Blarney Castle

I heart public transportation. Throughout my stay in Dublin and throughout the country I’ve taken the tram, buses, DART, and ferries. I planned one trip to a city far outside of Dublin which would require a long-distance train ride. I wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone and visit Cork. When I googled to figure out their locations, I discovered that the Blarney Stone and castle were a thirty-minute bus ride from Cork. Two birds with one stone and all that. So, I planned an entire day to head out to Cork with a stop at Blarney castle.

I woke up early at my hostel and took the tram down to Hueston station. I was so excited to get on a train! The trains to Cork depart hourly and I almost missed the one I was aiming for which would have put me back an entire hour. I just barely boarded the train and sat down in the dining car before I felt the pull of it moving forward. It was a lovely train ride that gave me a chance to sit and watch the countryside pass me by. I ate my breakfast while watching fields flick by and yes, cows, grazing.

Train selfie!

Once at the Cork train station, I headed to the main part of town to grab a bus. After about twenty minutes waiting I hopped on the bus and headed to the town of Blarney. The bus was insufferably hot, the heat boxing us in and the sun searing through the windows. It had hardly rained during the entire five weeks I was in Ireland. Ireland experienced a drought this summer and a heatwave at the end of June which was hard to deal with as no buildings have air conditioning. I sat on the hot bus, fanning myself as the heat built up in the bus.

Despite the oppressive heat, the ride went quickly, and I hopped off and headed to the entrance of the park and gardens where the castle stood. I headed quickly up the path and saw the castle rising to the sky. As I approached the castle, the sound of a bagpipe grew louder. At the base of a castle a man played the bagpipe to eager listeners. At some point later in the day while I was in the castle, he must have gone home because the music stopped.

I just love the color of the bagpipes!

Before getting in line to climb the stairs to kiss the stone, I entered through a doorway at the base to go into the dungeons. The coolness under the stone and the shade away from the heat was a major relief. A couple walked out from its depths and I started to make my way through the cramped quarters. I maneuvered myself partially through and decided that I was not up to squatting and practically crawling to go deeper. I took some pictures and left, heading up the hill to find the line for getting inside.

It was over an hour wait to get to the stone and part of it was standing in the direct sunlight. I glanced up the walls of the castle to the roof where I could see the protective rods underneath the Blarney stone and tourists getting their kiss. They seemed to cycle through people quickly but the line barely inched. I was so thankful when the line did start to move and I was finally able to go inside. It was a tough day to be in the heat.

The castle is set up with a staircase leading up to the top. On the way up, you pass and can actually walk inside rooms like the kitchen or the daughter of the kings’ room. The stairs are narrow, and you sometimes only have a rope to hold yourself going up the uneven and slick stone slabs. There is a warning not too far into the climb that states it is the last point you can ditch the climb, otherwise you have to go all the way up.

It was very close quarters and I walked behind an older couple. They were making jokes about how small the space was. Winston Churchill had climbed the castle, and this became the running joke between us as we climbed. Well, if Churchill can squeeze through here, I can too. If Churchill could climb this castle, I can too. I made several jokes about my fear of heights and slight claustrophobia which amused the couple a lot. The husband shared my weariness with heights and once we did make it to the top of the castle, he abstained from pulling himself down for a kiss.

After climbing the narrow staircase, it was a relief to be in the open and the views were beautiful.

Once I kissed the Blarney Stone (and in doing so was granted the gift of gab), I headed down the exit stairs, stopping to take photos of some rooms not accessible on the way up.

Finally, outside of the castle, I headed for a quick stop at the poison garden. The garden is aptly named, filled with trees, flowers, and other plants that cause serious harm or death.

