July 15, 2012

irish history: really old stuff

This day was our first real "history" day of the trip.  Before we left, I wasn't so sure how exciting these places would end up being, but it turned out there was nothing to fear.  Our first stop was Newgrange, to which we arrived early because we read that tours typically sell out quickly.  It didn't seem like much of an attraction for me...a big grassy mound, older than the pyramids of Egypt (ok that's pretty cool) and built by mysterious ancient people (also potentially interesting), but still...ok, great, what's next?  But it ended up being really neat.  Dozens of burial mounds dot this part of Ireland, in which countless human remains have been uncovered, but the mound at Newgrange is the largest of them all and appears to have been a ceremonial location more than a simple burial ground.  Our tour guide led us through a tiny tunnel into a small room at the center of the mound and taught us a bit of what historians have gathered and theorized about the site.  No photography was allowed inside (and it wouldn't have done much good, as the chamber was small and very dark) but let me assure you...it wasn't for the claustrophobic.  After a bit of exploring around the outside, we left for the little town of Slane.  Our GPS, named Jane (the fact that everyone referred to the GPS as such and humanized her as a person, ie "which way did Jane take you today?" amused me the entire trip) successfully got us there and the road signs took us the rest of the way up to the Hill of Slane, upon which is a ruined monastery open to exploration.  Evin immediately started climbing on things like a kid and I wandered around shooting through windows in the feet-thick walls.  We were the only ones there for awhile, and we found a little area (which was once the kitchen I think) to take a self-timer photo of the four of us--Evin's parents, Evin and I.  While fiddling with my camera, I set down my sunglasses (my beloved Wayfarers, cause of so many tears), took the picture, hitched up my bag and walked away.  I'm sure you can tell where this story is going...I totally forgot them there and didn't realize it until almost an hour later, at which point we rushed back up to the hill and they were nowhere to be found.  A group of people got there a little while after we did and I'm sure one of them is now in possession of my sad, kind of broken sunglasses.  *sob* Ok, enough of that, they're JUST sunglasses...and they can be replaced.  Apart from neat photos of stone walls and the countryside beyond them, the Hill of Slane taught me that I should wear Croakies on my shades from now on so I can never set them down.
Our last stop of the day was the town of Trim and Trim castle.  We paid for a tour with our admission and it was definitely the thing to do--this was the first castle that taught me this.  Old stone walls are old stone walls.  Some are prettier than others I guess, but there isn't much you can gather (or at least, isn't much I can get) from wandering around looking at this or that old building and maybe an informational sign here or there.  A tour guide helps so much!  What looked like a boring old squarish tower turned out to be a really interesting place thanks to the facts and figures given by our guide.  We were actually able to go inside and up within Trim castle (they'd built bridges across where the walls had given way to allow visitors to ascend) and ended up on the roof, overlooking the town and river that flows alongside the castle.  Our guide taught us about anti-invasion methods and the "comforts" that these important citizens enjoyed so many centuries ago, showed us the window that someone was thrown out of in Braveheart (I've never seen the movie) and amused us with a bit of "blood and guts" as he called it...stories of battles and punishments that went on there (which, when he told them, actually weren't as morbid as you might think...maybe it was just the cheery accent).  I, for one, left feeling rather informed  :)
One of the most interesting things about Ireland was being in the presence of things that were so OLD. Our country is just a baby compared to European ones, and our buildings are, at their very oldest, 200-some years old (but by and large, much younger).  Over there, we were walking on and climbing around in things that were 5, 6, 800 years of age or more...it's a bit mind-boggling, isn't it?

EDIT: all of these places are in County Meath.  Didn't know it at the time...but I looked it up.

I may switch it up with my next post and share a roll of medium format.  We'll see what happens ;)

1 comment:

  1. Karly conquers the world! I love those beautiful old buildings.


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