Saturday, March 29, 2008
Another afternoon in Dublin.
After our tour of Clonmacnoise, we returned to Dublin for Saturday's return flights for most of our tour group members. Paddy dropped us off for a few hours outside of Trinity College while he took the luggage to the hotel.
Everyone slipped off in different directions. Some to eat again, some went to the Trinity College to see the book of Kells. Others to get in last minute shopping. I opted for the "book" and headed for the library.
Since it was Good Friday, the line wasn't very long, and there was only a few minute wait for entry. Folr a holiday, it still was pretty active.
The book is an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels handmade in AD 800 for the Kells monastery. It had an interesting history, surviving many raids and looting expeditions perpetrated on the Monastery, before winding up in the custody of Trinity College for protection. It is considered one of the greatest treasures of Ireland, and would easily qualify as one of the great treasures of the world.
The exhibit consists of explanatory posters, and enlarged copies of various pages. There's a display on vellum making and hand bookbinding. The book itself is on display beneath glass, with four pages open for viewing. Studying the intricacy of the writing and illustrations are well worth the visit.
Since Molly Malone is just around the corner, I headed out to try to get better pictures, the first set from our first day were a bit rained out. Of course it had to rain. Out came the umbrella, but fortunately, the rain let up in about 10 minutes. Got the pictures, and hiked over to Oscar Wilde's house.
I can resist anything but temptation --Oscar Wilde
Dublin is the home of the home where Oscar Wilde grew up. The city has honored him by putting up a statue in his honor. It's an interesting lifelike statute made up of colored minerals. Superb job, you expect him to stand up.
The house is across the street from the park where his statue rests.
Aran Island, County Galway
After a good breakfast we loaded into the bus and headed to Rossaveal west of Galway to catch the ferry to Aran Island. We went to the main of three islands, Aran and loaded into mini buses for the grand tour.
The island is 2 x 9 miles, and has 3000 miles of stone fences. Everything is made out of rock. Rock walls, rock houses, rock streets, you get the picture. Except for the houses and rock walls, the island is swept clean of anything more than a few inches tall by the strong north Atlantic storms.
The Celts have inhabited the island for thousands of years, and the locals still speak Gaelic (Celtic, or Irish, depending on whom you speak to) one of the last strongholds of the language. Aran is also famous for hand knitted sweaters, formerly made of unwashed wool for its water repellant properties. They wash it now, the smell was somewhat of a turnoff for tourists.
The island has 4 Celtic stone forts, with a stunning triple-walled fort set at the top of a 300 foot vertical cliff. Wouldn't you know, it's made of rock. It's about a 20 minute walk up the hill, and when you get there, the view is spectacular. No guardrails, you can walk and sit on the cliff's edge. The fort is stacked rock, with no cement, it's all held together by the weight of the rocks.
The fort and scenery are fantastic, but the best was to describe it is windy and cold. It's hard to believe where the Irish have set up their castles and forts. It's spring now, and it's still cold enough to freeze rocks. After climbing the hill, you're a little warm, but that feeling goes away real quickly. The wind almost lifts you, and you've got to be careful or you'll go over the side. And you wouldn't come up.
After our tour, we headed back to the harbor for a wait for the ferry. In the pub, of course.
"Please note that this is a very busy site and visitors may experience a delay during the summer months." Guidebook
Since this isn't summer and the wind was blowing off the river Shannon at about 25 knots at 35 degF, crowds were expectantly sparse. And despite all the things that one could see here, the gusting winds lifting you off the ground discouraged extensive exploration.
The site has a long history, having been founded in the 6th Century. It was constantly overrun and sacked by just about everyone including the Vikings, its occupants killed, and its buildings destroyed many times. Because of its location at a junction of the Shannon and trade routes, it eventually became a fort as well as a monastery and was actually stable for a while, until its eventual abandonment around 1100 AD.
It has two wrecked cathedrals -- not the kind that immediately comes to mind, but medium sized stone buildings. Very little fancy stone work, this isn't the Vatican by any stretch of the imagination.
In addition there are several small churches that look suspiciously like small stone buildings, and two fine examples of Irish round towers.
A main source of fame is the fact that the site contains 3 stone "high crosses", some of the few that are still in existence. They are intricately carved, and are of historical and artistic significance -- information that is too complex to get into here.
This Irish weather is something. There had to have been some pretty important reasons to even attempt to live here with nothing but burning peat to keep one warm in the winter. We've been fortunate that we've had alternating good and rainy days. All rain would have been too much.