While in the garden I noticed a structure that looked like a piece of equipment from a jungle gym. I headed over to get a look, initially thinking it was a play thing for kids. In hindsight that was a pretty stupid idea considering Ricin, Mandrake, and Wolfsbane were scattered all around. As soon as my eyes met the sign outside the structure I burst into a bout of laughter. I’m sure I looked goofy to the family walking near me. The entire garden was filled with poisonous plants that you theoretically could (you shouldn’t) touch and the only plant that had any barrier to it was the cannabis plant.

Still chuckling to myself, I left the gardens and snapped a handful of shots of various interesting sights on the top of the hill. Then I headed back down to catch a bus back to Cork for some city sightseeing.

Inis Mór

After our brief stop at the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to our Galway hostel for the weekend. We had the rest of the night after a group dinner to explore Galway and the rest of the next night as well. The morning following our first night in Galway we hopped back on the bus to take us to a ferry which would bring us over to the Aran Islands

I have never taken a ferry before and was anxious yet excited to see what it was like. We were warned by our program directors that the ride over could be rough for some of us. It didn’t help that the weather was poor and sea was choppy. So, for the forty-five minute or so ride over, we were told to sit outside or in the back of the ferry if we tended to experience motion sickness. Our group of forty-some students and program directors boarded the ferry almost last, leading to few seats left for our large group. I hurried in and found a seat upfront, not wanting to sit outside in the frigid air. Some in our program found seating inside, but many had to sit outside and ended up soaking wet once we arrived.

The ferry that took us over

The ferry ride over for me, luckily, was without any stomach upset and was actually fun. I loved the bouncing of the ferry and the splashing of the waves against the side. Not even halfway through our journey though, scores of people were hunched over trashcans scattered along the floor in various stages of motion sickness. There was a group of girls traveling together that quickly morphed from laughing at every jump in the boat and taking selfies to crying. I felt bad in my seat watching the lone girl without problems checking on her friends and grabbing them plastic bags and water.

Once the ferry reached the port, we grouped up, half soaking wet and frowning, and the other half ready to get started. The island offered three ways of reaching our ultimate target of Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) and a tour of the island. You can tour and explore the island by way of biking through bike rentals, a bus tour, or a horse carriage. I decided on the bus tour. When we arrived, it was pretty cold with strong wind and I wanted to be out of the elements, hoping it would warm up.

The Aran Islands are three separate islands. Inis Mór (Inishmore), which means the big island, is known for hosting past Red Bull cliff diving competitions and also was a filming location for the 2010 movie, Leap Year. Inis Meáin (Inishmaan), meaning the middle island, features the John Millington Synge cottage. The smallest island, Inis Oírr (Inisheer), the east island, is known for its lighthouse and the shipwreck, Plassey. All the islands offer stunning views of the sea, interesting terrain, and a fun biking and walking atmosphere. We spent our time on Inis Mór.

I shared a bus with one other Pitt student, six other students in our program from other schools, and an older couple. Our bus driver drove us up the one main road on the island to the village at the top. Pictured below are my shots from inside the bus, so you may see some window glare. The bus moved surprisingly fast up the hill with bikers, walkers, and cars moving in either direction. Sometimes a lost cow had to be corralled back to its field by an irritated farmer. That, by the way, was hilarious. Cows take their good old time moving. We did not mind.

Many of my pictures are from this viewpoint. I sat in the front of the bus, taking pictures out of the many windows.

The bank on the island 

St. Brigid's cross on the front of a home

We shared the road with bikers, walkers, other cars, and the ocassional loose animal. 

Right before the village our bus and a few other cars had to stop as three donkeys had gotten loose from their enclosure and were taking up most of the road. We passed them on their side and continued and heading up to the village.  Our driver let us know how long we would have up here before he would drive us back down to the main part of town. As we walked down the road, away from the ice cream shop and knit shops, the donkeys came barreling through, passing right next to us. It was awesome.

After the exhilaration of watching wild and rowdy donkeys doing whatever they pleased, we continued to the final rest area before the trail heading up to the ancient site. After the eventual hike up to the site, I would come back to eat lunch and shop in the knitting and jewelry store.

