Archive | January, 2015

Weekend Out West

31 Jan

Last weekend we finally left the hustle and bustle of Dublin for the green countryside of Western Ireland. Driving through the rolling hills of Ireland was very refreshing after being in the city for a couple of weeks. When we arrived in Galway I was excited to walk around and explore the small city. The cobble stone streets and quaint shops gave the city a small town feel.  I enjoyed browsing through the stores and talking with the locals, who were very warm and welcoming people. As the first day in Western Ireland came to an end I was excited to get some rest so I could be energized for our next adventure: Inis Mor.

After a rocky ferry ride across the bay, we arrived at the beautiful Inis Mor. I could not believe how scenic the island was, and my pictures do not do the island justice. The tall cliffs, unique architecture, and rocky coastline are unlike anything I have ever seen before. The best part about the day was learning about all of the history the island holds. Our tour guide knew the ins and outs of the island, and he knew the answer to every question he was asked. I think the most interesting thing about Inis Mor is how well the culture is preserved. The residents of the island continue to be self-sufficient by living off the land, and living a simple life. On future visits to the island I predict that it will be just as beautiful and preserved.

The final day of our weekend out West was another incredible experience. Visiting the Cliffs of Moher was something I always wanted to do, and our visit did not disappoint. As I browsed through my photos on the way home I noticed that one of the cliffs looked like a face. When I finally got wifi I went online and found out that the face I saw actually has a story behind it. The face in the cliff is called the Hags Head. The Hags Head represents a woman named Mal, who chased the legendary warrior Cuchulainn because she was in love with him. Cuchulainn escaped her by hopping over the sea. It is said that Mal lost her footing and fell against the cliff, and she remains on the wall of the cliff, staring out to sea.

Arriving back in Dublin made me feel like I was coming back to my home away from home. Although we have been here for less than a month, I feel at home here. I am looking forward to see what the next couple of months here in Ireland will have in store.

-Sean Cronin

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Galway, Aran Island, Inis Mor, and many more…

31 Jan

When I was in the states and I told my friends and family that I will be studying in Dublin, Ireland this semester, they always had something positive to say. Some told me, “Ireland is a beautiful place to be” and others said, “You’ll have an amazing time, there is so much to see.” I never really understood their excitement about the country of Ireland till this past weekend.

We had a planned trip to Galway on Friday, Jan 23rd and I must say that I was unsure of what to expect during the trip. On our way to Galway we saw lots of sheeps and cows; I had never seen so many sheeps in my life until last weekend. I noticed that a lot of people in Ireland feed from the land, and they farm a lot. This was shocking and surprising to me because I never imagined seeing so many farms and animals. After arriving in Galway, we were able to visits some shops and walk around the city for about 2 hours and during my walk, I noticed that there were Irish Claddagh rings in all the shops I visited, so I decided to purchase a ring for myself. I also purchased some for my sister and friends because I really like what the ring represents, which is Love, Loyalty and Friendship.

On Saturday, we had to be up really early in order to begin our trip to Aran Island. First, we got on a ferry boat and then we were welcomed by a tour guide, who gave us the tour of the Inis Mor (the big island) from a tourist van. The Inis Mor was occupied by 800 residents and they all lived in small villages. These villages had about 10 houses per village. There was only 1 grocery store on the island, called Spar and they had 3 bars on the island. They had about 2 hostels and 1 hotel on the island for tourists and about 3 churches. Now, I go to a school that is occupied by 5000+ students, with huge shopping malls and grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies, so you can imagine my surprise at the size of this island. I was fascinated. The island had a lot of rocks and these rocks were piled up to build fences around peoples lands and the though in my head was, “Who had time to build all these fences.” We also saw some cute leprechaun houses and some old houses with hay roof tops. Inis Mor is blessed with lots of lands and water and the people on the island were very friendly.

During our tour, we were able to walk up the rocks to see the cliffs of the Island, and we were told that parts of the movie Leap Year was filmed on the cliff and on the island. I really loved how peaceful it was on the cliff. I laid down on the grass and listened to the water while the sun shined on my face, and this moment is one I will never forget from my visit to the Aran Island.

-Esther Dada

An Afternoon at the National Museum of Ireland by Chris Shauinger Lewis & Clark FIE Spring 2015

31 Jan

An Afternoon at the National Museum of Ireland

Oh the National Museum in Dublin is cute. It’s a small museum that houses centuries of Irish historical objects as well some European treasures and an assemblage of Egyptian relics. It dwarfs the collection at the National History Museum of London. I found this fact quite amusing. So many conversations of Irish History have the mention of Brittan in them. As I turned a corner in the National Museum in Dublin, I couldn’t help but think of the symbiotic relationship of the two countries; the attention to minute details, organization and administrative qualities of the English and the artist, nomadic and carefree characteristics of the Irish. There in front of me was an old desk leaned up against the wall, a chair with a disconnected computer on it and other items being stored in plain site in the Nation Museum of Ireland.

