Ireland 3.0

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In the hills south of Dublin

Our third visit to Ireland… the first whirlwind wasn’t enough, and apparently neither was the second. If you’re going to do something, do it thoroughly. This whole 2017 adventure abroad to Ireland and Scotland was basically Honeymoon Part II: Electric Boogaloo, thanks to the infamous hiking injury; we set out to complete the Great Glen Way, and we couldn’t pass up a stop in Ireland along the way.

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Hiking to Fairy Castle on Three Rock Hill with Dublin and Howth behind us

After exploring Jameson and the Museum of Modern Art, we set out south of Dublin for a beautiful hike to Three Rock Hill and the Fairy Castle. Our good friends at Extreme Ireland hooked us up with a moonlit full-moon walk up the hills, and it was fantastic! The hill walk was just a short ride away on the Luas (public transportation tram), and we will definitely return for another walk there on our next trip.

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Trinity College Courtyard

In Dublin, we still had a few places we hadn’t been yet and a couple places we wanted to revisit. At the top of the list was Trinity College and the Book of Kells. On our previous visits to Ireland, the college was on a winter break, so this was our first opportunity to tour the campus and see the most beautiful library. Our tour of the college was a lot of fun, even if our guide was an American studying abroad. I was especially interested to learn that professors at the college are provided (unheated) lodging in a historic building. We also heard a colorful tale of a shoot out between a professor and his surly students at this historic building.

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A page from the Book of Kells

We were finally ushered into the library, beautiful in its own right, to see the famous Book of Kells. According to the library website, “The Book of Kells (Trinity College Dublin MS 58) contains the four Gospels in Latin based on the Vulgate text which St Jerome completed in 384AD.” It was probably created in a monastery in Iona off the coast of Western Scotland. While it is an important historical text, the Book of Kells is most famous for its beautiful illuminations. It is described as such: “the impact of its lavish decoration, the extent and artistry of which is incomparable. Abstract decoration and images of plant, animal and human ornament punctuate the text with the aim of glorifying Jesus’ life and message, and keeping his attributes and symbols constantly in the eye of the reader.” If you can’t make it to Dublin, you can view the Book of Kells online at this link.

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The Book of Kells was impressive, but the real star at the Library at Trinity College is the Long Room. The architecture and gravitas of the space are breathtaking. In the long room antique books are displayed alongside the busts of famous men related to the college, and an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic which was read outside the General Post Office by Patrick Pearse at the start of the Easter Rising.

All in all, a successful day in Dublin! Next, we were off to Scotland again to finish the Great Glen Way (spoiler: we did it!).

Hurling: Done Poorly by Americans

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Soon I will be back with those promised Ireland reviews, as well as a lot of exciting news.  In the meantime, here is a teaser of our adventure in Ireland.

Hurling (Irish: Iománaíocht/Iomáint) is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin. The game has prehistoric origins, has been played for over 3,000 years, and is considered to be the world’s fastest field sport.

The GAA says on their website, “Hurling is believed to be the world’s oldest field game. When the Celts came to Ireland as the last ice age was receding, they brought with them a unique culture, their own language, music, script and unique pastimes. One of these pastimes was a game now called hurling. It features in Irish folklore to illustrate the deeds of heroic mystical figures and it is chronicled as a distinct Irish pastime for at least 2,000 years.  The stick, or “hurley” (called camán in Irish) is curved outwards at the end, to provide the striking surface. The ball or “sliotar” is similar in size to a hockey ball but has raised ridges.”

In 2015, Katie and Charles made their best efforts to “hurl.” Here lies evidence of their valiant efforts. Special thanks to the Extreme Ireland team for their fabulous Cliffs of Moher tour, our great Hurler and Tour guide Shane, Liz Hurley, and The Burren.

Ireland 2.0: More Travels to the Emerald Isle

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Ireland, December 2013

After last year’s travels to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and London, I’ve had an airport tracker on my email.  When a deal popped up last summer, I couldn’t pass it up, and we were off again!  We traveled again on St. Stephen’s Day, and spent New Years Eve in Dublin.  We stayed only within the Republic of Ireland this trip, so we got to see a lot more of the countryside, the West, and Dublin!

This year, I also had my FitBit, so I was able to track exactly how much we walked.  Last year I was obsessed with the maps of everywhere we went, and this time was no different.