Finally, with my ticket bought, I started the hike up the trails, walking behind and passing various travelers on the way up. We hadn’t been told too much about Dún Aonghasa other than that it was a prehistoric stone fort built on the island. I was not prepared for the views and experience at the ancient site. Before that sight, came the walk on the craggy ground flanked by the stone walls. The land on the islands are rocky and not the best for farming. In many of my pictures, you can see the rocks and stone breaking out from the ground.

Our tour guide had told us earlier on the way up that these walls were not held together. They were loose stones piled on top of each other. While walking the trail, I rested against the wall up the winding path to adjust camera settings and the rocks started to shift. It was so weird to see these walls all over the island, knowing they were freestanding.

No building material keep these rocks "glued" together. They are simply stacked on each other. 

Aran Islands

It was, uh, a tad bit windy as you can see. Had to take a snapchat!

The path steadily took a steeper turn with more rocks and stones slicing through the ground.

At last I made it through the main hike into the mostly flat open field, to see the exposed cliff side at Dún Aonghasa. The views were breathtaking, the height, terrifying. I stayed here for a while, inching myself to the cliffs edge and securing myself for some shots of the cliff faces. After enough time and a substantial increase in my heartrate, I headed the final distance to inside of the fort’s half circle structure.

The stone walls on the right are the walls of the fort. 

A heart on the footpath

I don’t need to say much as the views truly do that for me. I photographed the stone walls, the cliffs, and the people exploring the grounds around me before heading back down to the village to take some pictures of the town at the top before the tour back down.

Inside Dún Aonghasa

The final stretch back to the town at the top

After some time, our tour guide collected us in the square and loaded us back up for a trip down to the harbor. Before the harbor though, he took us to one of the old church sites and current cemetery on the island.

We thanked our bus driver as he concluded the tour and for his many jokes and good humor in taking us around. He stopped a few times on the road when he saw me trying to take pictures of cows and horses, so my shots were better.

A very happy cow

While in town before heading out on the ferry, I indulged in my own planned splurge and bought a famous Aran Island sweater, soft as a cloud and so comfortable.

I bought a sweater from this shop!

It was another fantastic day in Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher

Scrolling through Facebook or binging video clips on YouTube of Ireland, you’d be hard pressed to find one that excludes the Cliff of Moher. The dramatic view of the high cliffs and rolling waves a couple hundred feet below look like a scene out of a movie. In fact, several movies have been filmed at the Cliffs including Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Standing on the top of the cliffs and walking along the rocky and uneven paths around, it’s not hard to see why this location has been used in film or why it’s such a popular tourist destination. They are, in one word, breathtaking.

Visiting the Cliffs of Moher was one of the excursions I was most excited about. With such a beautiful landscape, I knew my little photography heart would just sing at the opportunity. The Pitt in Dublin program included several excursions outside of the city such as the Glendalough visit two weeks prior. Instead of classes, those studying from Pitt and other universities met outside the school for our weekend visiting the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and the Aran Islands. We were originally meant to spend two hours at the Cliffs but due to late comers to the bus, the time was cut down to a strict one and a half hour so that we could get to Galway on time. I was so happy that we were able to visit the Cliffs, but I was sad with how little time we had there. It’s one of the places you have to spend a full day exploring and I really look forward to going back and doing so in the future.

After a scenic bus ride with lots of cow, sheep, horse, and donkey sightings, we pulled up to the visitation center, which in and of itself is very cool looking. The building is cut into the mountain side, the grass forming a roof. The first thing I did off the bus was run inside to use the bathrooms (small bladder on a group bus is torture). Once I walked back outside, I took pictures of the area surrounding the parking lot which included some picnic benches, flag poles, a wooden carving, and the visitor center.

