18 September 2010

September 17

Horror of horrors; my straightener refuses to turn on in Ireland.  I think it’s safe to say that it won’t work in England either.  What a pity.  Therefore, I will have to buy one over here.  In all, it’s a small price to pay for what we get to experience here. 
Before we began our day, we all met up for a cold continental breakfast at 7:30.  I was pretty tired as I had woken up at around 4:45 in the morning and hadn’t been able to get back to sleep…worthless jet lag.  Anyways, we convened at this place called The Buttery.  Did you know that they ask you if you want butter on your sandwich?  Like just a ham sandwich!  What are you supposed to do with that? And if they ask you if you want a salad on your sandwich, they really mean lettuce.  It’s pretty confusing, but don’t worry.  I’m getting kind of used to it.
Today we went to Glendalogh Monastery and Blarney Castle in Cork.  This meant that we were on the bus for FOREVER.  Like the majority of the people went to sleep on the bus.  I didn’t, but that was only because I fought to stay awake.  I didn’t want to miss anything on the way there.  We stopped first at the Monastery, which turned out to be built in the 900s.  It was incredibly beautiful.  Words aren’t even going to begin to describe this place.  It was founded by a hermit named Saint Kevin, which was slightly hilarious to me.  The grounds that we saw consisted of a massive graveyard, St. Kevin’s Kitchen, a very tall pointed tower, and the church.  The graveyard was interesting in that there were so many people crammed into a small space.  In fact, there were even more people there than you would think because in Ireland it’s legal to bury up to three people in one grave.  That way, families get buried together.  Or right on top of each other.  Either one.  The reason for the high demand in the burial plots in St. Kevin himself.  St. Kevin is buried in the church’ burial grounds, and a strong belief of many of the Irish is that if you’re buried in the same cemetery as a saint, you will make it to heaven for certain.  Unfortunately, the room is limited on the grounds and in the 1980s the government basically cut off access to the burial plots.  However, there were several families who only had one or two bodies in their family burial plot.  Since there could be up to three bodies in the grave, the government compiled a list of people who are allowed to be buried in the graveyard.  Each family had to pick which members of the family would be buried there.  Today there are only 7 names left on the list.  The second part of the grounds is St. Kevin’s Kitchen.  Long after the church and its grounds were abandoned, the locals decided to explore the area.  They looked at the church where the altar was and determined that because of a chimney-like structure on top of it that it was a kitchen.  False.  However, that name stuck with the history of the grounds and is still known as St. Kevin’s Kitchen.  The pointed tower is the tallest part of the monastery.  It’s height represented how rich the monks were in that area.  The entire monastery is surrounded by mountains, placing Glendalogh in the middle of a valley.  It’s truly amazing to just look at, let alone actually realize that you’re in the middle of it. 
After another long drive, we ended up in Cork where Blarney Castle is.  The main attraction of this beautiful castle is the legendary Blarney Stone.  According to folklore, if you kiss the Blarney Stone you will be given the gift of eloquent speaking.  It’s basically a necessity to kiss the stone if you go.  Therefore, I climbed all the way to the top of this massive castle to stand in line and kiss a rock.  I figured it couldn’t hurt.   Even the Great Orator himself, Winston Churchill, kissed the Blarney Stone early on in his career.  The stone is placed in a really weird location, though.  They have attendants to help you reach it.  Basically, you have to lay on your back, grab two iron bars above your head, and pull your head downward where there is really nothing to stop you from falling.  You lean your head all the way back and then you kiss it.  Voila.  Keep in mind that this is at the very tip top of the castle.  It was pretty intense.  After kissing the stone, Brad and I wandered about the castle.  I’m pretty sure we explored every square inch of that thing.  We went into hole in the wall places, crawled into places we probably weren’t supposed to, and took pictures of everything.  It was so amazing.  Then, we went to the gardens outside of the castle and found the Withch’s Kitchen (basically a little cave), a forest of trees straight out of a horror movie (Lauren and I definitely ran through them screamind like someone was chasing us and we were running for our lives), the Whomping Willow (or what I think looks like the Whomping Willow), and the Wishing Steps.  The Wishing Steps are obviously a place where you can wish for something to happen.  However, the wish will only come true if you start at the top of the stairs and climb down and then back up backwards and with your eyes closed, all the while thinking only of your wish.  That was easier said than done.  The steps are made of hundreds of years old stone that had been smoothed away by rain, wind, and millions of other wish makers.  Walking backwards without thinking of falling was not a simple task…especially when I very nearly fell off the side of the steps.  But, in the end, the mission was accomplished.
Later that night, we arrived back to Trinity College around 10:30.  Since curfew was at one, we decided to go out and explore the night life a little bit.  After walking around for probably 45 minutes, we found a small Irish pub with live music.  We went in and sat down for about half an hour, listening to the Irish music and watching drunken Irish people dance and stumble and sing uproariously to music that they all seemed to know.  It was very entertaining.  After a brief moment of panic (mainly on my part), we figured out where we were and made it back to Trinity. It's a good thing too....none of us have working phones over here. It would not have been pleasant trying to ask drunk people for directions in a place we really don't know anything about.

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