Monday, May 31, 2010

Belfast Day 1!

This weekend, we went to Belfast to see the highlights of Northern Ireland, since we are not able to spend an extensive amount of time there. Although there is a fairly intangible borderline, the country itself did feel different. The most obvious change is that they use pounds (rather than Euros) there. Also, most of the city is partitioned off by fences built to stem the violence. They must not work that well because right after we left the area, a murder occurred in one of the areas we visited murals in.

The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge was our first stop in Belfast. The rope bridge was built three

hundred years ago to connect a small island to the mainland for fishers of salmon. Apparently, the salmon in the spot were so plentiful that the bridge was a necessary for fishermen to get to that specific area. It was still a working salmon site until 2007, when they closed it down because of high tourism, as well as overfishing of salmon. Until recently, the bridge was much less stable and a person had to go on each individual step rather than walking on a completely fenced in, somewhat invincible bridge like it is today. From the walk, you can also see Scotland. Although we were given a more extensive history from the place, I am told that it was very confused and so will not perpetuate what we were told! One of my favorite parts of the Carrick-a-Rede tour was how much the weather changed from moment to moment. When we got there, it was sunny, but by the time we left, it had rained and cleared up again within an hour. I am going to miss the weather here.

From Carrick-a-Rede, we went to the Giant’s Causeway. According to the handy tour book I bought for three pounds, the Giant’s Causeway is “a natural pavement of huge rocks projecting into the Atlantic Ocean on Ireland’s north coast formed about 60 million y

ears ago by volcanic eruptions followed by lava cooling to form a hard rock called basalt” and is regular in shape because “when able to cool slowly and evenly, this type of lava forms columns with regular sides.” It also links Ireland with Scotland, and apparently was caused by a giant, Fionn Machuil.

The picture of me standing on weirdly-shaped rocks is of the basalt that cooled prematurely, forcing it to crack and then form these right angles that you see. Most of these columns have five or six sides. According to the legend, Fionn Machuil, once a high king of Ireland (and also apparently a giant) wanted a Scottish giant named Benandonner to come and fight him, so he built the stones in the picture. When Finn actually saw the giant coming across, however, he got worried and his wife dressed him up as a baby and put him in a giant-sized cradle. The Scottish giant retreated upon seeing the cradle with the logic that if the baby were almost as big as himself that Finn, the father, would rip him to shreds. Thus, the giant ran

away and pulled up most of the stones that connected Ireland to Scotland on his way out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Welcome to Dublin (ok, again)!

Hello from the other side of Ireland! Last Sunday, we packed up and left Kerry behind. Sadly, we also left Kimber and Dorothy behind, and personally I have missed them a lot here!!!! Since coming, we have been on a major day trip, a Dublin city trip, a play, and have had five hours of traditional class outside of the adventures. Needless to say, it has been quite a week :-)

