Oct 1, 2012

Dublin, Part III: locks and tombs

Here’s my last post about Dublin, friends.  It’s a little overdue, but better late than never.  A few quick updates before I begin:
  • I’ve decided not to switch apartments after all.  (Again, if you haven't heard the details yet and would like them, let me know.  It's probably for the best.)
  • I’m not sick anymore.  My voice is still irritatingly rough-sounding, but on the whole, things are much, much better compared to how I felt last week.
Back to business, then.  Saturday was spent touring/exploring Dublin:

We began at Trinity College, which was founded in 1796 - yup, just one year after Union!
In a strange way, the centrality of this quad/bell tower reminded me of the Nott.  I never thought I'd say I miss the Nott...

For obvious (and slightly amusing) reasons, the campus chapel is located directly across from the exam hall.
Next stop: Dublin Castle.  I crossed beneath this archway with high expectations...specifically, expectations of turrets and hoop skirts.
No princesses, unfortunately, but I did get my turret.
We made our way into the main courtyard...
...only to find something that looked more like an administrative building than a castle.

So the medieval castle was a bit of a letdown, yes, but not all was lost.  Later on, as we made our way over the River Liffey (which divides the city into its northern and southern sections), I spotted these on the bridge.

Long live romance!
We continued to wander...

This farmer's market, which was located relatively close to the hostel, was bustling with tourists and Dubliners alike.  The highlight: a crepe stand where 3.50 could bring you a crepe stuffed with Nutella and Bailey's whipped cream.

The Grand Central Bar?  Seriously?  Oh, New York, New York, where art thou...
That evening, we saw an Oscar Wilde play at the infamous Gate Theatre.  It was great fun to dress up and act like I was part of high society - and I found the play itself ("A Woman of No Importance") to be quite witty.  It was an evening well spent!

On Sunday, we left the hostel early and on our way back to Galway, stopped at two major historical sites: Knowth and Clonmacnoise.  Knowth is a Neolithic passage grave and an ancient monument in the valley of Ireland's River Boyne.  Passage tombs in Ireland are part of a megalithic monumental tradition stretching from 4000 BC.  In addition to serving as places of burial (for the richer sector of the population, of course), the tombs served as rather formidable territorial markers.

Here's a mounted example of the kind of stone used to build the tombs.
The Irish living in that era spent their days in these makeshift houses set atop the tombs.
This was a time in history when trepanation was an acceptable form of medical treatment.   How scary!

I'm a little suspicious about the authenticity of that handprint...
These mounds are essentially hollowed-out hills; the dead were housed inside.
All of the tombs are supported by a base of large stones (scroll up for a closer look.)
Most of the stones have cryptic designs carved into them - spirals, concentric circles, squiggles, you name it.  Historians have been trying to decipher them for years, but to no avail.
At a few defined places around the edges of the tomb, there are underground entrances which the early Irish used when they were trying to hide from Viking invaders.

Another underground passageway.
Yes, it is actually called Woodhenge.  (No one knows its function.)
The stones at the entrances to the tombs tended to be the most ornate.  See the quartz and granite at the base of the rock?  Those materials were important in fertility rituals back then.

Here's one of those underground tunnels where people guarded their lives thousands of years ago.
The view of the countryside from atop the largest passage tomb.

The last site of the trip was Clonmacnoise, the ruins of a Christian monastery built in the sixth century.  Back in the day, it was a major center of religion, learning, craftsmanship, and trade...but more recently, it functions as a Catholic pilgrimage site.

Here's the largest cathedral on the site, which has held up surprisingly well over the years.
The "Round Tower of McCarthy's Church", built in the Romanesque style, dates back to the twelfth century.  It is possibly the earliest example of a church and a round tower being part of a single structure in Ireland.
Here's the entrance to another old church, which is colloquially known as the "whispering arch".  Why?  It was used for confession.  The penitent and priest would stand at opposite sides of the arch and conduct the confession by whispering through the rocks.  I personally don't buy it; I know an area of Grand Central Station where two people standing at opposite corners of the room can do the same thing.
The sculpture work was quite admirable.

All of these crosses in the graveyard have Scripture stories carved into them.
The oldest of these "high crosses" are housed indoors in order to protect them from the elements.  They were huge - this one was fifteen feet high.

Coming up: County Kerry!

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