Here’s the quick rundown of our trip:

Ireland, December 2014

Ireland, December 2014

December 27  – Arrival in Dublin

December 28 – Off to the West – Galway Bay, Quiet Man Bridge, Connemara, Killary Sheep Farm, Connemara National Park and Diamond Hill, Letterfrack, and Clifden

December 29 – Clifden Castle, Kylemore Abbey, Killary Sheep Farm (again!), Galway

December 30 – Dublin Museums – National Archaeology Museum, National Art Gallery, Irish Whiskey Museum

December 31 – Boyne River Valley, Hill of Tara, Bective Abbey, Trim Castle, Loughcrew Passage Tombs, Monasterboice, Drogheda, St. Oliver Plunkett’s Head in a Box, Dublin for New Yeas Eve Shenanigans

January 1 – A quiet day around Dublin and the shops and pubs

January 2 – Out west again to the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, The Burren for a bit of hurling, Corcomroe Abbey, and Kinvara

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Ireland, January 2015

January 3 – Another day in Dublin for shopping (Penneys!), an adaptive reuse church/pub, and more shopping

January 4 – Glendalough, Wicklow, Kilkenny, and the greatest cultural offering that Dublin has: Sunday night Bingo with Shirley Temple Bar at The George.

January 5 – Back home 😦

 

Stay tuned for the highlights!

Travel Wrap-Up and Summary

I was a geography minor back in the day, and I love a good map!  Plus, I really wanted to log all of the Km/Miles we logged on this trip.  We were definitely tired, and we are avid fans of walking, so this may not be for everyone.  Walking was a perfect solution for us to get exercise, see as much as possible, and get a feel for the cities we were in.  My impeccable sense of direction helped, too.  Next time I’m taking my FitBit to really log the miles!

Dublin Day 1 – December 26, 2013

Airlink Bus 747 from Dublin Airport to O’Connell Street.  An Adult single ticket is only €6, and it is a quick trip to City Center.  Worth it!

dublin airlink

Trying to stay awake, find coffee, and food:

dublin day 1 part one

After a rest, we headed out into Dublin again to do a little exploring:

dublin day 1 part 2

Dublin Day 1 Totals: 7.2 Miles

Dublin Day 2 – December 27, 2013

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*Note – we went to The Beer Club, JW Sweetman’s, not Messrs Maguire, but Google Maps wouldn’t let me choose that as a destination.

Dublin Day 2 Totals: 8 miles

Northern Ireland and Belfast – December 28, 2013

driving to belfast

Walked to Old Church to meet bus, and back after a stop for fish and chips!  Also spent a lot of time walking trails at the bridge and causeway Total Miles: Approximately 5 miles

Dublin -> Wales -> London – December 29, 2013

We walked to the ferry port, then took the ferry to Holyhead in Wales, then the train into Euston Station London, then to Waterloo:

house to ferry

ferry journey

We got slightly lost coming out of Waterloo, so I estimate our miles for this day at: 3 Miles

I got our tickets and information about this type of travel from The Man in Seat 61 – his website is FANTASTIC for travel in Europe.  He posts videos, pictures, maps, time tables, and everything else a true OCD traveler such as myself can enjoy.

London Full Day 1 – December 30, 2013

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We saw basically everything. Approximately 7.5 miles

London Day 2 – December 31, 2013

london day 2

 

Again, we saw pretty much everything.  Including fantastic fireworks and historic stuff and art. I added 1.5 miles to this day for our time spent walking around the tower and Tate and time spent wading through people after the fireworks. Approximately 7 miles

Last Day in London – January 1, 2014


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Last Day in London: Approximately 5 miles

January 2, 2014 –  another day of ferries, trains, and this time a cab from the ferry to the flat.  We only had one small mishap with the cab; our cabbie misheard us and we almost ended up in the opposite end of Dublin from where we were supposed to be.  The only time accents were an issue!  We walked maybe 1 mile this day, with train switches and a jaunt up the street to get a frozen pizza for dinner #exhausted

Last Day in Dublin – January 3, 2013

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This was the day all those miles were felt in my poor short little legs.  We worked through another 5.5 miles, and ended with a quiet evening at the flat so we could catch an early flight back to the states in the morning.

Back to the States – January 4, 2014

We woke up with ideas of walking to the Airlink, but this day was the only morning that there was a downpour of rain.  We opted for a cab instead, for which our legs thanked us.  To the airport, through customs, over the ocean and Canada, to Atlanta, and back to Knoxville – all in a day’s travel.  And I got my froyo fix in the ATL airport, which is always my #1 priority at an airport.

TOTAL TRAVEL SUMMARY

Total Estimated Miles Walked:  At Least 44.2 Miles

Sites Seen: All of the major ones.  Guinness, Christchurch, Kilmainham, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, The Tower of London, British Museum, Tate Modern, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and so much MORE.