We started the day with a class about child abuse in schools for impoverished children that we not closed down until the '70s. Of course, a very light topic and a great way to start the day- ha ha. The joke is not about the pseudo-orphanages because unfortunately that is true (the joke was about the light material). It was actually a great lecture to start getting into James Joyce because he writes about the lower classes of Dublin. In fact, in Dubliners, which we are reading for class, there is a similar story with implications that the boys who go to such schools concur with the research of our lecturer.
Next, we stopped at Dublin Castle, which I have written about before. It is definitely not the most beautiful place we have ever been, but still a great place to go to see Ireland "as it was." I could not capture it in a picture, but we also took a tour underneath the castle to see the original viking structure that built the castle now. It was really knocked down and forgotten, so the excavation discovered one of the original bridges that would let boats through the moat and one of the original corners of the castle. It was awesome. Also on this tour, we learned where the word "dublin" originates from. Apparently, there used to be a small, dark body of water in front of the castle when it was originally built in the 13th century. In Irish "small pool" is called "duv lin," which is what people took to calling the city.
This is the only remaining original tower of the castle before it
was essentially dismantled and redone. It was actually only redone in the 18th, meaning that its "new" restoration is about the same age as the United States. Crazy!
We took a short bus ride around town to get acquainted, and made another stop at St.
Patrick's Cathedral. This is a picture of all of the flags, helmets and spears that belonged to the original "Knights of St. Patrick" that still stay at the main altar. No, I did not take a picture during a mass- the priest in the picture was practicing with the girls' choir there.
After a hard days' work, a few of us went to get dinner, as we were meeting up with Professor Conner for the official city pub crawl. We stopped in to a great sushi restaurant. to other people who live in the Midwest: we really need to acquire an ocean or something because cheap, delicious seafood is seriously lacking in Missouri!!
On the pub crawl, we went to four different pubs and learned a lot about Irish literature... of course... Anyway, this is a very classy
picture of Eleanor and I at a picture of James Joyce, which is located at the "Davy Byrnes" pup, where we ended. If you read Joyce's Ulysses, you will understand that reference. As I have never read Ulysses, I cannot 100% explain it. However, we have been reading Joyce in class lately (his short stories Dubliners and A Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man for next week, if you're interested), and I can't wait to read it.
Tuesday, we had a full field trip day to some of the oldest holy sites in Ireland. We began at Bru na Boinne, which contains passage tombs at Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth (all different sites). The tombs date back to 4000 B.C. and were spectacular, although I will admit that they did all look very similar to me. We went to one passage tomb site at Knowth, which is hard to explain, but hopefully the link in this sentence will work well. One of the really cool parts of the community is the way that the mounds and holy sites were used over and over for different purposes. For instance, they were first built as passage tombs(the picture to the left is the pathway to the passage tomb, which we couldn't enter), but later communities built small towns or structures that needed protection (like houses of important leaders) on top of the burial mounds as a form of support. There are
three different main time periods that used the land before they were re-discovered in the 1960s and excavated. Today, we went to the National Museum and saw a few of the artifacts discovered in the excavation.
The picture to the right is actually one of the smaller mounds in the community.

This is a view from the top of the mound, where important people frequently lived (even though it was above a passage tomb). With a view like this, I would want to live here, too!
Next, we went to the Hill of Tara, which is the oldest and most holy spot in Ireland (in many people's opinions) because it was used by the original high kings. There are many legends that also take place at Tara, such as the legend of Diarmid and Grainne. I have actually referenced this before with Fionn Machuil, who was the king of the fairies in the legend. Diarmid was a man, and Grainne was a fairy who fell in love with him but was betrothed to Fionn, who eventually attacked Diarmid and let him die essentially. You should look up the long version, as it is worth reading! The point is that many of these legends and myths take place at Tara because of its holy quality. It also is supposedly one of the places that St.
Patrick went to in order to convert the High Kings of Ireland to Christianity. There are many other burial passage tombs there to indicate its age, as well. This is not a great picture of Tara because it is so huge, but also because most of the mounds that used to denote holy places have been worn down over the years. However, if you click here,you should be able to see the different indentations well. Tara is actually as of yet fairly unexcavated, which is why there are still some mounds, but also why they do not know a lot about all of the religious activity that took place here.
Our penultimate stop of the day was to Trim Castle, where the movie Braveheart was mostly filmed. Isn't it true that the movie takes place in Scotland? Why yes, it is. However, according to Aunt Sally, you get better tax benefits in
Ireland, so they chose Trim Castle, an authentic really old castle (12th Century), as the best place to film the movie. The picture on the left is of the castle and the picture on the right is the view from the castle.
We concluded the day trip with a visit to Monaster
boice, which has been a holy monastery site since it was founded by St. Buite in the 6th Century. There, the largest high crosses of Ireland may be found. Professor Conner wrote a really great article about these crosses, but I will have to get his permission before sharing the link. Basically, they have really great and intricate carvings that show how Ireland's religion is also very tied to its Celtic culture, with pictures of scripture that also incorporate Irish culture and acknowledge the ties to the "old Ireland" that Christianity somewhat effectively replaced, or edited.
Today, we went to an amazing exhibit on W.B. Yeats at the National Library. I did not take any pictures, but did buy some postcards to put in a scrapbook. This was followed by a visit to the National Museum, in which we saw the Tara Brooch and learned a great basis for Viking Studies. Also, no pictures. We then went to a play at the Abbey Theatre (which was partly founded by Yeats) called Bookworms and then trekked to the oldest pub in Ireland, the Brazen Head. Yes, the picture I have chosen to post for the beginning paragraph of this post is the one of us at the pub. C'est la vie!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Blasket Islands!

