This post is a bit overdue, I’m hoping to try and do a weekly post, but who knows how often that will happen. But I will try!
While I won’t go into my schedule for our semester start-up program in too much depth, I will let you know that Monday through Wednesday we have lectures, covering three subjects, Irish LIterature, Irish Art History and Architecture and Irish History. We have been working from the Medieval period of Ireland up to the modern period.
On Thursday we had some group discussion, but the fun part was we also were taken to the national museum to look at some medieval Irish metalwork. Now, I know it’s pretty nerdy, but to me, when you have the ability to study an artifact or object and later go visit it in person, it’s pretty incredible. In this case we got to see the Tara Brooch, a medieval Irish brooch, the Ardagh Chalice, a medieval Irish chalice, and numerous other works we had looked at that wednesday. (Below is a photo of the Tara Brooch, it would have been used as a clothing fastner)
After the National Museum we had some other group discussions, which were based on articles we had read for class. Between our discussions we had some time to walk around Dublin. We were able to see Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral and a medieval church. It still absolutely blows my mind to be walking around the city and see so many old stone buildings. Especially all the old churches, they are absolutely stunning and everyone acts so casually about them, as if its no big deal.
Friday was our field trip day. And we went to the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) stadium in Dublin, Croke Park. Croke Park is where all GAA finals are played, and they are all played in September (so it’s a great time to be in Dublin, as one of the finals is each Sunday for the next four weeks). The GAA has six sports, though only four will have finals played out this month. The GAA sports include Hurling, Gaelic Football, Women’s football (same as Gaelic football just for women), Camogie (women’s hurling, just a different name), Handball and Roundels. The four sports with finals this month are Hurling (this sunday), Camogie (next Sunday), Gaelic football (the following sunday, and Women’s football (the last Sunday). Anyways, back to the stadium tour. The stadium tour started with the museum on the ground floor, which was pretty cool, especially because it had the cup the winner’s of Gaelic football will get (which is actually identical to the Ardagh Chalice we saw in the museum the following day). From there we learned a bit about the GAA. I won’t bore you all with too much information, but the GAA is entirely an amateur league, meaning that none of the players are paid so they all have jobs. If you think about that more, it means that all these players work all day, and then go home and practice with their local club all with the hopes of getting to the finals. Another thing worth knowing about the GAA, is players don’t really trade teams like they do in American sports. Players sometimes change teams within their county, but very rarely do players ever leave their county, because if they do their old county will hate them and their new county won’t accept them. Croke park is the largest amateur stadium in Europe, it holds about 83,000 fans. It is also the 4th largest stadium in Europe, with only professional stadiums being larger than it. I won’t try and explain Gaelic football or Hurling, but I will provide some links below if it interests you. You all should definitely check them out, Gaelic football and Hurling are absolutely nuts to watch. Gaelic football is like a cross between soccer and football as the ball can either go over the goal to score, or it can go through the goal to score. Plus all the players are taking hits like in rugby or football. It’s crazy (Here is the wikipedia link explaining it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaelic_football). Hurling is essentially the same, but instead of using their hands and feet, players use a wooden stick to hit around a small ball, still trying to score in the goal or above it. Oh and in Hurling the ball can be moving up to and over 100 mph. (here is the wikipedia link explaining it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurling). Needless to say, the stadium tour was great. The other super interesting thing from the stadium tour can be noted from this picture.
The picture above is the seating in Croke park. The green seats are seats aren’t available for purchase, you have to be invited to sit there. The front row, right at the in the middle, is where the President of Ireland sits. Those blue seats, on each aisle are available to be purchased by the general public, which would place a citizen of Ireland less than 5 feet away from their president. Pretty cool if you think about it, because I can’t imagine the President of the United States, (anyone of them in recent history) sitting right by the normal citizens. After the stadium tour we walked back to our dorm because we had a bus tour the next day! One of my friends told me that our walk to school, then to the stadium, then back to school, then back to the dorm was a total of 12 miles. Definitely puts it in perspective how much some people can walk over here. Also all this walking helps explain why not as many Europeans work out, because they walk so much they don’t need to.
Saturday we woke up for our bus tour with the least touristy company, Paddywagon tours (just kidding, it was super touristy). Our tour bus went to Glendalough first, which is the site where St. Kevin founded an Abbey, and where the remains of a tenth century monastery are, and then we went to the top of the Wicklow mountains, and then after we went to Kilkenny, and finally back to Dublin. Given how much I already wrote I will try and keep it short. Glendalough was absolutely amazing, considering my focus in history is medieval, being able to see the remains of a medieval monastery, even one I haven’t studied is pretty cool. Plus the site even had the monolithic stone of St. Kevin, so it’s a pretty spiritual place as well. Below is a photo of me with the cross attributed to St. Kevin.
After this we went to the top of the Wicklow pass and the entire time I couldn’t stop but thinking how great it would be to be biking on these roads. They look absolutely wonderful, and the cars are fairly generous enough in terms of leaving bikers enough space. Maybe soon I will be able to bike over here!
Kilkenny was great, though I wish we could have had more time. I loved having a guided tour for the first outing in Ireland, but by the end having time limits in each location was very limiting. In Kilkenny we only had two hours, which was nowhere near enough time. While we were in Kilkenny we were able to the St. Canice’s Cathedral and climb the round tower that was located beside it. After this we went and walked around Kilkenny castle, which was pretty cool. Below is a photo of me at the top of the tower, in the background is a Franciscan abbey, but we didn’t get time to tour it.
After this we bused back to Dublin! Sunday we didn’t much. We did go to a pub that evening to watch the Dublin vs. Kerry semifinal for Gaelic football, and it was great. Dublin ended up winning at the last moment. But the most fun was just being in a pub surrounded by fans. It was a fifty fifty split, about half of the pub was cheering for Kerry, about half for Dublin. One fan cheering for Kerry even started talking with us, and the first thing he told us was that all the players are amateurs, so it’s clear the Irish are very proud of their amateur sports. In three weeks time Dublin takes on Mayo in the finals. Definitely will be at a pub for that one too!
Figured I would end by leaving you a link to a video of Gaelic football. Definitely watch it, you will enjoy it. The sport is amazingly fun to watch.
In the video, at the bottom in white lettering are the rules of the game. It’s only four and a half minutes, and it’s a good glimpse into the game.