While I was photographing the outside, a woman was walking her extremely energetic Springer Spaniel who bounded toward the picnic benches. Now, I’ve said in a previous blog post how much I love dogs and Springers Spaniels are my absolute FAVORITE. So, I gave myself a little time before hiking up one of the trails to talk to her owner and ask if I could pet her. The adorable pup was named Sienna and belonged to a German woman who loved to talk about Springers and her little girl.

A rare moment where Sienna stayed (mostly) still waiting for some water

She was an energetic wiggle-worm, who upon seeing my interest in her yanked on her leash to get some scratches from me. Sienna and her owner had just finished a nice hike around the Cliffs, but the pup was still bounding with energy and trying to make friends with any human who glanced her way. When her owner pulled out her collapsible water dish, Sienna plopped down, legs splayed out behind her as she eagerly slopped it up. When she was satisfied she resumed her energetic pull toward the exciting world around her. I took some photographs of Sienna, thanked her owner, and headed up the trails.

When we were driving up to the parking lot initially, the sun was beaming, blue sky was poking out from nonthreatening white clouds. Not long after we arrived, though, gray clouds from over the sea rolled in bringing biting wind and a splattering of rain. Not long before we arrived, we were told how lucky we were to have clear visibility, unfortunately for most of our stay the weather turned. I was still determined to take as many interesting photographs as I could, rain or shine.

You can see the dark clouds rolling in. 

Another unlucky strike for us was as our time came to a close, the skies opened up back to sunny blues and the winds died down. So, looking through my photos as I made my way down one of the trails, you can see the progress from 1. Incoming storm 2. Fighting the storm 3. Post storm. I had many struggles taking clear photos here as I constantly had to throw my camera (which weighs a considerable amount and is a bit cumbersome) under my shirt to protect it from both the wind and the rain. I was largely unsuccessful there and had to wipe the rain water off the body and the lens as best I could. Otherwise, the photos would have spots and blurriness. These photos required more editing than usual as my lens got quite dirty and dust spots appeared on my sensor. The things we do for art!

O'Brien's Tower in the distance

I loved walking along the cliff edge, even though I suffered some bad windburn to the face and the beatdown on my camera. Once the wind died down and the rain dissipated it was fantastic. I don’t have a photo of this as it occurred while I shielded my camera and the rain poured down, but I got to witness an American couple get engaged up on the cliffs! Another trail walker stopped to take a picture of them on their phones. The poor couple was shaking with what I assumed was excitement and cold. Their hair was slick against their face as they smiled for the photo. I said my congratulations to them and continued down the trail. Later on, I would take photos of a tourist who thanked me profusely as he hiked on his own. I hope he liked the pictures! I took them on his camera and I was not familiar with his equipment.

When the storm started getting stronger, people tried to take cover in and around this tower. 

Anyway, that was a bit winded! Enjoy the photos below! I’ll caption any I think are interesting but mostly just look at the gorgeousness that is the Cliffs of Moher. At the end is a bonus - bovine surprise that I was absolutely elated to see and was entirely unexpected!

If only it had stayed this nice the entire time!

The walkway up a steepish hill

COWS! Right beside the trail were fields of cows, happily grazing.

You can see here the two levels of the trail and the fence to the left separating visitors from the cows!

The gorgeous blues returned just as I walked back. So sad!

AND MORE COWS! 

Howth Part II

The day after we moved into the student dorms, I decided to go back to Howth. With travelling, I always struggle with wanting to see every corner of the spots I explore but also not missing new opportunities if I linger or return to a place I have already visited. The hike in Howth was exhilarating, but I did miss exploring much of the town and Howth Castle. Will and I loved Howth so much that with a handful of other students newly arrived, we went together as a group.

Everyone in Ireland remarks on the weather. We must enjoy every blue sky and the visible sun while it’s here because rain is surely around the corner. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I have experienced very few rainy days and a handful of overcast, which I appreciate since there is no air conditioning in any of the buildings. The lack of AC remains the hardest adjustment. In general, the weather has been beautiful, I’ve seen vibrant sapphire skies with comforting breezes accompanying it and slightly cloudy days that keep the temperatures low and enjoyable. That day in Howth was a bright, sapphire sky kinda day. It was much sunnier than when we took our hike, so it felt perfect to explore the shops and see the castle.

