I'm back from a quick trip to Ireland, with Jon, Ryan and Nicole. It was a great trip. We arrived in Dublin on Thanksgiving day, and immediately hired a car and drove north to Newgrange in County Meath. Newgrange is a Celtic burial site from about 3000 BC. Not much is known about the how or why of these sites, which are ubiquitous in the area, but it is pretty amazing to see them rising above the Irish countryside and they are amazingly preserved. Interestingly, the inside of them is built in the shape of a cross, even though they predate Jesus' time here on earth by 3000 years. The opening above the entrance is a ceiling window which lights the inside throughout its 65' length at sunrise on the winter solstice. And, I've included a picture of Ryan, Nicole and Jon as we crossed the nearby river on the way to the site. The river was swollen from recent floods, but it did not affect us.
The next day we drove further north to Northern Ireland, still a part of the UK. There we visisted the Giant's Causeway. These are Basalt columns on the north coast formed when volcanic lava pushed up through the earth, then cooled and cracked into octagonal columns. According to legend, Cool McFinn built them as a bridge to a Scottish Island. When he arrived, he realized the people were bigger and stronger than himself, so he retreated back across the causeway. When the giants followed, he was dressed like a baby, so they thought if a baby was that big, the adults must really be huge, so they retreated across the causeway and demolished it behind them.
We also visited the Bushmill's distillery, the oldest distillery in the world, and drove along the coast a bit while there. Here are some pictures of the area.
Of course, along the way we got to see lots of beautiful Irish country side. Below are pictures of sheep grazing the a pasture along the coast, a castle which partially fell into the sea while still occupied, and the village of Bushmills.
Then, we spent two days in Dublin. We visited the Killmainham Jail, where much of 17th, 18th and 19th century history is revisited. Prisoners there were largely political prisoners who revolted agains English rule, but some were imprisoned for crimes like stealing a loaf of bread. Men, women and children were all thrown in together and they had as many as 2500 prisoners in the prison, which included only 112 small cells, so overcrowding was unbelieveable. One notable inmate was an American sentenced to life in prison, but after Ireland gained independence he was released and later became President of the Republic. They had a problem with disease in jails built in the city at that time, so they built this one outside of town, where they would be away from the population and have a nice fresh breeze. But, it had no heat and open windows and was built of limestone, which leaks heat but retains moisture. Prisoners were given only a light blanket, so you can imagine that disease was even worse here, between the damp, cold Ireland conditions and the overcrowding. Of course they eased the overcrowding somewhat by hanging prisoners on the gallows nearby, or taking them from their death bed to face a firing squad, making sure they were punished before they could die of disease. Here is a picture of a cell, taken through an opening in the door, Each cell was about 8' by 10'.We also visited the Guiness brewery and a Musical Pub Crawl.
Finally, we visited Trinity College and the Book of Kells, a few gardens, shops and churches and had a some nice walkabouts in the city. It was a great trip, if short and hectic.
I'm back in Texas for a few days before heading off to North Carolina and more adventures. I'll try to post occasionally to keep you up to date.