The past two weeks were vacation time for me, and I took advantage of my time off to visit Ireland. I've wanted to visit Ireland for as long as I can remember (even longer than I've wanted to visit Germany!), so this was really a special vacation for me. I spent 5 days there, 3 in Dublin and 2 around Galway. Unfortunately I couldn't stay longer due to prior commitments, and the fact that Ireland is super expensive! Even a pint of Guinness is cheaper in the US than in the city where it's brewed! But anyway, here's Dublin:
Here's a view of the "Spike," a huge, well, spike, in the middle of Dublin. I'm not really sure what it's for.
Here is a view of the River Liffey, which bisects Dublin. Pretty neat Harp-shaped bridge!
Here's the Liffey once again, only at dusk -- I took this while waiting for the bus.
Situated on the Liffey is the Custom House -- I'm not really sure what it was for, but it's a pretty impressive building!
And this grand old building is the Dublin General Post Office, where the freedom fighters of the 1916 Easter Rising were holed up for a week before surrendering -- but more on that later.
One of my first stops was the old Jameson Distillery. Although the whiskey is no longer produced there, there's a cool tour about how the whiskey is distilled and, best of all, a free drink of Jameson at the end!
No trip to Dublin is complete without a trip to the Guinness Brewery! Here's a massive waterfall in the tour part. Apparently the water is so important for Guinness that Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease for the land back in the 1700s. Once again, at the end of the tour you get a free drink on the top floor, where you can look out over all of Dublin:
One of my favorite destinations in Dublin was Kilmainham Gaol, where the captured leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were held and later executed. During the Potato Famine of the 1840s, the gaol held about 500 prisoners, even though it was only meant for about 200. The British would throw little boys in for petty crimes such as stealing bread. However, a lot of people tried to get in the gaol since it was a roof over their heads and had food. As you can see, there are still prisoners being held there, so tour groups must be on guard when they visit.
One of the leaders of Easter Rising executed in Kilmainham Gaol was called Michael Mallin. Perhaps a relative?
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A picture is worth a thousand words. . .After 2 days around the West of Ireland, I headed back to Dublin and spent my last day checking out Knowth and Newgrange. Knowth (pronounced to rhyme with mouth), pictured above, is a 5000-year-old mound that was probably used as a burial chamber. It has two long passages, one facing due east and one due west, that are the longest existing stone passages in Europe:
Unfortunately you're not allowed to go in. The mound has suffered significant damage because early Christians tried to destroy it!
Thee mound rests on these huge decorated stones, many of which came from 30 kilometers away or more! The stones at Knowth represent a full third of megalithic art in all of Europe! Most of the designs are circles or spirals, perhaps to represent the sun.
Part of the same mound complex as Knowth is Newgrange, pictured above. Newgrange predates Stonehenge by 1000 years and the Pyramids by about 500 years. You can actually go inside Newgrange and it is. . . incredible. You stand in a large stone chamber that would be completely dark if not for lights. The stones weigh several tons each and were taken from 60 km away in the north AND in the south. It probably took at least two or three generations to build this thing, so the folks who built it were definitely organized and very skilled. After 5000 years, the roof is STILL intact and completely waterproof, which is saying a lot because it rains just about every day in Ireland. They obviously knew what they were doing. Oh, and did I mention that they only used it 5 days of the year? The temple is built facing due east, with the entrance set up such that on the 5 days around the Winter Solstice, light shines through the tunnel to illuminate the central chamber. We know that they didn't use it at other times because there is no fire damage in the interior, and they would need light to see what they were doing. You're not allowed to take pictures of the inside, unfortunately, but here's a snapshot of the entrance: