Ireland, Day 5 and 6


…I don’t think there are sufficient words for the things I saw yesterday.

Today, however, was more managable– we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and a few other mediaval manuscripts they had on display. It was all very pretty, and I was happy to see that the Book of Kells itself, which dates from around 800 AD, incorporates a lot of designs from older, Celtic artwork. The history in Ireland seems to be so interconnected!

Next, we were off to the Chester Beaty Library, which houses a huge collection of manuscripts and books, all of which are very beautiful and some of which are incredibly old–for example, there was a piece of papyrus with Egyptian love poems on it, from about 1160BC. Some other specimens of note were the fragment of one of the Gospels of the New Testament, from about 150AD (which makes it one of the oldest surviving copies of the gospels) and some very ornate Japanese woodblock prints.

Since I’m a giant  book fiend, this was a very interesting museum to just stroll through, taking in the craftsmanship of it all.


And now, Andi’s attempt at describing the class’s all-day outing of mass proportions:

First, we went out of Dublin and into the city of Trim, the goal of which was to see Trim Castle. It’s closed in the wintertime, but that doesn’t mean that the curtain wall and the view of the keep, as well as the surrounding fields, which a classmate and I actually frolicked around in for a few moments, were not exquisite in the late-morning light… which, you know, in Ireland, kind of looks like evening light all day, anyway…

Next, we were off to two monasteries–Mellifont (The Fount of Honey) and Monasterboise–from two different periods of Irish monastic life. The first one we saw, and the later one in date, was very organized, with wings and a central courtyard and a large church. The second one was interesting because it had examples of early Irish sculpture–that is, massive sandstone Celtic crosses that are at least 1,000 years old each, with beautiful Celtic and early Christian carvings that would have been brightly painted when they were new. I was surprised to learn that carvings like that probably would have been used to teach people religious stories–something I hadn’t really thought of before, but should have, considering that most people would have been illiterate.

Lastly, and most impressively, was Newgrange, which pretty much deserves an entry all its own. It was particularly meaningful to me because I have been interested in ancient cultures all my life–and Newgrange is older than both the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge in England (a fact about which our Irish tour guide seemed to revel in, which was amusing).

We were allowed to go into the mount, and there we saw the ancient, spiral carvings left by the people who had built it–WITHOUT mortar, I might add. Truly magnificent, and is still completely intact. The theory is that, since the sun shines into Newgrange on Midwinter Solstice, the spiral designs are solar in nature, perhaps representing the wheel of the year and the cylical nature of Life, Death, and Rebirth.

Our guide turned off the lights inside in order to show us a recreation of what the inside looks like on Solstice. And immediately afterwards, I went back to the visitor’s center and put my name in the lobby for next Solstice. (The chance is only 1 in about 34,000 but still, that’s better than the lottery!!) It was truly mind-boggling to realize that people more than 5,000 years ago were able to create such a thing, without all our current astronomical equipment, etc.

The mound itself is massive from the outside–and so, you’ll probably we surprised to hear that the inside is rather small. The entrance corridor is hazardous to the health, being narrow and not for the tall of stature, and it leads you into a small room that could probably only fit 40 people. Nevertheless, the rounded ceiling makes it quite imposing. A few of my classmates seemed to be claustrophobic, and so were forced to leave–but a few of us just stayed behind and gawked.

This experience was particularly meaningful to me. Standing on that ground, which was in ritual use well after the people who had built it had disappeared, just felt…. well it kind of felt like I had made a pilgrimage of sorts. I can’t really say much else about it, but I do hope that all of you have the peaceful experience I had at least once in your life. :)

More pictures!!:

I’ve taken 1 gig of photos already!!! What you see are only the best ones….

