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Literary imaginations have immortalized Ireland's natural scenery since ancient times, and travelers who come with their heads filled with poetic imagery will not be disappointed: this largely agricultural and sparsely populated island still looks very much the same as it did when Celtic bards roamed the land. Windswept scenery wraps around the coast, and mountain chains ripple the interior expanses of bogland. The landscape is punctuated with pockets of civilization, ranging in size from one-street villages to small market towns to urbane cities. Dublin and Belfast are cosmopolitan city centers, radiating sophistication into their immediate surroundings. While some fear that international influence threatens their native culture, the survival of traditional music, dance, and storytelling in rural and urban areas proves otherwise. The Irish language lives on in small, secluded areas known as gaeltachts, as well as on road signs, in national publications, and in a growing body of modern literary works. Today's Ireland promises her visitors an old-world welcome with just the right amount of urban edge counterculture.


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