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Entries about ireland

Just Living Life in Ireland

by Ben

semi-overcast 13 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Typical Georgian Style Doorways in Dublin

Typical Georgian Style Doorways in Dublin

Yesterday we did enough sightseeing for two days. So we eased off today and spent the morning on laundry and grocery shopping and some logistics for our return to the UK tomorrow. In the afternoon Muriel and I walked to St. Stephen’s Green, one of Dublin’s oldest parks. Afterwards we did a little shopping which included a new camera. Our camera got a scratch on the lens which is showing up in all of our pictures since the day we visited the Cliffs of Moher. Since we seem to go through digital cameras almost as fast as our kids go through shoes and our budget is tight we didn’t go high end. Hopefully we still have something a bit better than what we had before. It has a lot more controls than the others so it may take some time to see an improvement in our photo quality.

After shopping, Muriel and I had a nice time just chatting in a coffee shop (we were well into our second hour when we finally got up to leave). Something we may need to do a bit more of when we get back home. Time away has provided some really good chances to talk about the bigger things in life.

Hannah took a walk around the neighbourhood on her own in the afternoon. We are appreciating the kids being more willing to venture out on their own. The whole idea of a foreign country as being a place where kids and even teenagers always need to be supervised is something we have worked against. It still seems to take time for the kids to think about going out on their own but they have been doing it much more frequently over the past couple of months.

We have to be at the ferry terminal tomorrow at around 7:30 am so we will try to get to bed a little earlier than we have been of late.

Posted by KZFamily 13:11 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland dublin Comments (2)

A Dublin Day

by Ben

semi-overcast 13 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

The Little Museum

The Little Museum

Today was all about walking and building a better mental picture of what Dublin looks like and expand our understanding of the story of Irish independence that seems to underlie every road, statue and edifice. We walked the less than two kilometers from our apartment to the edge of St. Stephen’s Green to visit The Little Museum. It is a real gem that Hannah stumbled across in her research on Dublin. It only opened a couple of years ago. At its heart are two rooms decorated with approximately 400 items donated by ordinary Dubliners which chronicle the story of 20th century Dublin. It is a narrative that closely aligns with the struggle for Irish Independence. A docent from the museum walked us through the two rooms and wove the story of the city from 1900 to 2000. It was ironic that our guide who so skillfully explained to us the most pivotal events of Dublin in the last hundred years is a recent polish immigrant. The turbulent history of Dublin and the long-suffering nature of its citizens is sobering stuff. The recent crash of the Irish economy seems to be an echo of economic calamities that have hit this city repeatedly during the century.

In addition to documents and items of significant historical significance, The Little Museum also housing much more common place objects that also speak volumes about life in Dublin. There was a long leather bingo card. It was noted in the 1930s that the bingo cards were regularly going missing from bingo halls. It was discovered that people were stealing them to resole their shoes. To stop the theft, bingo halls punched a number of holes into each card rendering them useless for shoe repair. There were many pictures of poverty and hardship on display which continued into the 1980s. Overcrowding has been a longstanding problem. In the 1920s it was discovered that 850 people were living in 15 homes in one Dublin neighbourhood. In the 1980s there were still families of 8 sharing two double beds.

All that being said the quote our docent left us with really summed up the story told in this museum:

This has never been a rich or powerful country, and yet, since earliest times, its influence on the world has been rich and powerful. No larger nation did more to keep Christianity and Western culture alive in their darkest centuries. No larger nation did more to spark the cause of independence.
The quote is from Bernard Shaw and was part of the speech John F. Kennedy gave to the Irish parliament. To see the full text click here.

Trinity College

Trinity College

After this very pleasant journey through recent history we strolled over to Trinity College to go even further back in time. Establish in 1592, Trinity College is one of the oldest universities in Western Europe. For the majority of its history it has been a protestant island in the midst of a Catholic sea. It was not until the late 1800s that Catholics could hold teaching positions and it was not until 1970 that a practicing Catholic could attend the College without first seeking written permission from his or her bishop, otherwise they would be committing a mortal sin. The College is home to a number of important Christian manuscripts, the most famous of which is the Book of Kells which dates back to the 800s. It is a book that is written on vellum which is calf skin scraped clean of all its hair. The Book of Kells which is an illustrated four volume work of the Gospels is estimated to have taken more than 180 calf hides to create. The detail and craftsmanship is awe inspiring. It was a privilege to be able to see this book and several others like it first hand.