Costs:
Flights: Knoxville to Dublin, roundtrip $1895.00 total- $947.50/person
Lodging Dublin: $336.00 – 5 nights – $67.20/night – $168/person
Lodging London: $549.00 – 4 nights – $137.25/night – $274.50/person
Rail/Sail Tickets from Dublin->London->Dublin: $254.59 for 2 tickets – $127.30/person
All other costs – Meals, Souvenirs, Admissions, Et al: $1,379.46 – $689.73/person

Total: $4,144.05 – $2,207.02 / person = $220.00 per day per person for everything – not too bad!

But really: PRICELESS

Last Day in Dublin

Walking over roughly 50 miles in 8 days had taken its toll – I was tired and sore and a little grumpy.

Our daily walk

Our daily walk

Much to my surprise, ibuprofen isn’t sold in corner shops, and many times you have to go to a chemist to get a prescription in Ireland.  Without the assistance of chemicals, and it being a BIT early for a pint, I bravely continued on to see as much of Dublin before we headed back to the states in less than 24 hours.

Charles and I walked along the now-familiar path along the Liffey; past the Famine Memorial and Convention Center, that sushi restaurant that was never open, and across the Samuel Beckett bridge.  We were fortunate to have one of our best days of weather for our last day in the city.

Beautiful Cathedral

Beautiful Cathedral

We decided to walk over to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and the antiques district.  The cathedral was gorgeous, and we weren’t even a little upset to pay a fee towards preservation to enter the cathedral and see the beautiful stained glass, carvings, and graves within.  We took several photos which you can see below.  The antiques district was a bit disappointing, due to the exorbitant prices.  I did find a few Beatrix Potter prints – a fairy for mom, and a cat for me!  We also discovered Oxfam, which was rather Goodwill-ish.

Our last day in Dublin is a bit of a blur, which is odd since it was the most recent day spent there. We stopped to buy some last minute souvenirs, stopped at the usual coffee shops, and ate a delicious lunch at Queen of Tarts on Cows Lane.  One of the coolest shops we visited was the James Fox Cigar and Whiskey shop, where we picked up some treats for a friend back home, and Charles indulged in a Japanese Whiskey (in Ireland, I know, right?).  This store remains the manliest store I’ve been in – fantastic.

Chapel in St. Patrick's

Chapel in St. Patrick’s

We stopped again at the Turk’s Head pub, which had become “our” pub in Dublin for a last pint. As we walked back, we decided to take the Luas since we were so tired, and managed to hop on the wrong train – womp womp.  It got us a few blocks closer, but we still had to walk another mile back  up to the flat.  We made it though, and headed to bed to get up for our early flight back to the states the next morning….

 

Things to See Next Time :

  • Dublina Experience
  • Jameson Distillery
  • u2 Graffiti Wall
  • Irish Museum of Art
  • More Pubs and Guinness (can there every be too much??)
  • More Irish Country!

AND THIS JUST IN – Our next time in Dublin will be in less than 6 months!  We’re going back for Christmas/New Years this year for a 9 day Irish adventure (Sorry, Britain, not this time!).

Up next… a summary of the entire trip!

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The Tower of London: Preservation Conundrums

Better late than never on the blog!  I’ve had a crazy past month with work, traveling to Utah, and so much more.  Back to London:

After a fantastic day traipsing all over London, drooling over David Tennant, and visiting the British Museum, we were out for another day of history and art!

1008431_10101545160293565_11292607_oOne place in London that I absolutely had to see was the Tower of London – it has so much history!  I have to admit, as I walked through, I just touched all of the walls and doors and exposed material possible.  People have done that for a thousand years; don’t you judge me.  I remember walking down one spiral staircase and just running my hand down the wall the whole way down – I felt up all of the history.

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The wibbly wobbly Harry Potter bridge, with St. Paul’s ahead!

We walked along the Thames through the mist, saw the current London Bridge (I lamented the fact that it is totally lame compared to the Elizabethan version), and finally turned the corner to the ticket queues for the Tower.  Along our walk we also got to see St. Paul’s in the day light, walk across the wibbly wobbly Harry Potter bridge, the iconic Tower Bridge, lots of giant boats, barges, and bouys, and even the Globe Theater.

From a museum professional perspective, I do have to say their ticket process is ingenious – the cost of the ticket was, say  £17.99; the ticket person asks if you would like to round up to and even  £20 with the rest as a donation towards preservation.  Duh!  We did, of course, and I’m trying to implement the same among my staff.

my favorite monarch!

my favorite monarch!

