IKEA, both a home furnishings store and for many, a philosophy, has opened in Dublin to a crush of thousands of shoppers.

The Sweden-based superstore — notoriously selective about where it opens new outlets and aggressive in stating what they want in return — saw 3,000 shoppers and/or gawkers in its first hour, which began at 11 a.m., although the store's giant parking lot -- which is sometimes, but not always, a free parking lot — was filled at 7 a.m. Four hours of ABBA music and jugglers filled in the gap.

Mystified Dubliners were treated to a traditional Swedish log-cutting ceremony that marked the official opening of the store in Ballymun, County Dublin, and then swiftly raced inside to see just how a three-seat sofa can be packed in a flat four-inch-deep, which you are free to wheel out of the store and stuff into, or on top of, your car.

Equivalent in size to about five football stadiums, the Dublin store is one of the Swedish retailer's flagship stores, and will stock the full range of IKEA items — some 9,500 products.

Irish shoppers were soon immersed not only in the vastness of the store, but to an entirely new "furniture language." For IKEA, a desk is apt to be a "Vika table bar system." Laptop computer owners wishing to go without a desk but essentially still have one took interest in the wall-mounted "Ludvig series." Those with major storage needs were introduced to IKEA's "Effectiv" and "Aspvik" lines. "Kulla," "Arstid" and "Barometer" (no, it isn't) lamps were everywhere, as were IKEA solutions for your television and stereo system: Just pick from the "Besta," "Framsta," and "Inreda" styles.

All IKEA stores follow a rat's maze master plan that effectively prevents customers from leaving the store without passing through all of it. While some items can be placed in your cart or bag, such as a light bulb, IKEA specializes in BIG furniture in SMALL boxes. For these, you simply take one of the millions of available short pencils and fill in your "Inkopslista," a sort of Swedish shopping list, and proceed to the warehouse area to find your flat carton of something. Items too gigantic for the warehouse will be fetched for you by the store's cheerful staff — after you pay for it.

As shoppers are at last able to see an actual "Exit" sign, they can first stop — or not — at the giant IKEA kiddies waiting room, which is filled with millions of multicolored rubber balls and about as many children, to pick up their brood. IKEA store policy prohibits packing children into easily-transportable flat boxes.

Happy Dubliners were happy to see the store, and just as happy to have made it through with their first Swedish goodies.

"All I have to do now is put it together," said Jeff Mulcahy as he maneuvered his "Jerker" into his hatchback, oblivious to the set of instructions and tools in the box that have proven to be a challenge for some IKEA fans.