Ok, our last stop in Kerry, and possibly my favorite stop on the entire trip was our voyage to the Blasket Islands. In order to read and really understand the Blaskets, you should read The IslandMan by Tomas O'Crohan (pronounced in Irish "O-Creehan). The back story is that the Blasket Islands make up seven remote islands off of the coast of Dingle, where we have been before. They were one of the last places where the traditional Irish language was spoken, but also one of the last places that relied on fishing and basic self-sufficient methods to get by. However, in 1953, there were very few people left on the Great Blasket (where most people lived), and the islanders were essentially forced to leave the island for the mainland because they did not have access to medical care or any form of education for any new children. Since then, the island has not been home to anyone but sheep, but the village itself is still there and extremely amazing. Going to the Great Blasket felt like visiting a ghost village because the remains were there, but it was so empty that it felt like we were invading on someone else's memory. That of course is not going to stop me from writing about it, ha ha :-)

The picture here is our first view of the island. If you look carefully, you can see the remains of the houses.

Our guide was not from the Blaskets originally, but grew up nearby as a boy, and frequently went to the island before everyone left to hear their stories and find the secrets of the island. He seems old, but walked much faster than we did. He seemed the epitome of what I would have expected an islander to be like- he used the old tongue of Irish and spoke carefully and in a way that felt like it was from another century or world from us. This is a picture of us about two feet away from a cliff he didn't want me to fall off of.

We stopped in the homes of many of the islanders that were in the book, and then their municipal buildings, like the school. I hope my professor never reads this blog, because they all looked about the same to me! The difference is that they were all built by hand, including the house of O'Crohan himself, who wrote the book about the Blaskets. Some of the houses dated back before the famine. In fact, the potato famine did not affect the islanders much at all because they were fortunate enough to have a shipwreck occur that held them through. I guess one advantage of being completely shut off from the world and poor already is that famines didn't seem like that big of an impact :-)

Danny, our guide, read to us in Irish and in English, as he was fluent in both. It was magical to hear the words that authors wrote about the Blaskets in their native language as we sat in their houses.

This is a picture of a small ravine we walked into next to the ocean, where there was a small well the islanders typically used for fresh water.

More ruins of the old village. Hard to believe it was self-sustaining from this picture!

We walked around 2/3rds of the island, and the view was amazing. It was so rugged and free that it was hard to believe that people actually lived on it for hundreds of years before having to evacuate.

This is Dorothy and I right next to their "harbor" about to leave on a tiny boat that held about 8 people. It was such an amazing day!!!

PS. I swear on my honor that the picture above this caption is of two seals peaking their heads above the water to say hi to us :-) This may seem silly, but there were hundreds of seals on the beach when we first got on the island. I have NEVER seen so many in my life!!! Of course, they swam away before anyone could get close enough for a substantial picture...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Exploring the North Kerry!

Wow, you think to yourself. I haven't seen any updates on Catherine's blog lately, but I know she would have told me if she had gone back home. YOU ARE RIGHT! I just moved to Dublin, and it's hard to find internet here (again)!!! Not to worry, I am going to be in Ireland for three more weeks, and you are sure to hear about it, ha ha!!!

Ok, a week ago today, we were still in County Kerry exploring. We actually started at a pretty fun/ funny jail that the guide knew almost less about than we did. I am happy to say that we got something out of it, though, as a few of us had a great time taking pictures with the wax figures.

