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The smoking ban

During the past two weeks, I have come to know the Irish as a people that is weary of rules. At most occasions, they will do whatever lies in their reach to avoid complying with them. I was expecting that they would also have their reserves about the smoking ban. Introduced in 2004, it made Ireland the first country worldwide where smoking was prohibited in public places, including pubs and restaurants. The law was not granted a very warm welcome. Smoking was socially acceptable in Ireland and it remains so in present times. But three years have past since the law was passed and the opinion seems to have turned around in favour of the smoking ban. With similar laws soon to be passed in the rest of Europe, I spent my last day in Ireland finding out about people`s thoughts and comments on the matter.

Posted by Bruno

The Celtic Tiger explained

Over the last 20 years, Ireland has transformed from one of the poorest countries in Western Europe into one of the richest. Most of Ireland`s history has been a story of poverty, with the Potato Famine of the 1840s as a memory which is still today kept alive by the numerous statues in Ireland`s harbour towns. Skinny metal people with sad faces remind people of what Ireland happened in those days. More than a tenth of the population died of hunger, and over a million people emigrated from the island; most of them to the United States. Today, Ireland leads the march in Europe. It is a modern, rich and booming country. The success is attributed to the Celtic Tiger. My question for today: how was the Celtic Tiger created and will it manage to stay around?

Posted by Bruno

After a quick to Northern Ireland, I am now back in the Republic. In Dublin to be more precise. It is the first capital city on my trip and the number of people in the streets amazes me. Contrary to the rest of Ireland, I see people from all over the world. I wonder if their experience with the Irish is in any way similar to mine, leading me to the question: how do people from outside Ireland feel and think about the Irish?

Posted by Bruno

Tourism in Londonderry

Londonderry is a city different from all others and it also attracts an atypical audience. No bus loads of Japanese people here and no Indians playing pan flutes. There are no obvious tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower or the Big Ben. But tourists still find their way to Derry and the youth hostel I am staying in, is fully booked on almost every day during summer. I am wondering what drives people to Derry and find myself chasing tourists in the streets.

Posted by Bruno

Multicultural NL

From the 1960s until present time, The Netherlands have been proud of their proverbial tolerance towards unconventional living styles. Outsiders may even think that just about anything is allowed in The Netherlands, oftentimes even by law: abortion, euthanasia, gay rights, legalized drugs and the existence of a political party protecting the rights of pedophiles. The first article of the Dutch constitution prescribes that all inhabitants of The Netherlands, when faced with the same circumstances, have right to equal treatment. The same article explicitly prohibits `discrimination based on religion, convictions, political orientation, race, gender, or whatever other difference may apply`. But how tolerant are Dutch people in everyday life?

Posted by Bruno

Cycling pleasure

The Netherlands is internationally known as a country where everybody cycles, whatever the weather or time of day. It doesn`t take a long time for visitors to verify this stereotype and find out that it`s almost true. There are few people in The Netherlands who never cycle and very few who are technically unable to. Still, weekday rush hours see motorways full of traffic jams, and people have a hard time emphasizing how poorly the public transportation network functions.

Posted by Bruno

Looking for love

When it comes to finding a second half in life, I have found the Slovenians to be the shiest, the Swedes the most open-minded, Finns and Estonians the least `sticky` and the Britons the least careful about getting pregnant. The Poles in many ways compare to the Italians. Both nationalities want love to be passionate, they can be quite jealous and have a lot of arguments, but they are also the ones who buy each other more presents than couples in other countries do. What else is there to know about Polish love life?

Posted by Bruno

Greeks have little appetite for rules, but they are fond of traditions. They don`t like anybody to decide about what they do, but will calmly consider obeying when the authority in question is a family member. Paradoxically, they like to see everybody as their family member. Maybe that explains why the Greeks are so eager to marry. Or would it just be because a wedding is an excuse for just another party?

Posted by Bruno

Living next to a volcano sounds like a rather risky project. Inhabitants of Catania know all about it. They live on the lower slopes of Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe.
Etna is in constant state of eruption, but the last time its lava streams touched the city dates back more than 400 years.

Posted by Bruno

I`m in Northern Ireland and if it was not clear to me yet, it becomes clear to me today. I`m in the United Kingdom. Today, the loyalist community of Northern Ireland celebrates the , that took place on a summer day in August more than 300 years to go. The traditional marches are on the agenda and there is no way of escaping them if you happen to be in Derry`s city centre today.

Posted by Bruno