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Cork city north and south of the river

— and in-between...

June 2009, Republic of Ireland

A middle-aged couple were the local version of a "mixed marriage" in Cork city — he from north of the river, she from south.

She said he would not willingly cross over, and he did not correct her.

We were in the "middle parish," an area defined by two branches of the Lee. Apparently this middle ground, the ancient city, is also a cultural middle ground, a neutral territory.

Cork is a small city, divided into three main parts by the divided river that flows from west to east. It is, specifically, split almost precisely into north, south, and the tiny central zone. This was delta wetland settled by Vikings and shaped by Anglo-Normans, the paths of the River Lee through town artifact of their work.

The "Middle Parish" is mostly commercial, and historic — and there's a museum and an old hospital — and apparently nobody has an exclusive proprietary feeling about the area. It's a shared space, and it seems that a visit here is not considered a foray outside of one's realm.

But there are people who do not like to cross this middle parish — and who do not like to be mistaken for somebody from the other side.