Moving on, we walked through the gates, past the yeomen warders, and into the heart of 1,000 years of English history.  You can read about the entire history elsewhere, but historical highlights for me were: William the Conqueror, Richard III (allegedly) murdering the princes, and Anne Boleyn.

It was a bit crowded while we were there, but it didn’t dampen my excitement.  Charles loved the armor and weapons displays, I loved the animal displays and Traitors Gate, and we both loved the cooking demonstration, even though the stag’s head sat there and watched itself being butchered.  We didn’t bother with the crown jewels since the line was long, and I had promised Charles time to visit the Tate Modern across the river.  Another disappointment was the lack of info torture chamber – the yeoman laughed at me when I asked where it was; something about Americans and their love of violence.  The interactives, living history, and touch stations really made a difference, though.  Charles and I both tried our arms at the long bow – we weren’t too shabby at it!

yummy. It really did smell delicious!

yummy. It really did smell delicious!

Reading about the Tower, I was a bit surprised to find out that sections were torn off that didn’t look “old” or “new” enough. I don’t know why I was surprised since this is a common practice, but it did still hurt my heart a bit.  I deal with the same type of things (on a MUCH smaller scale) at my own site, where the historic house has undergone MANY renovations, changes, and owners in its 200 years.  What period do you interpret?  Can you tell all the stories?  What color do you paint the walls – the color from 1200, 1500, or 1850?  Should you tear down a building from 1700 in favor of the view from a 1300 building?  I don’t have the answers, and I don’t know if there is a right answer.  Preservationists – what are your thoughts?

My general demeanor throughout the Tate

My general demeanor throughout the Tate

We left the tower to head to the Tate Modern.  I originally thought I would write a blog about that, but I enjoyed it so little that I don’t even really want to think about it that much.  I saw a Dali, which was ok, and I ate an ok muffin from the cafe.  Charles saw a couple things he liked, but over all, it just wasn’t that great.  As you know if I read this blog, I have feelings about art museums anyway, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.  I have nothing against art, obviously, since I’m engaged to an artist.  I like a lot of contemporary art and old art; something about modern art just irks me, though, in general.  I like van Gogh?  And now I’ve dedicated a whole paragraph to that place. Fin.

From the Tate, we tried to find a place for dinner, which we hadn’t anticipated as a problem, until we realized it was New Years Eve.  We went to the Sainsbury’s by the flat, watched the premier of Sherlock on the BBC online, and then headed out to Southbank for the fireworks….

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Our day in review

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The British Museum: Elgin Marbles, Cabinet of Curiosities, and Overwhelming Spaces

British Museum front facade

British Museum front facade

On the best day in London ever, I had a chance to visit the British Museum, which was a dream come true.  For years, I’ve read about the museum, longed to see the Elgin Marbles and Rosetta Stone, and I even used the museum in my dissertation as an example of the old paradigm of museums.

Old paradigm, indeed.

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In the entryway

I’ve recently come to realize that I just don’t love huge museums.  I didn’t really like the Met, I really didn’t like the Tate (next blog coming soon), and the Natural History Museum in NYC was just ok for me.  Why is this?  I’m a museum person! I’m still thinking it all out, but I think it might have to do with the exhaustion of vacation, the sheer size of the places, my feeling that I NEED to see everything, and the amount of people there.  Also, they seem like spaces for rich, old, white people most of the time.  It’s kind of like that feeling I get sometimes at big parties, where I’d rather talk to the wait staff.  Maybe I’ve just built them up so big for so many years that they couldn’t possibly live up to the hype in my mind.

Regardless, the British Museum was still impressive, and again, the Day of the Feels continued.

We walked up Drury Lane to Museum Lane, and rounded the corner to find the great British Museum.  I got really excited about what was going to come next – I mean, this is THE place!  Home of the Rosetta Stone, countless Egyptian and Middle Eastern artifacts, and bane of every museum professionals’ ethical and reasoning mind powers – the Elgin Marbles.  I had a bit of the vapors as we went in, saw the entrance, and walked through some of the Egyptian rooms – but the real feels didn’t come until…

EMOTIONS!

EMOTIONS!

We got to the room filled with the Elgin Marbles.  They were huge, and beautiful, and amazing… and I was so sad that here they were in the middle of London, instead of in Greece still on the Parthenon.  Of course, there are many pros and cons to this situation, which is why its a perfect Museums Studies class discussion.  But the current ethnic Greeks aren’t the same ones who are there now – but the Turks sold them to that British guy – but otherwise they would be destroyed – but but but – I really can’t decide what is right or wrong in this case.  All of that aside, they were astounding to see.

