about knowing the people of your city like they were your own family.  It was about community over solidarity.

This is the heart of Ireland to me.  A community, an open dialogue, and an overabundance of good nature.  Where bartenders are the doting overseers to the love, laughs and strifes of their patrons.

As my good friend and travel companion Patrick Berens once put it:

 “Dirt is dirt and grass is grass, but the people are what make a Country.”

and Ireland’s people are all too happy to welcome you home.