Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Fine Groves Of Blarney

A quote from the abstract for an article I'm reading that was written by the moderator of the seminar in question: "Through several hours of often heated (sometimes quasi-homicidal) discussion there were occasional moments when the moderator could detect what might pass for consensus opinion among Irish archaeologists, i.e. the absence of violent objection."

Of course, you could probably replace "Irish archaeologists" with "scholars in general" and have an equally à propos remark. But it still made my day.

In other news, Wikipedia apparently has (at least normally) a pretty thorough and accurate article on Irish history. This may be the one time ever that I've had the experience of having a teacher actually encourage the use of Wikipedia.

It's interesting to observe the differences in scholarship between Ireland and the U.S. Like, the use of "B.C." and "A.D." is still pretty common in the States, but the political correctness movement has made a real push to replace them with "C.E." and "B.C.E." There has been no such push here. Which is fine by me; I think to the extent that academia is important at all, there are more important things for it to be concerned about. But it's an interesting social contrast.

However, I really got a laugh while reading an article earlier that was saying something about how it was once common to apply the term "Celtic" to all periods of prehistory in Ireland, and the author made the point that certain kinds of cutting tools were referred to as "celts" right up through the first half of the twentieth century. Why is this funny (in a sad kind of way)? Because students in the U.S. are STILL taught that term. Myself included. I mean, I assume it's because it's convenient to have an umbrella term for non-specific tools other than "cutting implements," which gets rather unwieldy. But frankly, I've always been puzzled by the cultural connotations. Turns out I wasn't reading too far into it, because they ARE there, and they are outdated and largely invalid.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell, I am posting this partly in order to avoid writing my paper. Not because it’s not an interesting topic. Not because I don’t want to get it done. In fact, I had written a fairly substantial portion of it intermittently over the last couple of days. I am avoiding it now because I realized I was writing a 4000 word essay rather than a 2000 word essay. Unintentionally, not because I misread the assignment. And as of about ten minutes ago I determined that at this point it would be easier to start over than to attempt to complete and fix what I’ve done so far. Needless to say, this conclusion does not please me.

So, here is the belated tale of my trip to Blarney Castle two weeks ago:

I think this was probably the biggest adventure I have had since arriving in Cork other than my class field trips. Carolyn and Kristin (two of the other IFSA-Butler students, from Colgate and Colby respectively) and Johanna (a music major at Wheaton) and I decided to be embarrassingly touristy and make the inevitable pilgrimage to Blarney Castle. It’s less than half an hour from the centre of Cork by bus, which by the way is less than the time it takes to walk from our apartment complex to the bus station, and bus fare only costs something like 6 or 7 euros round-trip.

It’s a giant tourist trap, of course; admission is steep, the historical information signposts are cheesy, there are souvenirs everywhere, and they take everyone’s picture with the Stone and will sell you yours for an exorbitant price (and yes, I have mine…). It’s a little too much like an amusement park. But the castle is unique and interesting, there are all kinds of trails on the grounds, through woods and gardens and around a lake, and I guess it wouldn’t be right to come to Ireland and live half an hour from the Blarney Stone and never kiss it.

But seriously, kissing the Stone felt more like an obligation than an adventure. Definitely one of those I-did-it-because-everyone-does-and-I-felt-like-I-had-to things. And as anyone who really knows me knows, leaning backwards off of a wall at a great height is not my idea of a good time, although as I already mentioned on Facebook, it happened so fast I barely remember it. But I did it. It’s off the list.

I don’t feel any more eloquent.

One up-side to the castle being modified and maintained for tourism: a rope to hang on to while climbing up the stairs, and a full-on metal railing on the other side for coming down. Oh, what a beautiful thing that was. I don’t think you can understand just how beautiful until you have climbed a fifteenth-century spiral staircase without such amenities. It’s slightly less terrifying than climbing up and down a Maya temple, but that’s setting a pretty low standard.

Fun fact: Blarney made the 14th castle I had been to in my lifetime up to that point (I think), and the 9th I had been inside. (Okay, I’m counting a few that are technically palaces, too.) I’ve since been to one more, and there’s at least one more to come this week, which brings me to 16 and 11 respectively. Not bad, huh?

Also, I admit I had to cheat and go searching for an appropriate title for this one, because I couldn't think of one off the top of my head. (But do you see what I did there with the combination of topics in this post?)

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