Elgin Marbles!

Elgin Marbles!

Charles dragged me along, I saw the Rosetta Stone and felt/got felt by a ton of people trying to do the same thing, and the rest of the museum is kind of a blur.  I remember seeing some goat mosaics, and the large library-esque room.

I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

The British Museum also seemed a bit, like most huge museums, to be a Cabinet of Curiosities gone wild.  There is a hodge-podge of  anything and everything there.  Some of it was thrilling to see, and some of it seemed to be a testament to colonial conquests.

We saw all the things and stuff,  as you can see in the pictures below, but by the time we got to the more modern exhibit of watches and timepieces, I grabbed a small stool and sat in a hall while Charles explored some more.

Final thoughts – I am an expert spotter of goats, both in the wild, and especially in museums.

Also, I can’t decide if I have memory fatigue from that day because of the sheer size of the collection and space, or if it was because of the reasons raised in this fantastic article on the Huffington Post called “Why Taking Photos At Museums Is Hindering Your Memory. “When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences,” Henkel explains in a description of the study.”

It was nice to get back into the fresh air as we walked on to the Richard II performance.  I’m still processing the whole visit to the British Museum, but I wouldn’t say I DIDN’T like it.  It was just a little overwhelming.  I also can’t say I’d particularly want to go back to it, either.

Hopefully someday, I’ll think some more about the visit and update this blog with more thoughts and feels…

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Belfast: More Difficult Histories and Recent History

Respect | Remember | Resolution

Respect | Remember | Resolution

*** Well, I was really hoping to have more than a recap on our trip to Belfast, but at this time that’s all I’m able to offer.  We only spent about 2 hours there, but the recent history there surrounding “The Troubles” really impacted me; even in the few months since I’ve been back, I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around it all, and I’m hoping to come up with a bigger blog series on difficult histories, reconciliation, and more.  As my good friend Abigail Gautreau found in her dissertation research, Public History has a HUGE role to play in reconciliation with recent historical events.  ***

So as we wrapped up our great day traveling to rope bridges and giants’ homes with Wayne from Extreme Ireland tours, we headed back south towards Dublin with a stop in Belfast.  Wayne set us up with his friends from a Belfast black Taxi Tour Company to learn more about the politics of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Britain, and the Republic of Ireland.  If you want a good, quick synopsis of the Troubles, please check out this Wikipedia link (don’t hate – Dr. Robert Connolly writes of the scholarly values of Wiki here).

Important for ALL historians to remember. Mural in Belfast.

Important for ALL historians to remember. Mural in Belfast.

At the very smallest, most basic level – Irish Catholics and British Protestants fought for years with various terrorist groups on both sides wreaking havoc in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and even in England and other places;  this time is called “The Troubles” and officially lasted from the late 1960s until 1998.  Violence has still occurred since then, and during the weeks leading up to our visit to Belfast a car bomb exploded.

The tour started in the City Center by the City Hall.  We had 2 guides, who both grew up during the Troubles in Belfast; they didn’t tell us which side they grew up on, so as we went through the tour we tried to guess from their biases which side they were on.   We hopped into the cabs and were off to see the city.

How terrifying would it be to see this every day, and know it was aimed at you or your ancestors?

How terrifying would it be to see this every day, and know it was aimed at you or your ancestors?

We started in the “English” section, which is dotted with memorial murals commemorating the English heroes of the Troubles and religious conflicts.  We talked about the Hunger Strikes, the various violent conflicts, and others calling for peace and reconciliation.  There are memorials on both sides, and for just about everything.  There are many sources online that document each mural.

Even accounting for my shortness, these walls are HUGE

Even accounting for my shortness, these walls are HUGE

Next we went to the Peace Wall, which was an incredible sight to see.  The wall is up to 40 feet or more in some places – high enough to prevent people from throwing grenades or shells over to the other side.  The violence that occurred here (and still does) is astounding to me.  This blog, “WTF Wednesdays: Belfast Peace Walls” by the Everywhereist really does a good job of explaining how I felt seeing the walls and on the tour in general.  We wrote our own messages on the walls, reflected on their purpose and the fact that they still exist, and moved into the Irish neighborhoods.

There is a lot of talk about whether or not the Peace Walls or the murals should remain, and I hope to tackle that question from the preservation/reconciliation side in the future.  In the meantime, read more about it here, here, here, and here.  There is also a lot of talk among residents, found here, and here. Another good article about architecture and conflict is available here.