Add comment January 13th, 2009

Ireland, Day 3

Today was a wonderful day of sleeping in (I think I’m actually getting over my jetlag, because for the first few days I woke up every few hours or so and couldn’t sleep past 7am) and then going out to the countryside for a lovely jaunt over to Glendalough–taken from the Irish for “The Glen of the Two Lakes”. It was an extremely lovely drive south out of Dublin and into County Wicklow, where there are more sheep than you can shake anything you could possibly shake at. There will be multitude of pictures to follow; I’m going to a musical pub crawl this evening, to enjoy some of the famous pubs and some live, traditional Irish music, so I don’t have time to upload at the moment. Once we got out to the site, we saw what was a monastic community started in the 5th century by St. Kevin. Apparently his life of solitude and denial was immulated by a bunch of copycat “lonely men and love-sick girls,” as our driver pointed out. Ah, that Irish gift of gab… The site was amazing–featuring a ruined cathedral from the 12th century, and a round belltower–the door of which was 12 feet off the ground, put there as a defence to keep the ruffian out. There was also a beatiful walk out to the two lakes, along the valley; the Irish countryside is pretty much indescribably beautiful. And now to the pub crawl!

Add comment January 10th, 2009

Dublin, Day 2

Well, another full day of taking in the city of Dublin, and I continue to be reminded that Ireland is a small country–where most pubs, except those in Temple Bar (which my classmates and I have dubbed the hooligan district, a.k.a. “the place where the rebels go”), aren’t open after 11pm, and where the actual Viking and Norman foundations of the city are less than half a mile in length and width….

Today was mostly spent trekking around, learing about the foundations of the city. We saw the two cathedrals in Dublin–Christ Church and St. Patrick’s–and were informed that it’s very weird for a city to have two cathedrals, on account of the fact that there is only one Bishop per See…

We also saw some remains of the Norman wall, dating from the 12th century, when the English started their control over Ireland. Interestingly, we learned that these walls were very significant cultural barriers; the last fence on the outskirts of English-controlled barriers was called the pale, and that’s where the expression “beyond the pale” comes from. If something is “beyond the pale,” according to the English, it’s Irish and therefore sh**e. (Catch the Irish spelling there?)

After a full day of partaking of historical knowledge, some classmates and I strolled around Temple Bar–the sort of cultural and nightlife center of the city. There were plenty of bizarre little shops, pubs, bars, clubs, tattoo parlours… All in all, a very lively place down by the Liffey.

And here are some more pictures!

And just for snarky commentary—having lived in Europe last semester, and traveled a fair bit, I have seen FAR too many cathedrals. They’re all starting to look the same…

Add comment January 9th, 2009

YOU GUYS!!! I’m in DUBLIN!! =D

I got here safely yesterday at about 10am (Dublin time of course) and basically spent the time setting up my pretty little apartment-type room. Dublin is a neat little city–on a smaller scale than even Copenhagen, though, which was kind of surprising to me. I suppose it’s natural, as it’s a small-ish country. Everything is pretty easy to walk to, since we in the Ancient Ireland class are staying on the edge of the central area of the city.

Today, basically, we saw  the Irish National Museum, in a beautiful 19th century building housing what we are focusing on for this class called Ancient Ireland—a bunch of Bronze Age and Iron Age Irish artifacts–including some ridiuclously gigantic necklaces, earrings, and what are effectively cloak clasps that could kill you if you put them on too quickly. I could go on and on about the amazing things… and unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures…

But you know, wandering around the streets is free, and camera and tourist friendly…

Behold some pictures of Dublin:

This is the page where I’ll be keeping all my pictures–it’s just easier that way, since I’m a camera fiend, and I’m keeping touch with the entire world via internet at the moment…

And since I lived in Denmark last semester, I’m really not that cold, at all. I don’t even really need my huge heavy jacket that looks like a blanket.

Add comment January 8th, 2009

Welcome to Poet Ireland Blogs!

Welcome to Poet Ireland Blogs!  This blog site is for Whittier College students studying in Ireland. Happy blogging!

Add comment December 19th, 2008


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