Trinity College: library

Trinity College: library

The Book of Kells exhibit is on the bottom floor of the historic Trinity library. The Longroom on the floor above it houses a collection of 200,000 of the University’s oldest books. As people may already know, I have a soft spot for libraries. I have been taken with quite a few in our travels these past 5 months. This one rates as one of my favourites. It may not be as ornate as some other great libraries but the sheer size of this old library and the richness of the volumes it contains is enough to take your breath away.

As hard as it is to believe, we had not yet quenched our appetite for history for the day. A short jaunt from the Trinity College is the National Museum which houses all archeological objects found in Ireland; which to date is 2 million objects and counting. We came specifically to see the Ireland Gold exhibition which showcases prehistoric gold work from 2200 to 500 BC and the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition of Iron Age bog bodies and related finds. The collection of gold objects and their large size was impressive and the preserved bronze age bodies that have been found in Ireland’s many bogs were quite eerie.

The museum, along with the National library is situated in a beautiful building that was first a mansion and then became Irish parliament for several decades before being turned into a museum. Like the British Museum, the National Museum charges no admission. This fact is what prevented us damaging our minds through information overload. We spent an hour browsing the two exhibitions and then left to take a walk along Europe’s widest street, O’ Connell Street. This street, named for a key figure in the struggle for independence in the 1800s, was the backdrop for the 1916 Irish uprising which was instrumental in pushing forward the cause for Irish independence. Many of the building on this street were destroyed and the outrage regarding such destruction and behaviour while many Irishman were overseas fighting in World War I led to much outrage at first. The execution of 14 of these combatants quickly shifted public opinion and saved the life of Valera who was due to be the 15th executed. Within a few years Valera would become Ireland’s first prime minster. At the far end of the street is a monument to Parnell another giant in the Irish story of independence.

Monument of Light

Monument of Light

In the 1960s, the IRA blew up the Admiral Nelson Pillar which was located at the midpoint of O’Connel Street. In its place is a large chrome pilon that stretches to the sky. It is officially called the Monument of Light and the Irish feel it doesn'trepresent anything in particular and seems to be quite at odds with its surroundings. The locals refer to the monument as The Spike, The Stiletto in the Ghetto and The Nail in the Pale. Standing at its base and staring upwards does give the illusion that the monument reaches into space itself.

Exhausted but satisfied by our day’s exploration we returned home to rest and eat. We headed out in the evening to take in a performance that is aspiring to be the modern day successor of River Dance. The most talented Irish dancers of this generation have formed a dance company called Prodiji. They have combined traditional Irish dance with ballet and modern dance. Their new show, Footstorm, which premiered just a few days ago is an amazing display of talent. I have to admit the post apocalyptic science fiction storyline of the show, left a lot to be desired (a lot of laser effects, fog and tribal costumes) but the dancing was truly world class. After the main performance was complete, the troop came out again in casual dance garb and performed a couple of pieces in the style that earned this group its initial fame. It was an awesome display of physical skill and grace that brought the entire theatre to its feet. It was worth the cost of the ticket just to see these two numbers. It will be interesting to see if the public will forgive the somewhat confusing and quirky storyline of Footstorm and adopt it as the new Irish dancing spectacle that River Dance became.

If there was ever a full day, this was it. We went to sleep tired and our appetite for all things Irish sated until least tomorrow.