Will and I helped other students get their transit cards and we took the same route we did before. The train into Howth was packed with teens and pre-teens who exited one stop before ours in Sutton for swimming. Just writing that makes me want to go swimming now. I definitely plan on a bracing swim in the ocean while I’m here but that’s for another day.

We exited the train greeted by the same smell of brine and the call of the seagulls. Our first stop was to the castle, so we went in the opposite direction of town. It was a ten-minute walk from the station and up a hill to the castle grounds. The castle is still a family home, but they do offer tours of some of the buildings. Unfortunately, the day we went there were no tours happening, so we wandered around as much of the grounds as we were allowed to.

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This tank sat outside the National Transportation Museum which was closed at the time of our visit. 

This tank sat outside the National Transportation Museum which was closed at the time of our visit. 

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After the castle we trekked back to the town and explored some of the shops. Our Pitt group broke off here and Will and I explored the other side of the pier up to Howth Lighthouse we hadn’t walked yet. Howth was packed with locals and tourists basking in the sunny rays and breeze off the sea. My heart felt light walking among so many people having a good time. I really love Howth.

Mads Mikkelsen's face is on so many billboards for this beer (which by the way is very good). 

Mads Mikkelsen's face is on so many billboards for this beer (which by the way is very good). 

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We passed families and couples along the path to the lighthouse. It was in this area where one of my favorite moments and encounters of the trip happened. I spied an older man walking his two dogs along the bottom part of the pier. Will and I were walking along the top. The dogs trotted around the man, eagerly waiting for him to toss a tennis ball into the bay and listening to his whistle for commands. I couldn’t help but get excited to see the dogs, not just because dogs are my favorite creation in the universe, but because they were the breed of my childhood dog and best friend. The day after Christmas in 2016, my 14-year-old English Springer Spaniel, Sam, had to be put down. He meant everything to me and I loved our time together dearly. I still struggle with his passing and miss my furry friend.

A cell phone picture I took of Sam the day I left for college in 2013. He was a goofy boy. 

A cell phone picture I took of Sam the day I left for college in 2013. He was a goofy boy. 

I followed the man along the upper path as he played fetch with his two Springers. I stayed on the higher path for a while, taking pictures of them jumping down into the bay and running back up the steps, soaking and panting hard. While they continued their walk, I hurried to a set of stairs just ahead of me so that I could come down to the lower level, closer to the man and his dogs.

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On my way to the steps, I took tons of pictures of the ships scattered around. 

On my way to the steps, I took tons of pictures of the ships scattered around. 

It was a great day for sailing. At least I think so, I've never sailed before so don't take my word on it. 

It was a great day for sailing. At least I think so, I've never sailed before so don't take my word on it. 

And the water was so many shades of blue!

And the water was so many shades of blue!

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I crept along, taking pictures as I moved closer. I sat down with my camera around my neck on a docking post watching them. I was fairly close to the trio as they played. After one toss of the ball into the bay, the smaller springer bounded down the stairs and leapt into the open water, swimming out to get the bobbing yellow ball. The pup swam back to the steps and ran up them, straight to me. She dropped the wet and drool covered ball at my feet and took a position down on all fours, giving control of the tennis ball to me. I looked to her owner, not wanting to interrupt their time or any rules between them. We started talking and he was more than happy to let me play with his pups. I grabbed the tennis ball and bounced it a handful of times on the cement, the springer sprung up to grab it and brought it back multiple times, impatient for a longer throw. I grabbed the ball again, absolutely drenched in doggy spit, and lobbed it into the bay. The dog took off in a blur.

I walked up to that white block to get a closer look at the dogs. You can see the other people standing around and watching them too!

I walked up to that white block to get a closer look at the dogs. You can see the other people standing around and watching them too!

As soon as the man turned around, she would climb off and slowly walk toward him. 

As soon as the man turned around, she would climb off and slowly walk toward him. 

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This is what the one dog did when I walked close to them. She dropped the ball at my feet and waited for me to throw it for her. 

This is what the one dog did when I walked close to them. She dropped the ball at my feet and waited for me to throw it for her. 

I spoke with the man about his dogs and their breed. I told him about my own Sam and how much I love the breed and miss them. He expressed genuine sadness at my loss. His own dog, Gerald, was 10 years old and slowing down. He was getting more confused but still loved being outside so much. The other dog, the one I had been playing with for the most part was the younger female. He told me Gerald was perfectly trained (I can attest to this! He was a very good boy) and would never run after a ball unless he heard the whistle which signaled that it was ok. The girl was a little rascal and didn’t like the rules as much. She didn’t wait for the whistle and had so much energy compared to her older doggy friend. He often would tell her to sit on the bench following the lower pier and she would sit, but as soon as he turned to pay attention to Gerald and the attention was off of her, she would creep paw by paw along the sunbaked cement to get closer to the water and the treasured tennis balls.

They waited for his command. 

They waited for his command. 

I wasn’t the only one so enchanted by the man and his dogs. Countless people stopped to take pictures or show their children to the cute dogs as they ran around and splashed in the water below us. They brought smiles to everyone who came across their path on that pier. I played with them for a while, stroking both of their slimy, slicked back fur from the bay. I thanked the man for allowing me to play with his dogs and he was incredibly gracious and went along his way. It seems he had stopped along this point in the path, so I could play with them for a while. After I was ready to move on so was he.

When I walked past them and continued to the lighthouse, I admit, I was a little teary-eyed. I was so grateful to have time to play with the dogs and get to know them. They reminded me of Sam when he was still a young and energetic pup.

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Feeling a lightness in my chest, I continued down the pier, continuing to take pictures and watch the people around me. People watching is one of my favorite things to do. It’s fun to sit back and watch everyone existing within their own bubble out in the world. I watched multi-generational families head out to the farthest point of the pier and watch the sailboats around the piers and the larger ships on the horizon zipping through the water.

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After the pier, we went back into town and got gelato. It was hot outside and we’d been in the sun for a handful of hours. We were eating in the park when I looked up past the modern buildings and saw an old stone structure, half obscured by surrounding buildings. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was or how to get to it. After we ate, I decided that I wanted to figure it out. I headed past the shops and turned up the nearest street, hoping I could figure it out. I stopped halfway up a hill, unsure of where the entrance was. It looked like it was in the middle of buildings.

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I figured I would take random streets and alleys to find it and if I didn’t I’d still be around interesting buildings and maybe I could just stop for a pint at one of the local pubs around the street. I saw a sign for a pub that led to stone steps, curving up and away from view. I walked up them because they were in the direction of the structure. The steps plopped me out onto a roadway with a pretty white and blue building to our right and directly a head of us was exactly what I had been looking for.

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I stood on the road which overlooked an old church and cemetery. It was located up on the hill stuck between the main road, Harbour Road, and the road I was standing on, Church Street. I walked down the stone steps into the secluded privacy of the cemetery. The church no longer in use was open to the elements, missing a roof and other structural elements. Graves surrounded it on the outside and some were locked up inside. At the end of the cemetery, against a stone wall, the main road of Howth can be seen as well as the ships in the bay.

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I walked along quietly, contemplating as I followed the path. Despite its location in the middle of a bustling area, the cemetery was surprisingly quiet. The church was very old, the original church was built in the 1000's and was rebuilt in the 14th century!

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I left just as more visitors descended the steps to the old church. After the unexpected discovery, I headed back into town.

