Monday, July 20, 2015

'Tis Ireland

An early Christian Church, 7th Century Ireland
Our 4-day visit to Ireland included a lovely stay in Dublin plus an all-day tour of the wild Wicklow mountains and valley just south of Dublin.

The tour began with a drive along Ireland's east coast but quickly turned inland toward Wicklow, the "garden of Ireland."
The beauty of Wicklow stems from its glacial history which left the area filled with peat bogs. Because the peat burns and produces heat, the Irish have turned to the bogs as a resource when coal was in short supply. (Although this area of Wicklow is preserved, you can still find peat briquettes at the grocery store. Not sure where they come from, though.) 

The bogs not only produce means of warmth, but have also been known to throw up a "bog body" every now and then. These are actual bodies several hundreds years old that are so well-preserved from the peat's chemical make-up, they still have their hair, skin, and nails.
Pristeen and sparse, this area of Wicklow was used to film
battle scenes in "Braveheart."
Because the  Wicklow valley is preserved for its beauty, no telephone lines or cell towers are allowed. This, of course, makes it perfect for filming movies  such as Braveheart.

Ireland is known as the island of saints and traveling further into Wicklow we came to one of the earliest Christian churches. It arose in the 7th century around Saint Kevin who promoted New Testament teachings long before the Roman Church sent emissaries to do likewise.
(In addition to being home to some of the earliest Christian churches, the Wicklow area also claims among its citizenry, academy-award winner Daniel Day-Lewis. Whom I did not see. And am still angry about.)
Book of Kells portrait of Christ
Back in Dublin the next day, we visited Trinity College with its famous Book of Kells exhibit and its old library.

When all of Europe was groping its way through the Dark Ages, Irish monks were painstakingly preserving the New Testament in exquisitely detailed illuminated drawings. The detail of these is nothing short of staggering and reminds us what humans can accomplish if we would turn off our phones.
We hit the National Museum next to take a gander at some of them bog bodies as well as a surprising amount of gold artifacts that have been unearthed. (Raise your hand if you already knew that 160 hoards from the Later Bronze Age have been found in Ireland.)
Between the local flair, Guiness beer and delightful accent ("It was in nineteen t'irty-t'ree, it was"), there was no mistaking we were in Ireland. 
 Even the sweet, simple touches gave it away:
The Claddagh Heart

For more pictures of our trip to Ireland, click here.