Posted by KZFamily 13:06 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland dublin Comments (1)

At The Market

By Hannah

sunny 15 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

We left our rustic abode in Kinvara at around 10:30 this morning. The plan was to stop in town just long enough to pick up some lunch items and motion sickness pills, and then start the three and a half hour drive to Dublin. However, we were surprised to find a tiny bustling market taking up one of the streets we passed while looking for a pharmacy. Several kiosks lined each side of the lane, selling jam and vegetables and live chickens. We decided that we wouldn't mind arriving in Dublin a little later than originally planned.

large_160_Kinvara_to_Dublin_004

large_160_Kinvara_to_Dublin_004

We wandered about, taking in the Irish banter and beautiful weather that had eluded us for so long. The sound of traditional Irish folk music filled the air, played by a pair of elderly and very enthusiastic musicians. Mom and I paused at a stall selling wool tweed hats and headbands in a variety of colours. I ended up falling in love with a purple toque, while Mom went with a pink and purple knitted headband that doubled as earmuffs. We continued on, turning to look at jewellery and pictures and eventually coming across a stand laden with sauces, chutneys, and jams. Mom promptly picked out a jar of mango chutney, her favourite condiment. The stall's attendant struck up a conversation with us, and we learned he was originally from Scotland, with family from Northern Ireland and England as well. He had moved here roughly twenty years ago, but still wasn't considered a local, which he preferred. Laughing, he told us that he could get away with more if he remained a "foreigner". However, he seemed to me to be the perfect embodiment of a friendly, jovial Irishman. The three of us departed with wave and a smile. A couple of other kiosks caught my eye, including a display of the most interesting puppets I'd ever seen. A collection of griffins, elves, and other mythical creatures composed of colourful fabric and skillful stitches stared back at me as I attempted to wish more space into my already full bags. Just before we left, Mom bought Abby an adorable little handcrafted Edward Scissorhands figurine, a character that Abby is rather fond of, and a loaf of homemade bread for our lunch later that day. Then we said goodbye to Kinvara for good.

We drove for about an hour and a half, during which time the "slight drowsiness" the antinauseant was supposed to cause put me into a coma. We stopped for a brief lunch in the sunshine, laying our picnic out on a couple of benches. Besides the good weather, the only unusual thing we came across in the greenspace was a trio of worn statues of children, all looking slightly unsettling with their crumbling faces. We dubbed them "Medusa's grandchildren". Then we packed up once more and completed our journey to Ireland's capital city, Dublin.

Dublin is expensive. Our new apartment costs twice as much as our last accommodation. However, it also seems to be about twice as large. Its white walls, modern style, and clean atmosphere all stand in stark contrast with the country cottage's ramshackle exterior, grubby interior, and rough wooden accents. We're back in an urban environment, and while it's still pricey, this spacious apartment doesn't end up costing much more than a hotel might.

New digs in Dublin

New digs in Dublin

Once we had familiarized ourselves with our new home, Mom, Dad, and Abby all went out to pick up some groceries for dinner. I was still drowsy due to the effects of the antinauseant, so they allowed me to pass out on the couch instead. For dinner I cooked a sort of bangers and mash, except the mash was colcannon and the bangers were wrapped in bacon and stuffed with onions and sage. We haven't eaten a meal that hearty since I don't know when.

We have a great view from the balcony of our apartment. Row upon row of houses with four chimneys apiece sit in front of us, set off by a massive sports stadium in the background. The sky has turned a dusky blue and bright orange street lamps are flickering on. I have a good feeling about this city.

Posted by KZFamily 13:28 Archived in Ireland Tagged market ireland dublin kinvara Comments (2)

Rain Squared

BY MURIEL with a small addition by Ben

all seasons in one day 11 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

5000 Year Old Tomb in The Burren

5000 Year Old Tomb in The Burren

It seems we just can’t get enough of that Irish karst area, the Burren. We had planned to head to Connemara National Park but rechecked our distances to find it was almost a 2 hour drive away. That did not seem too fun to anyone so we decided to find a nice walk in the vicinity. Abby wanted to be taking just short jaunts so she stayed home on her own, venturing out twice to see the environs of Kinvara. Hannah, Ben and I struck out in the car seeking Burren Walk #7, which promised to take across some karst and through an old Celtic farm. Providing we could locate the trailhead, that is. The GPS insisted on taking us on a circuitous route which ended up being twice as long the way there as it was the way back for some reason. (GPSs: can’t live with them; can’t live without them.)