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I met up again with the rest of the Pitt group and ran to catch the train home. I left Howth fulfilled, exhausted, and sunburnt. I have since learned and bought sunscreen (silly me thought I was immune from sunburns here??). I also cherished my time with the two Springers and their kind owner who humored me.

            I love Ireland.

Galleries, Exhibits, and my Hostel!

Hello and welcome back to my travel blog! I made my first post May 24th, the day after I arrived in Dublin. A lot has happened in the three days since my last posting, both in my life and in the country. May 25th Ireland held their referendum to decide whether to keep or repeal their 8th amendment which involved abortion. Ireland’s abortion previous law was considered one of the strictest laws on abortion.

Over the weekend, the results came back with overwhelming support to repeal the amendment. At my hostel, a group of yes supporters that night celebrated with a pint and a round of pool to celebrate, the yes stickers and pins resting on the tops of their shirts and jackets. I have seen countless pins, buttons, stickers for a “yes” vote, while I’ve seen one “no” sticker. Overall, the mood here in Dublin has been one of excitement over the vote.

The day of the vote was my second day out and about in Dublin. The previous day I trekked to a museum and then headed to Dublin Castle. My first time around I was unable to visit the gardens and the exhibit currently showing behind the castle and wanted to catch up on it. The 25th I trekked back to the castle and headed around back to the garden.

Countless families and business people were enjoying the warm and sunny day with lunches and drinks. I walked along the circular path and headed into the museum. There was a stark difference between the sunny, cherry atmosphere outside and the subdued atmosphere of the museum exhibit which involved art centering around An Gorta Mór—The Great Famine. This was one of the eras I’ve studied in Irish History at Pitt. It’s a difficult and somber subject. The suffering that Ireland endured during the Famine and the years after it ended are hard to put into words. The exhibit left me feeling heavy and contemplative. I thought it did a great job educating regarding this time in Irish History.

The visiting exhibit is on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. Over 1 million lost their lives as a result of the Famine and government policies. A further 2 million Irish emigrated to the United States, Canada, England, etc. One of the major points the exhibit made was regarding the effect the Famine had on the country, physically and spiritually. 

The visiting exhibit is on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. Over 1 million lost their lives as a result of the Famine and government policies. A further 2 million Irish emigrated to the United States, Canada, England, etc. One of the major points the exhibit made was regarding the effect the Famine had on the country, physically and spiritually. 

The museum featured art created in the years during and after the famine as well as modern depictions. In the center of the main hall a television played a recorded history lesson explaining the situation which tied back to the art surrounding us. The images, the diary readings, the heartbreak was hard to sit through just as it had been in the lecture hall when I first heard it. As I watched the images flash by the screen and listened to the recorded woman’s voice, I couldn’t shake the thought of my location, my presence inside the country so affected by the tragedy. The recorded voice reminded us watching and listening that the effects of the Famine are still here in Ireland, all these years later. 

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The artwork featured on the banner outside. This painting was the most haunting in person to me. The anguish and exhaustion on the faces are both distrurbing and saddening. 

The artwork featured on the banner outside. This painting was the most haunting in person to me. The anguish and exhaustion on the faces are both distrurbing and saddening. 

After the exhibit, I sat outside on a bench watching pigeons and seagulls flutter around the garden, looking for scraps from local lunchers. I wanted to absorb everything I’d just seen and heard. While sitting there, I noticed a building to my left, a library, the Chester Beatty Library. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I picked up my camera bag and headed over. Immediately walking through the doors into the open space I was hit by the aromatic smells from the café, the Silk Road Café. I rented out a locker, depositing my Euro, as bags were not allowed upstairs. I ascended the steps to an art exhibit I had not realized was there. I spent an hour going through the collection, which once belonged to Chester Beatty, the namesake of the library. The exhibit was free to the public and filled with beautiful artifacts from around the world. The exhibit was filled with pages and books from ancient Egypt, Calligraphy and illustrations in Qur’ans and other religious texts, as well as art and scrolls from Japan and China. There were books and illuminated manuscripts from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Pages embroidered with golds and other bright colors outlined these ancient texts. It was breathtaking.  
The library’s collection prohibited photography so both my phone and camera stayed behind. I didn’t mind at all considering the age of the tests and artifacts. It gave me a chance to be present in the moment and soak up the information and spend time letting my eyes wander across the illustrations and pieces in the exhibit. 
 