We began at Carrigafoyle Castle, a 15th Century castle that sits on the mouth of Shannon River. It was in a perfect position to pillage ships coming in, which is what they did. Actually, they would charge ships going across a "tax" of 10% of their pillage to get across the river. Actually, Professor Connor's family apparently originates from this castle. It is referred to as a very historical site on the Shannon even by people not related to the professor :-)

And now, some pictures of us playing with wax figures at a North Kerry jail!! I cannot actually explain what they are, but it sure was fun :-)

Wax prison guard. Wonderful.

Trying to sympathize with a prisoner. Hard, though, since he was not a real person!

Ok, guess who the people are! Ha ha...

After the certainly memorable experience at the prison, we went to a Cloighteach Rath Tuaidh,
or Rattoo Round Tower, a historic tower used by monks in the 12th century. No one is 100% sure what it was, but it was a great lookout point, but also used as a historic pilgrimage point. There are a few signs that it was used by priests back in the day because of markers to show priests that lust was a bad thing (according to Michael, our official Irish professor). It was not used as a silo, as I was told by the people who knew what it was :-) The door was extremely high up because there used to be a set of stairs up there, but imagine living in a tower as a monk :-) When we finished, we went to an old churchyard next door that had a view of the tower from afar. In case you are wondering, we look funny because it was raining a fairly substantial amount at that time :-)

After this experience, we went out to lunch. Our last stop of the day was referred to as "God's Acre," which was one of the most sacred places we visited in Ireland. God's Acre was a small plot of land (an acre, to be exact) that the starved and unknown of the famine were unceremoniously dumped during the mid 1800s. Picture a very humble plot of land with handmade memorials and a simple altar in the middle to commemorate the dead. Hundreds, possibly even thousands (because they don't know) were left in open mass graves during the Famine because their families could not pay for them to be buried by a priest. Now, they have services every month to commemorate the dead, but at the time, it was simply visited by people trying to get rid of those who died in the famine. When we went, you could tell that God was there, looking over those souls. They were forgotten in their lifetime and left to starve, but will always be remembered and cared for by God today.

Dubin and Cork

My album on Dublin and Cork is up on Picasa. Click here to view. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cork and Dublin!!

Hello again! This week has really flown by, and since we checked in last, I have been to Cork, Dublin and the North of Kerry.

Stained-glass windows.
Since coming to Kerry, we have learned to be connoisseurs of stained glass windows. Harry Clark was a famous stained glass artist who worked under the man that designed the Cathedral in Chartres. He came back to Ireland and designed hundreds of windows in until he essentially worked himself to death. His windows are pretty easy to pick out because of their deep, rich blues and reds and their intricate designs that do not allow a lot of light to shine through. We stopped at two different churches to view Harry Clark windows on the way to Cork.

This chapel is St. Honan's Chapel, which is located at the University College Cork. Apparently, the fish on the tile are bad luck on students don't walk on them if they want good grades. Harry Clark employed deep blues in his
pictures of Mary because lapis lazuli, the shade of royalty. Lapis lazuli is a valued shade because it invokes a precious stone once only found in Afghanistan and used to dye the clothes of royalty. You can't tell very well from this picture because it is so small, but the blue and red colors of this Harry Clark stained glass are vibrant and stunning. Of course, if you wanted to see an expanded version, you could visit my photo sight. You might notice that the window on the right (which is done by Harry Clark) lets significantly less light in because of the intricate design.

Next, we went to the National Art Museum of Cork, which did not allow pictures. You should go there, though, it was pretty.
Our final stop in Cork was to the historic jail, which was built by the British to hold Irish riff raff and dangerous prisoners. The jail itself is spooky and rumored to be haunted (if you can believe that). During the famine, people purposely committed crimes to be put in the jail. There really isn't a lot to say about this, except that prison in the 1800s was not a great place to be. Some famous prisoners that once resided there were the prisoners from the 1923 Rebellion who attempted to uprise and secede from Britain.
This is me, cavorting with wax models of Irish riff raff from the 1800s.


