Unless you were knocking about on mars for the past 10 months or so, you will have realized that going out into the world is not the same anymore. It’s a distant memory to the days where you could walk into a cafe and pick up a hot chocolate to warm yourself up in the cold winter months instead of having to queue outside in the rain. The days when you could meet up with all your friends and socialize over a drink at your favorite bar is long gone out the window. So what is the situation at this festive time of the year in the South of Ireland?
As I made my way to the city center anticipating an upbeat Friday evening, everything seemed as it did this time last year. Streets and houses were lit up with bright and colorful decorations, the roads were busy with cars and buses making their way in and out of the city center, and many families were heading into town to see the lights, decorations, and maybe pick up a few gifts.
As I made my way down the steep and dominating St. Patrick’s hill, Cork seemed to be glowing. I had relatively high expectations as I know the potential that the city has during this time of the year. The streets were busy, and everyone seemed to be carrying a bag full of presents or a hot drink from the likes of Starbucks or Costa Coffee.
I decided to get a hot drink myself, from one of my favorite cafés in the city. It is located in the Huguenot Quarter. The narrow streets, historical alleys, and amazing architecture make it my favorite area to visit, especially in December, when the decorations sway from building to building. So, I was heading to one of my favorite cafés, in my favorite neighborhood, at my favorite time of the year, It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, it was not perfect. Even though the decorations and people were out on the streets, there was something off. Usually, there is laughing, joking, and loud Christmas music radiating throughout the streets. In this case, there was just an eerie silence that roamed the stores and streets.
The 2-meter social distance also didn’t help with the overall friendliness vibe. As you turn a corner and find that someone walking on the same side of the path suddenly jumps to the other side of the street, it does give the impression that you are a notorious supervillain, especially once it continues to happen throughout the night.
When I did get to the cafe, I saw that the line was going out the door. This was no problem as I decided to head over to the Christmas market, pick up a hot drink and sip on it as I strolled through Bishop Lucey Park. I turned the corner and seen the giant 32-meter ferries wheel down the bottom of the street so that at least calmed my thoughts on whether or not the market was there or not this year. As I drew closer, I realized that the park I wanted to walk through was not open, and to rub salt into the wounds the market was not there either, just a massive ferries wheel. I was getting quite flustered at this stage.
No worries, I knew for a fact that Cork had a new Christmas market down the Marina, about a 15-minute walk from the city center. The only time I walk down this direction is for a match or a concert. The streets are always electric. Everyone is singing and all the pubs along the way are jam-packed with people trying to get their last beer before the stadium. Obviously, I did not expect the same atmosphere as those days but still, I was in for a surprise.
A hand full of people trickled their way down the dark streets, for which most parts didn’t have any lights whatsoever. There were no lights even coming from the pubs leading down to the market as they were all closed. It felt more like a Halloween ghost tour instead of a family-friendly setting.
When I did get there and stepped foot inside the building I was impressed. It was set in a massive unused factory warehouse, which reminded me a lot of the pub ruins in Budapest. That was until I took a walk around the market. I wasn’t so much unimpressed by the standard of everything in there, but I was disappointed because this excellent idea had the potential to be so much better. I don’t know if it is because of the social distance rules but the place just seemed empty. Everyone I spoke to down there said the same thing.
A lot of this was amazing, the setting, the lights, decorations, and when they finally turned on some Christmas music. But once again, it mainly just lacked a Christmas spirit. Since winter is my favorite time of the year it did upset me to see things this way. Unlike every other year, this year, Christmas in Cork has not been a very nice one. Not due to the Irish people, but due to factors outside of their control. Hopefully, next Christmas will be a Christmas to remember!
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