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!

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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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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A Review of Historic Dublin: Day Two (and Guinness)

After a great night of rest and fantastic care by our AirBnB hosts (thanks for the homemade Christmas pudding and cream – best food I had on the whole trip!) we were ready to see more of Dublin.

Our Walking Tour

Our Walking Tour – note that 7.3 km is about 14.6 km roundtrip, which is NINE MILES.  More on that later…

We woke up early and ventured out to walk the city.  We were staying in the Docklands and we were headed to Kilmainham Gaol for our first stop; we saw a lot along the way!  We walked by the Customs House, the River Liffey, the Famine Memorial, Trinity College, and City Hall once again, this time with brighter eyes.  Dublin is such a gorgeous and historic city, as you can see in the slideshow below.  Walking the city, even in cold, misty rain was well worth it to see the sites.

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

One of the most beautiful spots we saw was Christ Church Cathedral.  The cathedral was originally founded around 1028, which is incredible to think about – the millennial celebration is only 14 years away!  On our next trip, I MUST see the Cat and the Rat in the crypt. It was a nice stop along the walk, which turned out to be a bit further and soggier than we had originally intended.  We finally came up to Kilmainham Gaol, after a false stop at a Garda station and a walk past the mental hospital.  The Gaol gets it’s own post, so look for that one next.

At the Storehouse

At the Storehouse

After a moving and informative visit to Kilmainham, we started back towards the City Center and the Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate.  This has been the creation site of delicious malty goodness for over 250 years – and don’t worry about losing the black stuff anytime soon: some say the lease Guinness has on the site won’t run out for another 8,475 years!  Arthur Guinness originally leased the site at St. James Gate for £45 per year.  However good the story is, the brewery has since exceeded the original acreage, and therefore that original lease was bought out (by Guinness).

A big ole barrel

A big ole barrel

The Guinness Storehouse tells the story of how beer is brewed, which may not sound like the most interesting exhibit to everyone – they did a great job with it, though!  The museum, as it were, starts in a giant giftshop of everything Guinness.  From there, visitors enter what is essentially a giant pint glass that serves as the entrance to the educational part of the tour.  6 stories contain exhibits, cafes, and bars;  as visitors ascend they learn  the entire process of brewing Guinness, complete with flowing waterfalls, fields of hops and barley, and giant barrels and casks.  The social story of the drink and advertising is also worked into the the exhibit, complete with plenty of photo ops.  The only downside to the exhibit, for me, was that everything was (very well done!) audio and visual effects rather than the actual brewery.  I understand the reasons for this, with a ton of visitors, some who might get unruly and fall into a giant vat of mash, but it still seemed somewhat disingenuous.

View from the Gravity Bar

View from the Gravity Bar

One of the best attractions (other than the honeyed muesli pot from the cafe that really hit the spot when I was starving after a cold walk all across Dublin) was the Gravity Bar on the top floor.  The bar offers, aside from perfectly pulled pint of Guinness, a 360 degree view of Dublin; from there you can see the mountains, the River Liffey, the growth of this fantastic city, and on a good day, even out to the busy port.  It was great to sit back, look out over this city that felt like a home away from home, and sip on a pint (included in the ticket price).

We soon headed back in the cold, back past Christ Church Cathedral, and to a pub for a bite to eat.  Then we called it a night to get ready for a VERY early morning; we had an 5:30am bus to catch to Northern Ireland, our first foray into the United Kingdom!

**Guinness did not sponsor this post, however, if they want to send me free beer or merchandise, I wouldn’t refuse it!**

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