One we passed through a gate in the walls to the Irish side, we visited a memorial on Bombay Street.   Here, the neighborhood had constructed a memorial to those killed, just in that one neighborhood, as a direct result of the Troubles.  The Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden lists each name and stands directly in the shadow of the walls.  The Conflict Archive on the Internet posted a video tour of the memorial on youtube here.

A “non-lethal” rubber bullet; at least 17 people were killed by these during the Troubles (or after, from the effects)

A “non-lethal” rubber bullet; at least 17 people were killed by these during the Troubles (or after, from the effects)

While we were at the memorial, the guides showed us the “non-lethal” rubber bullets that killed so many people in the Irish neighborhoods.  Dominic Marron is considered the most recent death as a result of plastic bullets.  He passed away in 2004 from complications related to being shot at the age of 15 in 1981.  The memorial and all the names of those killed or injured or otherwise impacted by the Troubles made a huge impression on us. 

At the end of the tour, we guessed which sides our tour guides grew up on; based on the tours, we guessed that one was English and the other was Irish – turns out both were raised on the Irish side!  They did a fantastic job telling the whole story without letting their own personal biases show, which shows an incredible amount of forgiveness and/or professionalism.

The presentation of such recent and fresh difficult histories brings any problems and questions;  I hope to address these more soon. Another public history aspect of the murals is Belfast has to do with preservation of the murals: can they be preserved, and should they be?  What feelings do they still stir among residents or visitors?

View out the foggy window at Belfast City Hall all lit up for Christmas

View out the foggy window at Belfast City Hall all lit up for Christmas

I was only 12 when the Good Friday Peace Agreement was signed,  so I can barely remember seeing some of the violence on the news.  This tour, the information I learned from Wayne, the tour at Kilmainham, and during my travels around Ireland really struck a chord with me.  As I said at the beginning of this post, I really hope to explore this history more.  There is DEFINITELY another trip to Belfast in our future to learn more. The question of safety in Belfast always comes up among tourists and concerned friends and family.  Our tour guides assured us that it is one of the top destinations for tourist, and the Visit Belfast website (albeit a obviously biased site!) lists all of the awards and lists they have made over the past several years.

I will admit that hearing about the car bombing the same month I visited, the topics of the tour, and the general gloom of the evening when we were there made me somewhat uneasy. That won’t stop me from coming back, however!

If you have any personal stories related to the Troubles, please comment below or contact me – I’d love to learn more about it.

Things to see next time:

  • More time in Belfast in general
  • More time in Northern Ireland in general
  • City Hall
  • Titanic Museum!
  • Europa Hotel

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Kilmainham Gaol: Tragic Tales & Purposeful Preservation

 

Our entrance into Kilmainham Gaol

Our entrance into Kilmainham Gaol

On our first full day in Dublin, after a long walk through the city in the rain, we ended up at the forbidding Heritage Ireland site, Kilmainham Gaol. We walked through the gates and into the castle-like structure, and we were thrilled to have made it in time for the next tour.  We still had plenty of time to warm up, dry off, and visit the museum before our guided tour began.

The museum was fantastic, and surpassed only by that feeling one gets while walking in the exact space where history happened.  There were several interactives, artifacts, videos, and images to tell the story of the Gaol as a prelude to the tour.  One of the most impactful displays was that of a log book that dated to the time of the Great Famine; in the book, names were recorded with an offense, as well as the punishment incurred.  Men, women, or children who stole even a loaf of bread were subject to imprisonment or even disfigurement in some cases.  Rioting or horse theivery brought on even harsher punishments.  BEcause of the famine, cells became overcrowded, and often cells designed for 1 person housed 5.

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“Beware the risen people…”

The Kilmainham Gaol has a horrific and tragic history.  The oldest section opened in 1796, and windows contained no glass and there was no other lighting within the prison. This made for a dark, damp, and cold abode for those imprisoned there, especially since a prisoner was only given one small candle every two weeks.  The people who called the prison “home” for any amount of time really tell the story of the Gaol, and Ireland as a whole.  Political prisoners, often designated as such by English soldiers,  were some of the most notable prisoners, with the first detained in 1796 when the Gaol was just opened.

Cells along the older section of the gaol.

Cells along the older section of the gaol.