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I had to laugh. “If England had never existed, the Irish would have been rather lonely. Each nation badly needed the other, for the purpose of defining itself,” wrote Declan Kiberd in Inventing Ireland. Kiberd spends much more time explaining this complicated relationship between Ireland and England. Rather it should read, “If the Irish had never existed, the English would have been rather lonely.” To me, this collection of discarded or stored items in public view was a perfect example how the Irish are less concerned with those details like the appearance of one corner in a museum than the anal perfections and grandeur of the National Museum in London. That being said I am no expert, nor am I criticizing neither the Irish nor the English. As a foreigner learning of the dynamic relationship between the two countries and who has visited both, I am constantly noticing and am entertained by the little details. This also reminds me of the rejected Sir Edward Lutyens design for a Liffey bridge gallery that would have housed a donated collection of Impressionist Paintings of great value. W.B. Yates disapproval of the decision not to create a museum that would house such cultural icons as well as his detestation of the Irish middle class is captured in September 1913.

“What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save;
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.”

Again, I am neither criticizing the Irish nor the English just observing a small detail in the National Museum in Dublin that, to me, represents two different sets of priorities between the Irish and English that contribute to an undeniable symbiosis.

Oh, The Popes Cross

31 Jan

Oh, The Popes Cross by Chris Shauinger Lewis & Clark FIE Spring 2015

Our second day in Dublin and we unload ourselves from the tour bus at Popes Cross in Phoenix Park. Our wonderful tour leader, Donal Casey, describes the story of the Popes Cross and how it was a grand event for Dublin, an event that crowded the greens surrounding it by at least a million people. From grandmother to youngest, generations of not just Dubliners but all Irish came to pay tribute to the leader of the Catholic Church, the great John Paul ll. This was also the first visit of a pope onto Irish soil, at least physically, because Ireland has felt the grip of the pope since the 11th century.

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Oh the irony of Catholicism. As we as a group walk up to the mound that anchors the giant 31 ton, 125 foot cross we were almost blown over by the powerful wind. The force of the wind was astounding. It felt like the beautiful princess, that is Ireland, was displaying her disapproval of this scar on her soil, the scar of the Papal Cross. Maybe I read the wrong stories in my preparation for a semester in Ireland, but if I’m mistaken, wasn’t it the pope that blessed Henry ll’s conquest of Ireland in the late 12th century, a pope that deemed Ireland ignorant and undisciplined, barbarous, uncultured, and ignorant to divine law? A pope that ignored the contributions the Irish Church made to Catholicism like the great monastic schools, Irish missionaries, and the book of Kells, to name just a few? And wasn’t it under the purifying eye of the pope that Henry ll, as the Christian ruler, would rid the church in Ireland of its terrible vice and corruption and urge them to enforce obedience? No more would priesthood be hereditary and passed down from generation to generation in Ireland, a tradition that transitioned from Druid heart of Ireland. No longer were the priests to marry in Ireland. That would be too civil. Also, marriage, marriage should not be performed openly outside of the canon law with the liberties that the social people of Ireland honored. It should be regulate under the watchful eye of the Pope like all other obedient English peoples. But most importantly every household in Ireland must pay the Catholic Church in Rome a penny every year.
The topic of Catholicism in Ireland is on the forefront of discussion today. The intention of helping others is strong in Ireland, but of that under the watchful eye of the Pope? That is changing. (http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/ireland/130325/ireland-catholics-continue-flee-church).

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Irish West Coast

31 Jan

Last weekend, our study tour trip brought us to the west of Ireland. From our residence halls in Dublin, we traveled across the island to Galway. Over the course of the weekend, we had time to explore Galway, Inis Mór, and the Cliffs of Moher. Besides our day trip to Howth, this was the first time that we had been out of Dublin since we arrived. For me, this was my first chance at exploring what the rest of Ireland was like, outside of the big city of Dublin.

The highlight of the weekend was the trip to the Inis Mór, one of the Aran Islands. The day started by the entire group getting on a bus and driving to Rossaveel. We drove alongside Galway Bay as the sun rose and Donal, our tour guide taught us some Irish, songs, and history. The west of Ireland fascinated me because of its preservation of the Irish language that Donal told us about. These regions, called Gaeltacht, are recognized by the Irish government as being Irish-speaking places. It makes sense that these places would be found in the west, since many of the native Irish people were pushed west when the island was invaded. The farmland is nonexistent in the west, which made it undesirable to new people coming to Ireland.

When we got to Inis Mór, it was an amazing experience. Since the island has less than 800 residents, I got to see a completely different style of living. I thought I came from a small town, but not like this. Our tour took us to Dún Aonghasa, an ancient memorial that looks out over a large cliff.

-Kellen Darmody

Overall, the west coast trip was an eye opening experience for the entire group that showed us more of Ireland than the city that we are all coming to know and love.