The bonus, however, was that we stumbled upon a site I had been wanting to see but could not locate on any map, the Poulnabrone Dolmen. This structure is a portal tomb dating back to the fourth century BC and appears in many pictures of County Clare. ‘They,’ the experts in this sort of thing, surmise that the Neolithic peoples used it as a burial chamber for the bones of their ancestors and other relatives. As we were walking around it, Ben said something about it looking like rain and said we better make a beeline for the car. Within seconds of this statement, the heavens opened and the pelting rain began. In the few seconds it took us to run the 200 meter dash, we got thoroughly drenched. Now being cold, wet and hungry (but not undone!), we continued to look for the original trailhead. It eluded us a while longer as the directions in the brochure weren’t exactly correct. Knowing we had to deal with the ‘cold, wet and hungry’ equation rather quickly, we feasted on our sandwiches and waited for the rain to abate. Presently, the sun came out, as it is wont to do if you wait for a few minutes in Ireland.

A Holy Well on the Edge of the Burren

A Holy Well on the Edge of the Burren

Hannah is suffering from car sickness this trip; we don’t know what’s causing it but I’m wondering if it is her dad’s new pattern of erratic driving – he so wants to fit in here. We felt a walk might do her some good but after 20 minutes, she turned back to the car. We went on for a ways and found a ‘holy well,’ one of hundreds strewn about Ireland. They are places of religious devotion where believers come to pray and leave simple offerings. This one was very simple: it had a small stream nearby sourced by some underground springs and was covered with several moss-covered trees. While some holy wells are decorated with statues, flowers and candles, we saw a few medals, some rosaries and an amulet hung in the trees. At some of the wells, rags, handkerchiefs or clothes are tied to the trees above the well; the idea is that as the rag rots away so does the illness. We saw this in evidence at this well but at the time, we didn’t know what the small pieces of cloth and shoelaces meant. Many of the wells are famous for their claims to heal certain diseases; there are wells for toothaches, eye diseases, mental illness, etc. Hmmm, wonder if there’s one for back pain?

After the well, Ben and I split up, he to venture onto the karst stones; and me, to proceed onwards towards the Celtic farm spoken of before. We each had a good few minutes’ walk to explore on our own and then met back on the joint path to return to the car. Up to this point, we had been blessed with fairly civil weather (the gale force wind doesn’t count anymore), which had sufficiently dried our clothes. Then, Ben noticed the dark clouds moving in again. Knowing now that he has an eerily correct sense of the weather, we rifled through our backpacks for our rain pants and donned them. As I was pulling up my hood, the hail and rain started. We were glad to have packed those pants all this way just to be able to use them today. However, it didn’t stop us from accepting a ride offered to us by two kindly Irish folk. Never refuse hospitality when out in the Irish countryside.

Hiking on the Edge of The Burren

Hiking on the Edge of The Burren

Ben here, making a late night addition to this post.

Tonight we had a magical evening at Keogh's pub. We wanted to experience an authentic small town Irish pub and since we head for Dublin tomorrow this was our last opportunity. We ended up with a wonderful table beside a roaring fire and had a meal to die for (not your run of the mill pub grub). Muriel and I had leg of lamb and the kids had seafood pasta. We had some lovely appetizers and delicious desserts. A modern Irish favorite is banoffee pie (banana and toffee pie topped with banana cream) and we can taste why. The friendly service and warm atmosphere provided the perfect venue for a long chin wag. Before we knew it three hours had passed. It is heartwarming that after five months of travelling together we still enjoy each other's company.

Muriel and I dropped off the kids at home and returned to the pub for another pint of Guiness as there was live music starting at 10 pm (no minors after a certain hour in the pub). It was a wonderful display of Irish culture. There were two accordians, a penny whistle and a keyboard to start. Later an Irish drum was added and the spoons were played. Every once in a while there was a call for a song and someone seated in the pub would sing a ballad. A French tourist joined in playing his harmonica and adding a song of his own. An hour and a half flew by in no time. We would of loved to stay longer but tomorrow is a travel day to Dublin and there is more to experience. For us it seems to be all feast and no famine.

Posted by KZFamily 16:11 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland burren Comments (3)

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