Robert Emmet was another early political prisoner, along with his housekeeper, Anne Devlin. Emmet was executed for treason, but Anne’s story was possibly even sadder than his death.  Anne’s story has stayed with me even now, and I would love to learn more about it.  Essentially, Anne was jailed for carrying information for Emmet’s uprising in the early 1800s.  She was imprisoned in one of these tiny, dark, damp cells and questioned endlessly for the information she had.  She did not give any of the other conspirators up, and eventually she was released.  However, not only did they imprison Anne, they also put her younger brother and many other family members in jail to try to influence her tongue.  Her brother fell victim to disease from the open sewers, and died in the jail.  Even after Anne was released, the police followed her, and she was unable to hold a steady job due to their harassment.  She died alone and without much of anything because of this.  All for the cause of Irish Independence (Éirinn go Brách!).

As we walked through the gaol, already feeling cold and damp from our walk, the walls of prison did nothing to put us at ease or comfort.  I think that this really impacted the tour as a whole, since we saw the dark and felt the cold, much like prisoners would at that time.  Especially in the older sections of the jail, where many of the political prisoners were held. This again proves that, though you may be able to see so many things online and have a virtual experience, there is something about being IN the historic space, where you can TOUCH the history, and FEEL the atmosphere.  This also calls for accessibility for all, to bring this back to my larger research projects.

The beautiful Victorian Wing

The beautiful Victorian Wing

Once we got to the Victorian Wing, the brightness and relative warmth, and much larger jail cells felt a bit better in contrast to the cold, dark, cramped cells in the older section.  As part of reforms, this section was built to truly transform prisoners to change their ways through the light and through meaningful work.  The gaol was closed in 1910, for a period of time…

The site of execution for many of the "rebels" of the uprisings, less than 100 years ago.

The site of execution for many of the “rebels” of the uprisings, less than 100 years ago.

The tour ended on a sad note, and with some of the most recent history of the Gaol. Less than 100 years ago, after the 1916 Uprising, the gaol reopened to house the hundreds of men and women accused of participating in and conspiring for the revolt.  Our last stop on the tour was the stone breaking yard, where sixteen prisoners were executed following the uprising.  All were killed by firing squad, and one, James Connolly, was so injured that he had to be tied to a chair then shot by the firing squad. All 16 were then dumped in a mass grave.  The outcry from this led, along with a lot more fighting and struggle, to the eventual creation of the Republic of Ireland.

Also interesting at the Gaol, and relevant to my current job, is the story of the Preservation of the Gaol. One of the last prisoners was future President, Eamon de Valera. After the prisoners were released and independence gained, the Gaol fell into disrepair.  The Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Committee was established in 1960 to create a museum and monument to Irish nationalism.  Kilmainham’s museum had a great exhibit about this grassroots restoration project.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this tour to anyone who wants to understand the history of the Republic of Ireland and the Irish people.  When I recently asked Charles to reflect on our time there he explained that to him, too, it, “felt personal, like a holding spot for people already condemned, overwhelming.  You could really feel the atrocities that occurred there; it was just dank and claustrophobic.”

Truth.  Another spot where you can truly feel the history.

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Halloween, Haunts, and History

Today is Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the scariest kids books of all time

As I sit here watching Hocus Pocus, eating a caramel apple, drinking pumpkin coffee with pumpkin creamer, and just waiting until it gets dark so I can watch the really scary films, I’ve been thinking about the history of Halloween, the ways people celebrate around the world, some myths and misconceptions about the holiday, and the history of some of the best Halloween beasts and characters.  Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday (the decorations, the haunted attractions, the TV programs, horror films, zombies!!!), and autumn is my favorite season.  It only seems natural that I would address some of these things in a blog.

Yesterday, I posted about museums and historic sites hosting paranormal investigators or holding ghost tours; today I’ll look more into the history of the holiday of All Hallows Eve.

What is this “Halloween,” and how did it start?

Hal·low·een –  noun \ˌha-lə-ˈwēn, ˌhä-\ Definition of HALLOWEEN: October 31 observed especially with dressing up in disguise, trick-or-treating, and displaying jack-o’-lanterns during the evening.[1] 

Halloween is celebrated on October 31st, which is the night before the Catholic feast of All Saints; that’s where we get All Hallow’s Eve, or Hallow ‘Even – Hallow’en.  The term Halloween was first used in the 1500s.[2]  The holiday has become what it is today after influence from many cultures and backgrounds.  The influence of the harvest, autumnal equinox, pagan rituals, festivals to celebrate/ward off the dead, and even Christian rituals are evident in the celebrations today.

Bobbing for Apples, 1832

Perhaps one of the most influential celebrations is that of Samhain, celebrated by the Celts up to 2,000 years ago.   Sa·mhain  noun \ˈsaə̇n-, ˈsäwə̇n-\ is a festival that marks the end of the harvest and beginning of winter.  Bonfires were popular during the early days of Samhain, and they were seen as having cleansing properties and were also thought to keep away evil spirits.  During the festival of Samhain, Celts thought that a door to the dead opened and that the dead and demons could walk among them.  This led to the Jack O’Lantern as we know it, and possibly to costumes and trick-or-treating. 