The High Kings and Lots of Bling

30 Jan

I find the Celtic kingships of old extremely fascinating, especially the concept of the ‘high king’, the self-proclaimed ruler of all the land of Éire. Two weeks ago I went on a bus trip to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, and on the way there our tour guide spoke of how any powerful man could proclaim himself king and would go to push his foot against the Stone of Destiny on the top of the Hill of Tara, and supposedly if the stone made a noise of approval, the man become recognized as high king. What I find really interesting though is that as a primary duty as high king, the king had to bind himself to the earth goddess called Maeve, making sure that the land stayed fertile and the crops plentiful. If a dry spell or a crop failure were to affect the kingdom, the king had a duty to make a sacrifice to the earth to appease Maeve and restore balance and prosperity. This would sometimes entail animal or even human sacrifices, and if the land was still unfertile after these, the king himself was sometimes sacrificed, taking the weight of the kingdom’s hardships upon his shoulders. It was all very interesting, and unlike many ancient cultures that I had read about previously.

Walking up onto the Hill of Tara was a very hallowing experience in a way, to think that I was walking where these once great and powerful kings and queens once reigned. It was interesting to see though that the Stone of Destiny was just a large plain stone with no engravings, decorations, or descriptions around it. For something supposedly so powerful, it seemed to me a little lackluster, but still very interesting, and of course my roommates and I took a picture with it. Walking over the Mound of the Hostages and through the areas carved out of the hill where nobility were thought to have once entered a banquet hall with the kings was all a very unique experience. Yet, there was still so much I did not know about this old and sacred place and I did want to learn more so I could better appreciate the experience I had there.

Rommates and me at the Stone of Destiny on the Hill of Tara

Rommates and me at the Stone of Destiny on the Hill of Tara

In our Irish Life and Cultures class we did talk about the Hill of Tara, the high kings, and the Stone of Destiny, but our trip to the National Museum of Ireland this afternoon gave me an even better understanding of the place. What I found particularly interesting was the Tara Brooch, which had actually been mentioned to me on my tour. The brooch was beautifully crafted, and according to the posted placards, was from around 800 A.D., with the intricate designs in the gold showing a more sophisticated hand crafting the piece. I took a look at several other broaches that had been excavated from other areas in the Midlands and the West which were all interesting and beautiful in their own right, yet none could quite compare to the broach of Tara. It truly was fit for a king.

This magnificent broach, shining brightly even in the dim museum lighting, along with some new information about how the areas around and the various mounds of the Hill of Tara were excavated, really helped me to get a better idea of this place, of the beginning of the Golden Age of Ireland, of Celtic culture, and of how stylish the people were back then. I’m only partially kidding. But, I really do feel very fortunate to have gotten to visit the Hill of Tara, and to have been able to learn about that history further through class and the trip to the National Museum. It truly was a brilliant experience, shining almost as brightly as the Tara Brooch itself.

The Tara Brooch

The Tara Brooch

-Raiven Greenberg

Today’s Date: 500 BC

30 Jan

There I stood at the entrance of Dun Aengus, a fort older than anything else I have ever had the privilege to see in person. Merely walking through the doorway felt enchanted, bewitching, as though I could clearly see the sturdy fortification that originally stood, instead of the remains I found today, well preserved but not quite complete. And as I walked through the little doorway into the fort, the strangest thought entered my mind: here I stand, in a room older than my religion (and than my God, in a strictly biological sense), yet in a nation younger than my favorite book.

My first thought was “Wow Casey, you need to stop basing your entire life on an Age of Innocence timeline,” but beyond that, I couldn’t help but notice upon some more reflection that this sentiment sums up quite a bit of my Irish experience. I’ve sang along to the Killers and Kodaline in two- and three-hundred-year-old pubs, strolled casually past some of the world’s oldest and most famous cathedrals as well as Dublinia on my way to an email marketing internship, and used free Wi-Fi on an island that didn’t even have electricity until my father was in middle school (1973). Both Dublin and Ireland in general have served as an almost inexplicable blend of the most ancient past and the most recent modernity since I’ve arrived—what other nation could have a 40% church attendance rate among Catholics but also be almost 80% in favor of same-sex marriage? Of course, this produces tension as well—just this week, we discussed the impossibility of bringing up abortion, despite the growing number of Irish in favor of legalizing it. Ireland seems somehow both old-fashioned and terribly contemporary, in ways that can be felt much more easily than vocalized.

Going to Galway was an amazing experience for several reasons—the sheer beauty that surrounded me, the exciting memories I made with my newfound friends, and the Claddagh ring I bought that will finally give me credit for being Irish-American when I return to the States—but standing in Dun Aengus was a spiritual experience for me, because only that spot gave me the clarity of mind to realize and actualize my thoughts on Ireland; Ireland connects me to the older possible past and most current possible present, and this only makes me eager to learn of every moment in-between.

–Casey Berner