Anyone who knows anything about the trip actually knows that we will be going to Dublin for two weeks after this week. However, because Kimber and Dorothy are graduating and will be leaving this week, I prematurely went with them. We had a great time! After the adventure in Cork, we took the train to Dublin, which lasted about two hours. As there were no restaurants open when we finally got to our hotel, we settled on KFC and Carlsburg beer for dinner (around 11:30 at night). It was wonderful, and felt soooo good to sleep in a real bed!
The next morning, we got up
bright and early to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The Book of Kells is one of the most valued pieces of Irish culture, and is a beautifully decorated copy of the four gospels made by early Irish monks. To read a better history than I can give you, click here. This was yet another site where we were not allowed to take pictures, but if you ever go to Ireland, you should definitely try to see it. Also, if you want something from the Trinity College bookstore, let me know! I'll be back there soon and they have some cool souvenirs :-)
After the book, we went to the National Museum and saw an exhibition on the "Bog People." Again, could not take pictures. The bog people are basically prehistoric remains of human bodies that have been preserved in
bogs for literally thousands of years. For more information on these people, click here. They were especially fascinating to me because we have been reading poems by Seamus Heaney that deal with these people and their circumstances. It was chilling to see them in person both because of their appearances, but also (as Kimber put it first) because of the knowledge that every person preserved in the bog was murdered for one reason or another. Many of the deaths were sacrificial killings, although some of them were for crimes like adultery or theft. One body we saw was from 400 BC, but the bog had even preserved its hair. Crazy. This picture is not with the Bog People, in case you are wondering. It is in front of the Liffey, Ireland's equivalent of the Thames, although not quite so mighty.
After the National Museum, we went back and practically collapsed on our beds from exhaustion. Walking around Dublin is tough work! We went to a restaurant called the Kingfisher Grill, where Kimber and I proceeded to have amazing meals. We ordered hamburgers with bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce and a fried egg on them-- not Irish, but delicious! For dessert, we had the restaurant's special called "jelly and ice cream," which we actually found out meant jello and ice cream. Yes, I did have to post the picture of my hamburger.

The next day, we journeyed around Dublin without a major plan, mostly because we didn't want to be too exhausted to move again. We went to Christchurch Cathedral and Saint Patrick's Cathedral, both of which were spectacular.
This is a picture of a heart in the Peace Chapel of St. Laud, part of Christchurch Cathedral that holds the actual heart of Archbishop St. Laurence O'Toole. This particular peace chapel was nice because of the prayer book it offers to any visitors passing through.
I particularly liked the Crypts at Christchurch, but apparently they thought I was annoying... Ha ha...

This is in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was beautiful. Jonathan Swift, a writer I am very fond of, was actually the Dean of St. Patrick's for a period, and is buried within the walls of the Cathedral. Check out A Modest Proposal to read something of Swift's :-)

Here we are, being inspired, right under his tomb!

Needless to say, we had a great time in Dublin. I am so sorry to have to say goodbye to Kimber and Dorothy, though :-( Have a great week- installations about yesterday's trip to North Kerry soon!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Iveragh Peninsula!

Here is the link to the album for the blog post that is below. As usual, you can click on this entry anywhere and it will take you to the pictures. The actual blog post about the trip is below. Enjoy!
On Monday, we went to the Iveragh Peninsula, which is the second half of the Ring of Kerry. The first half was the Dingle Peninsula- one of the first places we visited on the trip. It was basically a long bus trip that resulted in a lot of interesting historical sites from the Iron Age (5th Century) to now. We passed a few scary, haunted places that I did not take pictures of because I was worried about having bad luck! Many of the stops that we made on this trip have been heavily tied to Irish mythology or the Great Famine. You might notice that they come up here a lot, but this is because the markers are still all over the land. It is against the law to knock down a "ruin," and because of the desperation people went through in the 1840s (during the Famine), thousands fled their homes to escape hunger and eviction. Sadly, they were not often able to save themselves. Over one million Irish men and women died during the Famine and over a million more went to America, never to return. That being said, Famine Villages are still very common in the countryside here. They usually consist of a few large stone buildings surrounded by houses of people who fled. They usually consist of a few large stone buildings surrounded by houses of people who fled. They look like small ghost towns on the horizon-- essentially because they are.

