Monday, September 13, 2010

All The World Seems Bright And Gay

Last Wednesday we set off for Dublin just before 8 a.m. (which was a vast improvement over the 7 a.m. originally printed on our syllabus). I was surprised and pleased at how familiar Dublin was. It's amazing how well you can get to know a city in a short time when you're mostly on your own.

We spent the morning at the National Museum of Archaeology, which I was very excited about. (I had to keep myself away while I was in Dublin last month, because I figured I was bound to end up there on a field trip and wanted to use my time for something else... but it was really hard.) Dr. Ó Carragáin gave us a quick tour before turning us loose for half an hour or so. We saw a lot of the same artifacts that had shown up on Powerpoint slides in class, which I at first thought was really cool. But, in hindsight, Ireland is a really small country.

They have a lot of stone tools, and copper axes, and medieval art. They also have a stunning amount of gold jewelry from the Bronze Age. I mean, cases upon cases. It was amazing. And a little gold model boat that's either Bronze Age or Iron Age, I've forgotten which (which is unfortunate since we definitely discussed it in class...). Either way, it was high on my list of favorite things.

But also: THEY HAVE BOG BODIES. Four of them. Mostly only partial, but even so.

They gave me the creeps, a little bit. The one who still had his face did, at least. The others were all right. I still wouldn't want to be the one who finds/studies them, though. I'm a bone person specifically because intact flesh is a little too much for me to handle. But mummies are still really, really cool.

After lunch we walked to Christ Church Cathedral. It was very beautiful, and interesting, and we saw the "tomb of Strongbow" and got to learn exactly why it's unlikely that it's actually Strongbow. But the tomb was anticlimactic (though I guess I don't really know what I was expecting) and the crypt was a disappointment. There's really nothing down there except some plaques and sculpted sarcophagi in the corners dedicated to people I've never heard of, and an exhibit of the "treasures" of the Cathedral (there was some cool stuff in there, I admit). And a coffee shop. Yep, in the crypt. Can you say combining two of my favorite things [in a really creepy way]?

But mostly it was just empty space under the arches. So... it was kind of cool to be down underneath the Cathedral, but there wasn't much to see.

And by the way, I think Christ Church would fit inside Notre Dame about six or eight times.

After that, we walked around the corner to the place where the Viking city was that Dublin's city council rushed excavations of and built office buildings over. I think I mentioned that before. So I heard the more detailed version of that story, and it made me angry again. And then we left.

That afternoon we went to Monasterboice, which was once a very important church site and is now a somewhat disheveled, haphazard-looking cemetery. There are ruins of two chapels (one of which now has graves inside it) and most of a very impressive round tower, and three fantastic high crosses, which are what the site is really famous for. They have the tallest high cross in Ireland and the "best" high cross in Ireland. They are very pretty, but I do not know enough about either the more obscure parts of the Bible or medieval Christian iconography to get a lot out of them, even with a rundown of what all the major scenes are supposed to be. I was really interested in a snake design on the side of the last cross, but did not get a chance to ask about it because Dr. Ó Carragáin was being monopolized (as usual) by that inevitable one kid in the class who thinks it makes them look good to ask five million questions and never shut up, and I did not feel like listening to that long enough to wait for a chance to ask my question.

Anyway. At that point it was evening, and we headed for the village of Slane in County Meath, where we were going to spend the night, and had dinner. Which was awesome, for the record. Afterwards, we discovered that the hostel where we were going to spend the night was a renovated outbuilding ON A FARM. There were cows, and barns, and chickens in the backyard. (I hadn’t heard a rooster in so long!) And some kind of dirty little terrier hanging around who really like to play-bite.

The dorms were adorable and bright and had carpet and cute wooden bunk beds. Even aside from the fact that it was on a farm it was about 587356487 times nicer than the place I stayed in Dublin.

We dropped off our stuff and went back into the village to a pub for “trad music,” which actually turned out to be a couple of guys with guitars who mostly played covers of American rock songs. (I don’t know if that was their original intention or not. I suspect it was, but it was also pretty obvious that practically the entire audience inside the tiny pub was a single large group of American students, so you never know.) But that was still fun. They did play a few traditional songs, with the help of a friend of theirs who was mostly listening but did go up to play tinwhistle once or twice and to sing a song one of my friends requested that the main guy didn’t know. I requested “Dublin In The Rare Ould Times” (of course), but neither singer knew it, which I thought was odd as well as disappointing. Oh well. They were cool, and they didn’t want us to leave (we were probably the biggest and possibly most enthusiastic audience they’d ever had there, and of course we knew most of the songs they were playing).

It was one of the best nights I’ve had since I got here.

That was also the night my friend David discovered a shot called a Baby Guinness, which is pure genius even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with Guinness. He had attempted to order a White Russian, but they had neither cream nor Kahlua, so the bartender offered him this instead. It’s a combination of Bailey’s and Tia Maria. It is AWESOME.

And I’m going to stick to my self-imposed two-page limit here and leave you with that thought for tonight. (Go try it, really.)

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