A few pieces sat outside the exhibit which they allowed visitors to photograph. 

A few pieces sat outside the exhibit which they allowed visitors to photograph. 

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This was one of the temporary exhibits I also viewed in addition to the permanent exhibit. 

This was one of the temporary exhibits I also viewed in addition to the permanent exhibit. 

After the library, I headed to pick up my transit card at a local shop and then back to the hostel. I’d been walking for hours and was feeling pretty tired. Once back in the hostel, I took a nap and spent the rest of the day relaxing there. The food and atmosphere within the hostel itself are very fun. There are people studying and holidaying within the hostel from countless countries. Sometimes I have to remind myself when I am inside the hostel that I am in Ireland. I hear so much German and French spoken! Within the hostel, besides locals who come for a pint or to listen to live bands and DJs, I hear and see German travelers the most. I earned my German minor and have studied the language and culture since I was 12, so when I find myself within the presence of groups of German speakers, my brain switches over to the language. I’ve caught myself from responding to people in German like saying thank you and excuse me especially.

I wanted to end this blog post with pictures from my hostel! It has a cool, urban feel and lots of community space to eat, drink, and enjoy the company of locals and foreigners as well. I’ve felt nothing but at home within the hostel. The workers foster an environment of community here. I have stories about the openness and kindness I’ve seen, but that’s for another blog post! Here are some pictures!

A view of the street on my way back. 

A view of the street on my way back. 

Once back in the hostel, I took a nap and spent the rest of the day relaxing there. The food and atmosphere within the hostel itself are very fun. There are people studying and holidaying within the hostel from countless countries. Sometimes I have to remind myself when I am inside the hostel that I am in Ireland. I hear so much German and French spoken! Within the hostel, besides locals who come for a pint or to listen to live bands and DJs, I hear and see German travelers the most. I earned my German minor and have studied the language and culture since I was 12, so when I find myself within the presence of groups of German speakers, my brain switches over to the language. I’ve caught myself from responding to people in German like saying thank you and excuse me especially.

I wanted to end this blog post with pictures from my hostel! It has a cool, urban feel and lots of community space to eat, drink, and enjoy the company of locals and foreigners as well. I’ve felt nothing but at home within the hostel. The workers foster an environment of community here. I have stories about the openness and kindness I’ve seen, but that’s for another blog post! Here are some pictures!

The lobby of Generator Hostel located in Smithfield Square in Dublin. 

The lobby of Generator Hostel located in Smithfield Square in Dublin. 

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My bed is the messy one! I share the room with five other people. It's one of the mixed gender rooms of the hostel. The six of us share a bathroom. Under the bottom bunk are two compartments labeled for each bed for storage of luggage. The basement also has a storage room for further luggage. 

My bed is the messy one! I share the room with five other people. It's one of the mixed gender rooms of the hostel. The six of us share a bathroom. Under the bottom bunk are two compartments labeled for each bed for storage of luggage. The basement also has a storage room for further luggage. 

The Hostel features a Jameson chandelier. How cool is that!

The Hostel features a Jameson chandelier. How cool is that!

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Jameson barrels also decorate the main gathering area. The Jameson Distillery is right next door to the hostel. 

Jameson barrels also decorate the main gathering area. The Jameson Distillery is right next door to the hostel. 

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That's all for now! My next blog posts will detail my hike and exploration of Howth, my Jameson tour, and my night with the locals!