The first haunted place that we passed is an old castle built by a Protestant landlord who had an obsession with the Middle East, and apparently built his castle accordingly. During the Famine, he let all of the workers on his farm starve, and did not offer any help at all. Ever since he died, it is a cursed place. There are no tours there, and none of the locals will take a picture or come close to the castle because of its reported hauntings. Speaking of cursed
castles, we learned how to curse people today. Apparently, if you walk around a well saying what you want to happen to the person while walking counter-clockwise, they are screwed. Keep that in mind if the occasion ever comes up.

Right next to this haunted ruin, we stopped at Rossbeigh Strand (Beach, but they call them strands). It is below Ballaughaoisin (mouthful!), the road of Oisin. Oisin is an Irish man like Rip Van Winkle. One of the fairies apparently fell in love with him, and took him to the land of the fairies. When he wanted to go back home, she let him go back, but the problem was that fairy world has a different time on it than the everyday realm. Apparently, one year in fairy world is 100 years in real time. Thus,

when he came back here, his one order was not to ever set foot on Irish soil. to make a long story short, he did set foot on Irish soil, aged 100 years and died. The pass next to the beach is apparently where he made his journey. The beach we stopped at is supposedly the place that he stepped onto Irish soil. I don't blame him-- it was gorgeous!

Next, we went to another haunted place. I would not

normally post a haunted building picture, but this one stands for a purpose. This is one of the best examples of a Georgian mansion (or was once), and actually belonged to the daughter of Daniel O'Connor, "The Liberator" before she died. Upon her death, it was given up to the English government (who ruled Ireland at the time). Then, they made it into a "workhouse," or a building where impoverished people went for food in exchange for labor. Four years before the famine, this mansion was turned into a workhouse, which has always been under speculation, because it is almost like the English planned on needing a huge place to house many Irish starving people. When the famine hit, this one mansion had as many as 2,000 men, women and children living in it (it was designed for 80 people to live in
originally). When they came for relief, families were split up by sex and age, given hard labor and one bowl of food per day. Many people died before ever leaving the workhouse, and most never saw their families again. When they died, the Irish were buried in mass graves in front of the house, making it one of the most haunted places in Kerry.

Next, we went to the original home of Daniel O'Connell, the famous Irish "Liberator" (above). O'Connell is a famous man in Irish history because he 1) is responsible for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland and 2) did all revolution peacefully. He was a great orator, and for many years was considered the most persuasive man in Ireland. We later visited Derrynane, the home where he spent most of his years. O'Connell, upon achieving peaceful emancipation for Catholics (of which he was one), made it is his goal to gain peaceful Irish emancipation (you probably know that never happened). He was arrested and jailed for sedition, and eventually died of cancer before ever seeing his dream come true. Later in the day, we went to see the only cathedral in Ireland not named after a saint. The town where he grew up had to go to the pope to have a cathedral named after him, but they

did anyway because of their devotion to his peaceful passion and life. The pope apparently respected O'Connell's work so much that he sent a stone from the Catacombs in Rome to work as a corner stone for the cathedral.

On to more really old history. Next on our trip, we stopped at one of three Iron Age forts. Cahergall, pictured here, was built around 400 BC, and no one is 100% sure what it was used for. It is possibly an old place of defense, entertainment, or religion. It was constructed without any type of mortar, and still stands today, untouched by human reconstruction. We had a great time climbing on it :-)

In other news, I finally got a good, up close shot of some sheep!! Baaa-aa!

In other news, we travelled to the beach where Daniel O'Connell buried his beloved wife, Mary. I am standing in front of it. Since I have already posted a picture of a haunted place, I'm not going to risk posting one of a cemetery- I'm pretty sure its bad luck. Anyway, she was buried in an old stone chapel on this beach. Beautiful. She is not buried with her husband, though, because he is in Dublin. His last requests were body in Dublin, his heart in Rome, and his soul in Heaven (or something).