A carved turnip – officially creepy.

In Ireland and Britain many people would make turnip lanterns with faces or designs carved into them to carry a light to ward off spirits when walking around in the dark.  Today people still do this with pumpkins that we call jack o’lanterns.   During Samhain it was also thought that one could appease spirits by leaving food or gifts on the doorstep, similar to today’s practice of appeasing small children in costume reaching with their grubby hands for candy and treats.   Some people even went so far as to disguise themselves, in case there was a spirit walking around outside that wanted revenge.

Christian rituals of honoring the dead and those in purgatory are still seen in the Halloween ritual of Trick or Treating.  All Saints Day was a time to honor and pray for the dead, and in 835AD Pope Gregory IV moved the feast to November 1st, which coincided with the Samhain celebration.  On the night before All Saints Day, people would go “souling”; this practice involved people baking “soul cakes” to share.  Children, especially those that were poor, would knock on doors to ask for soul cakes as a way of honoring souls in purgatory.

In North America, Halloween was initially threatened by the Puritans (who incidentally also started the first “War on Christmas”) because it was thought to be a pagan holiday (it was).  With the influx of Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 1800s, the United States was finally introduced to Halloween celebrations.

What is that!?

Perhaps one of the best consequences of Halloween in America (aside from the candy, the horror films, and pumpkin flavored everything) is the weirdo, creepy, bizarre, and down-right scary costumes from the early-mid twentieth century.  There have been a lot of articles floating around recently, and two of the best are Bizarre Vintage Costumes[3]  and “Vintage Halloween Costumes Are Unintentionally Terrifying” from the Huffington Post[4]. Seriously, those are some super creeptastic costumes.

To learn more about the history of Halloween, check out two documentaries first produced by the history channel (something they actually got right, for once!).  The first from many years ago is The Haunted History of Halloween[5], and their more recent production is the Real Story of Halloween[6].  Both are entertaining and tell a lot of the history of traditions and holidays.

Read it.

Another fun way to learn more about the (somewhat fictional) history of Halloween is by reading Ray Bradbury’s book The Halloween Tree.  This fun book follows a boy as he journeys through history to witness different aspects of Halloween;  he watches a funeral in ancient Egypt, is chased by Sam Hain after a Druid ritual, and sees witches persecuted during the Middle Ages.

Now I shall leave you with some of my favorite articles about Halloween, ghosts, and popular culture:

“The History of Ghost Stories” from history.com – Pliny the Younger recorded one of the first “ghosts” clanking around in chains and moaning in his house in Athens.

“5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen” from cracked.com .  This article offers scientific reasons why the following could actually lead to zombies, and includes a handy zombie threat level indictor. Ways a zombie apocalypse could actually happen? Brain Parasites, Neurotoxins, a Real Rage Virus (NO! Worst fear ever!), neurogenesis,or nanobots.

Creepy haunted historic photos

“13 Old-Timey Photos That Prove History Was Haunted” from cracked.com – features babies, puppets, wax figures, and old medical drawings and wood-carvings.

“ Really Scary Books! BOO!” from thehairpin.com – includes a bit about The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which is one of my most favorite books, Richard Matheson’s Hell House, and of course everything by Christopher Pike who terrified me throughout middle and high schools.

Some of the best

“The 15 Most Disturbing Illustrations From “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” from tuneinrockon.wordpress.com – If you’ve never read these books, do yourself a favor and go out and buy them.  Or Amazon.com them.  

 “The 7 Most Ridiculous Ghost Stories from Around the World” from Cracked.com …  “you can tell a lot about a people from their folklore. Even their ghost stories speak volumes about all of the underlying neuroses that create our nightmares.  But then there are some ghost stories that just leave you absolutely freaking baffled. We’re talking about spooks like …” This article looks at some ghost stories that are both strange, ridiculous, and somewhat haunting (including a super creepy fetus monster).  

“Get This Look: Ghosts” from TheHairpin.com.  Find out how to dress like Bloody Mary, the Flying Dutchman, or the Brown Lady.

These are the best. For real.

People Freaking out in Haunted Houses.  I seriously cannot get enough of these.  See more here and here.

“23 Reasons Why “Hocus Pocus” Is The Best Halloween Movie Of All Time” on buzzfeed.com (because it obviously is – no more explanation needed).