Oct 22, 2012

Cork, Part II: Jack, I'm coming!

There's really no eloquent or profound way to put this - at least, not as far as I can figure out - so I'll just say it.

I love "Titanic".
They said, "God Himself could not sink this ship."  With those dimensions and a nickname like "Queen of the Ocean", I wouldn't have disagreed.
"Titanic", friends, is the gem of Hollywood, the love story that trumps all others, the story that never fails to bring me to tears.  Every.  Single.  Time.

I know, I know...this isn't Jack's bicycle.  Humor me, won't you?
It's not real - you don't have to tell me.  Really.  But this is my favorite movie!  Watch it with me one day and you'll witness all sorts of crazy.  By the time Rose is monkey-barring herself along the pipes, armed with an ax to free her beloved, I'm usually half-standing, cheering her on and willing the ship not to sink.  And I know that when she actually swings it, Jack doesn't end up hand-less...but that never stops me from curling up into a little ball and hiding my face in my knees.  I can't deal with it.  The only time I ever watched that scene, actually, was the first time I saw the movie (i.e. when I didn't know what was going to happen).

I could go on and on about "Titanic", believe me.  But sadly, today's post isn't about Jack and Rose (and, in case you haven't gathered this yet, my favorite romance.  "The Notebook" runs a close second.)  It's about a little town called Cobh (pronounced "cove"), perched at the tip of Cork Harbor.  This otherwise-nondescript town was a) where Titanic was built, and b) the last port of call on that doomed maiden voyage.

See where the landmasses on the horizon break in the middle?  That channel opens up to the Atlantic...and is where, a century ago last April, Titanic broke into open water for the first and last time.
Cobh's history is a tug-of-war of sorts.  Until 1849, it was known as Cove, being located in Cork's harbor (cove).  In 1849, when Queen Victoria first stepped on Irish soil there, the name was changed to Queenstown to honor the occasion.  At the time, though, I'll bet she never expected that the Irish would break free from British rule a few decades later.  In 1920, an independent Ireland reinstated the old name, but with its Irish spelling (which, after weeks of immersion in it, has yet to make any phonetic sense to me.)
Meet Annie Moore, the first Irish immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island - where an identical statue of her and her two brothers stands to this day.
Cobh has an entire museum dedicated to Titanic (and the Lusitania, too.  That ship's story, though tragic, doesn't tug at my heart in quite the same way.  Still, wherever your allegiances stand, this statistic is humbling.)

Three million people...fleeing a country in the throes of famine and poverty, leaving all they knew for a land with no guarantees, but the faint hope of something better.  It makes me feel silly for being home- and friend-sick.  I mean, for one thing, my plane was no coffin ship (below).

An "American wake" was often held on the emigrant's last night at home.  To combat the sorrow of goodbyes, food, drink, music, dancing, and storytelling carried on until morning.  This custom arose from the Irish tradition of waking (watching) the dead; the likelihood of the emigrant not returning meant that he/she was "dead" to those left behind.
Like I mentioned earlier, part of the museum was devoted to the Lusitania.  Go back to high school history class, friends - do you remember this story?  The sinking of this ship (by the Germans) was what drew the US into WWI.

I was pleasantly surprised at all of the music displayed in this museum.
A replica of the type of room used to console the few who survived Lusitania's sinking.
A typical passenger's room
This life-sized replica of a ticketmaster gave me quite the fright as I turned the corner.
I left the museum with movie scenes whizzing through my mind and a spring in my step.  It's really a wonderful film.

The last thing on the agenda for Saturday was a walking tour of Cobh.  The town, for all of its fame and natural beauty, is in steady decline.  Most of these shopfronts mask rooms gathering dust bunnies and doors that haven't been opened in decades.

The Lusitania "peace memorial".  The inscription reads, "To the memory of all who perished by the sinking of the Lusitania (May 7, 1915) and in the cause of universal and lasting peace."
Here's St. Colman's Cathedral, which contains the only church carillon in the Republic of Ireland (the southern bit), has 49 bells to its name...and they're all tuned perfectly.
I always turn backwards the moment I enter cathedrals like this, just to check out the choir loft and the organ.  As you can see, this church didn't disappoint.

Next up: the beginning of Sunday, which I spent climbing, crawling, and leaning backwards over the side of a castle wall.  A theme seems to be emerging...

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