Saturday, January 21, 2012

Michael and Kevin: Dublin, Ireland

We have now finished our first few days in Ireland! After crossing the ferry and arriving in Dublin, we explored the city a bit, but found most of the attractions closed. The next day, we took a guided tour of Dublin, which helped orient us to the city and show us some of the famous sights in the main downtown areas.  After a quick lunch some of us visited the Guinness Storehouse and found out a lot about the making of the famous Irish brew.  It is amazing how much the culture here has evolved around drinking and particularly around Guinness.
The next day we visited the Trinity College Library, which housed the book of Kells, an old ornamental copy of the Bible which has amazing artwork and embellishments on the text. It was mainly left on the altar as decoration and for use during ceremonies, and not for daily use. It showed the incredible dedication and passion the Celts had for their faith. We also visited the Science Gallery in Trinity College, which currently has a water-themed exhibit with different interactive displays set up to raise awareness about water consumption around the world and reduce waste. Afterwards, we got to listen to a talk by someone from IBM, who told us about the strategies behind innovating new technologies and challenged us to think about how we would go about building the things we saw, such as how Newgrange had been built. Next , the group visited the Irish National Museum of Archaeology, which had several major interesting exhibits on display. The first was about ancient Celt inhabitants of Ireland and had a few preserved bodies extracted from peat bogs as well as offerings the ancients had given to mark the boundaries of their territories. The museum also had a Viking exhibit with artifacts from the Viking founders of Dublin. Finally, there was a Roman exhibit on display with some of the details of life and death in the Roman Empire.
On our last day in Dublin we visited Newgrange.  It is a ceremonial mound that was constructed thousands of years ago (about 500 years before the great pyramids), which still to this day does not leak any water through the roof. The entire structure was massive, but had only a long narrow entryway and chamber (directly behind us in this picture).

Looking at it from the outside, we thought it would be large inside, but it ended up being a small cave (we would have taken pictures, but they weren't allowed--Sorry!). Nevertheless, it was very impressive and had artwork from long ago along the walls ,as well as some "artwork" from more recent visitors wishing to leave their mark. It also has a small window (the small hole above the doorway) which allows the sun to shine into the main chamber precisely on the morning of the Summer Solstice.  It is amazing how much engineering and scientific knowledge went into this fantastic structure.  We also visited the Hills of Tara, but found them in much worse shape; they were the remnants of an ancient Irish king's buildings and halls, but only small mounds of dirt remained where their walls had been. Since it was very cold and windy, we didn't spend very much time here, but only briefly looked at them and came back to the bus. Finally, we had a grand meal with Irish traditional music and folklore, where the host shared stories of faeries and leprechauns, and told us how these related to the everyday lives of the Irish common people of old.  Also, a couple of Irish musicians performed some Irish songs for us, and they were really fun and engaging.  It really was a great look into the traditional Irish culture.

Dublin was a fun place to be for a few days, but definitely had more of a big city feel to it, though the people here are still friendly.  The people here seem very welcoming and willing to strike up a conversation, particularly when it is about Ireland or something that relates to their culture or national identity.  

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