Top of the morning to you!…OK no Irish person said that to us once while we were in Ireland. But we were pretty lucky making it to Ireland since we flew on DOOMS DAY. We flew in to Dublin and took the train to the small town of Galway (see Map below) for a couple of days before heading back to Dublin.
Galway is a port town on the west coast of Ireland. It is now a university town, but also has a lot of history. Galway is an old celtic town (you can still see the old city walls!) that was also a major port for Ireland. It is said that Galway is also the originating place of the Claddagh heart.
There are many stories of how this ring came into existence…there once were seven kings in the land of Middle Earth forged from the same precious metal. However, the rings became too powerful and 6 of the kings decided to destroy their rings, BUT one kind couldn’t resist the power of his ring…JUST KIDDING. I’m not talking about Lord of the Rings. Anyways, there is this Irish woman named Margaret Joyce who married a wealthy Spanish man. When he died, he left her a great sum of money, and she used that money to build bridges throughout the providence of Galway. She then married another power Celtic tribal man and was rewarded for all of her hard work when an eagle dropped a ring of the Claddagh design in her lap. AGAIN, not the real story. Here it is: Richard Joyce (it is unknown if it is any relation to Margaret…) traveled to the West Indies and was captured by Algerian pirates and sold into slavery. A Moorish goldsmith trained Richard in the craft of gold jewelry. Richard then created the Claddagh design. He was released from slavery and returned to Galway where he established himself as goldsmith and lived happily ever after.
We also did a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher located north of Galway by the Aran Islands (you can see those islands from the Cliffs!). Many famous movies have been shot here: Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Obviously my fav). It is a great geological sight to see, don’t worry I won’t bore you with the terminology. On our day trip we traveled by bus so we got to stop along the way at different Irish villages and ancient celtic burial sites as well.
Then we headed to Dublin to have a tour of local pubs (when in Ireland act like the Irish do…just kidding don’t it may get you kicked out of your hostel…a story for another time). Since it was the Christmas holidays not much was open so we decided to hit up the only places that are open on Christmas Eve: the pubs. I personally believe that a lot of the history of Ireland, Scotland, and England are involved in pubs. Plus, I just love cider beer and there is plenty of that in the pubs. Lucky for us there was only ONE pub open Christmas Eve, and man did some special characters come out of the woodwork to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. The most important one that I met Sirius Black…yes he came back from the dead.
We also went to another famous pub called the Temple Bar. It is one of the oldest pubs in the the Temple Bar neighborhood and has a colorful history. Once Ireland gained independence the city wanted to create an area for artists of all types. So they created the Temple Bar neighborhood that to this day is still considered a Bohemian area. The O’Meara family established this bar in 1840 as a grocery store that sold off-license liquor. Since that time it has changed ownership countless times, but always remained a bar or a form of grocery store. Now it is owned by family that has restored the pub to its original form. It is a beautiful pub with a rich history. One story the bar owner told us was about this statue that is in the center of the bar. It is called the monument to the “Unknown Whiskey Drinker.” Starting back on May 8, 1945, when Germany finally surrendered a no named man came into the bar and began drinking large amounts of whiskey. Finally later in the night this man jumped up on a whiskey barrel and began reciting poetry in celebration of the end of the war. This no name man continued to show up on historical dates, such as the independence of the Irish Republic in 1948, the end of the Korean war in 1953, and when JFK was elected president in 1960, and drink copious amounts of whiskey before he would jump up onto this whiskey barrel and recite his poetry. Finally after this story passing onto the current owners of Temple Bar, they set out to find out the identity of this man. Although the identity of the whiskey drinker was not found, a physical description was. So the family had a bronze life size statute of this man created and placed within the bar as to commemorate not only the stranger, but also the history of this pub and how integral pubs are to this history of Ireland.
With that said, I had a blast traveling in Ireland. We didn’t see any leprechauns or fairies, but I had an CRAIOC of a time (pronounce CRACK, which means good, great. In this instance I’m saying I had a great time in Ireland.).
Bare with me as I continue logging my journey through Europe: Next stop Budapest, Hungary!