The first time I went to Ireland, it was to visit my best friend. ‘Pack warm clothes’, she warned.
‘It gets really cold here’, she said. So I packed a coat and a leather jacket, and ended up wearing one over the other on the first night I arrived. But then a miracle happened – the next four days were a blissful sunny stretch of a holiday. We frolicked on beaches and explored castle ruins and sat outside in pubs and cafés.
– You said the weather was bad.
– It’s not always like this. In fact, it’s never like this.
A few months later I returned for a second visit, sticking around a bit longer this time. Well aware that Irish summers have nothing in common with Croatian ones, I packed that jacket again, along with a few sweatshirts and pairs of jeans. What followed was a heatwave Ireland wouldn’t see again in years to follow – temperatures lingered in the high 20s for weeks, hitting 30C on a few occasions. The heat would let up in the evening and we’d meet for pints, cheering as the Croatian national football team made its way to the World Cup final. It was great craic. I just packed terribly, terribly wrong.
Another few months went by and I moved to Ireland for good. Boy, were those holidays the worst case of false advertising I’ve ever seen.
There’s a reason that weather tops the list of cons in every article ever written about living in Ireland. It is the meteorological equivalent of purgatory – neither very pleasant nor extremely punishing, but miserably lingering somewhere in between. An average day is damp, gloomy, grey, and always just a tad too cold for someone raised on the opposite side of the continent.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned, though. All jokes and misleading holidays aside, I knew of this in advance and thought I was somewhat prepared. After all, I was born and raised in Rijeka, Croatia’s rain capital. Except…. rain in Rijeka and the rest of Croatia usually translates to short violent downpours or long lasting showers. When it rains, it pours, but when it stops, it’s over.
In Ireland, rain is always sort of… there. It’s a two minute shower that starts on your way home from a shop and stops exactly when you walk through your front door, soaking wet. It’s several light sprinkles in a row during your evening walk. It’s not even necessarily falling. Oftentimes it just eerily hovers in the air, a wet mist that clings to your clothes like cobwebs and sticks to your face whenever you move.
Umbrellas are useless. It’s best to invest in a good waterproof jacket, pop the hood on and call it a day. It took me over two years to do this. I just love coats too much, I used to declare, looking (and probably smelling) like a wet dog. Layering is a skill that took me a while to master.
In my years away from home, what I missed most was a distinct change of seasons. In Croatia, it’s almost palpable – there’s always that one day when you walk out and the air smells different.
In Ireland, all four seasons change in a day. This is a well-known saying that isn’t just poetic, it’s very much true – the fronts moving in from the Atlantic sweep over the island, resulting in quite variable weather throughout the day. By variable I mean oscillating between overcast, drizzly and horrendous, with an occasional short sunny spell. Clear skies never last too long, but at least there are rainbows aplenty.
In a practical sense, the unpredictable weather conditions complicate all outdoor plans that you foolishly keep on making like you don’t know any better. It’s hard to dress and pack for a day trip – on second thought, it’s hard to decide on a destination and activity in the first place. Walking around in a drizzle isn’t too bad, but cliffside hikes can quickly become hazardous as a sudden blast of rain turns the trail into a muddy death trap.
You wouldn’t want to slip around here even on the sunniest of days.
On the upside, the weather is virtually never extreme. Coming from a country with a fairly warm climate, I would’ve enjoyed a rerun of that first and last heatwave I experienced in Ireland, but I know many people aren’t fans of scorching heat and will prefer a temperate summer. (Temperate is a generous way to phrase it – average summer highs are 19-20C in most parts of the country and slightly lower in the north. Still, it’s nice not being bombarded with warnings not to leave the house between 11AM and 4PM every single day.)
Same goes for winters – they are pretty mellow, the temperature rarely drops below zero, and I’ve seen snow exactly twice in three years. On both occasions, we revelled in the winter wonderland for about an hour before it turned into puddles on the side of the road.
Looking back on the last three years, it was kind of depressing to live in a never-ending October. Beforehand, it had seemed frivolous to me to count mildly unpleasant weather among factors to consider before moving to a certain part of the world. We’re not talking about monsoons or serious droughts, it’s just a bit damper than usual and that shouldn’t be too bad, right? Well, as it turns out, when you’re used to a completely different climate, the Irish weather isn’t just a conversation topic that keeps on giving. It can seriously affect your mood and overall health, and it takes quite a lot of adapting which doesn’t happen overnight.
But once your eyes adjust to the gloom, you start seeing clearly, taking in all the beauty you previously weren’t able to comprehend fully. Outside the confines of a city, the landscape seems to have been designed to be enveloped in a shroud of mist, with overcast skies as a backdrop. It’s insanely atmospheric, and an average cloudy day in Croatia now seems drab in comparison.
Another thing that happens is you realize how spoiled you’ve been, thinking that sunshine is your God-given right all year round. Not anymore – but when the sun does decide to come out to play and actually sticks around for a few hours…
It’s a glorious sight. Colours appear to be more saturated, the entire landscape glistens in the light, and you cherish it all the more because it doesn’t happen every day.
The rain isn’t all that bad. Without it, the landscape wouldn’t be as lush, so intensely and outrageously green. It’s not called the Emerald Isle for nothing.
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