Friday, April 24, 2009

Dublin I.ii

Hello again! I have more Dublin for you. And some countryside, which is beautiful. The countryside always seems to beautiful, no matter the country you're in. On April 20 we took a day tour to the Wicklow Mountains and an old monastery called Glendalough (or Gleann da Loch, if you want to be proper). The mountains are basically all covered in peat under the surface and throughout history they have been farmed for the peat to keep people warm through the winters. Apparently people are to this day still free to farm the peat at no charge - you do the work, you can carry it off. So if anyone was interested in not paying their heating bill, they could get dirty in the fields of peat!

I noticed that the country landscape in Ireland (or the parts we saw at least) is more scrub-like than England and Wales. They have a lovely yellow-flowered plant called Gorse that is all over the place. It makes lovely splashes of bright yellow on the tan and green landscape. And in just a few months our tour guide said the Heather will be blooming and everything will be purple. That sounds lovely! Wish I could see it.

We saw a few glacial lakes up in the mountains. They're so still and serene, so peaceful. And Chuck said they were very cold! He went ahead and dipped his fingers in the water, like a real adventurer. And to make the still water even more impressive, the lakes are surrounded by mountain landscape. So it's as if the mountains are gently rolling down into this calm expanse of water.

Glendalough was neat. It's an old monastery which looks like it was basically a mini-city. It saw it's final days when King Henry VIII (I've learned since arriving in London three weeks ago that he's one of the biggest deals in royal history) switched over to Protestantism so that he could divorce his wife for another woman. So I guess he basically had the whole place sacked to help uphold his new anti-Catholic beliefs. There are a ton of grave sites there. They seem to be placed fairly chaotically around the place, so it gives it a disordered peaceful feel. And further along past the main site there are two more glacial lakes. We got ice cream and sat on the pebbled shore of one. It was a very nice day. For some reason I feel drawn to ice cream overseas... Chuck said that maybe ice cream is like a bit of home. But we enjoyed our ice cream!

April 21 was spent in Dublin, having a look around the older part of the city. So first we hit up Dublin Castle, which is only a castle in name these days. The original castle blew up when a fire broke loose and made it's way to the gun-powder room. It was rebuilt as more of a palace. We decided to pay for the tour after much deliberation and I'm glad we did! It was a good tour for 4.50 Euros each. And I got to take pictures, my favorite! It wasn't the most impressive castle/palace we've been in, but it was neat to see where the president is inaugurated when they take office. Did you know that Ireland has had a female president for the past 21 years? Go Ireland! And on top of seeing the decorated rooms of the palace we went under underground and saw some of the remains from the original building. There was a river that ran around the castle back in the day, and although it's now re-routed there is still a bit of river that seeps into this area. It stinks...literally. And someone dropped their jacket in it! Hah! I'm sorry, I have to laugh. It was funny... They got it back, safe and sound though. No harm done, except for maybe some sludge.

There is a library right next to the castle called the Chester Beatty Library and the only reason we stopped in was because it was right there. I am so glad we did because it was amazing! Remember how we saw the Book of Kells? How it was cool and all? Well this was... I mean it was about 1000 times more impressive! They have numerous old books from various times and cultures on display. And they are all displayed really beautifully behind glass that is so clean I thought I could reach out and touch the book on several occasions. They had quite a few different Qur'ans on display which were incredible. I found they were some of the most elaborate and beautiful of all the books. There were various Christian texts as well, including some of the original gospels. We're talking pieces of papyrus written on in 150, 250, and 350 AD. And there was even a fragment of scripture written in 300AD in Greek (the original language of the bible, apparantly). Those are old documents! And not just old, but incredibly influential over the course of our history. I was basically looking at one of the beginnings of Christianity as we know it. Crazy. And there were a few Japanese scrolls and books with elaborate depictions of various legends. And it wasn't just what was on the pages of the books that were impressive, many of the book covers were to die for. Gold-leaf, embossing, gems, woodwork, painting, etc. Some books were 2 feet tall, others were 3 inches. I could go on, but I won't! As you can tell, I really enjoyed the library.

Lastly, we visited St. Patrick's Cathedral. We decided on St. Patrick's instead of the nearby Christ Church Cathedral because: 1. It's the church where Jonathan Swift was dean for 32 years and he is buried there; 2. The churches choir was one of the two choirs used to perform Handel's Messiah for it's world premiere. The church itself isn't exquisite in terms of its appearance, but that's not to say it's ugly. It's definitely a very nice church. I was just happy to see Swift's burial place. There's a nice park attached to the church too. Lots of parents bring their kids there to play it seems. All-in-all, a good last day in Dublin. Next stop is Belfast in Northern Ireland.


  1. Hello you two. Nick's been sending me your emails so I can see what you guys are up to. All I can say is "amazing". Looks like you're having a fantastic time and the pictures are beautiful Sarah! I love how they are displayed. Keep them coming :)

  2. Oh wow, hey Beca! Good to hear from you! I'm glad you're enjoying the photos - and trust me, I have plenty more. :-) And as for the display of the pictures, I have to credit Chuck for that... He made me a program that resizes them and spits them out all in a neat row. I'm so happy you're checking out our trip, thanks for the comment!