06/14/2004: "Before the Pyramids"
We're back in Dublin after a three-day survey of southern Ireland. Saturday we drove to Killarney, which I suppose you could call Kerry headquarters -- it's the largest city in County Kerry. We got there via the Beara Peninsula which is quite different from the rolling hills farmland we'd seen in most of the rest of Ireland -- it's rocky and tundra-like. The whole area with its coastal scenery and mountain lakes is spectacularly beautiful. At the suggestion of a guy in a local nursery, we checked out the Derreen Gardens which have a collection of the same tree ferns we saw in Tasmania last year.
We were lucky to get out of Killarney when we did -- a huge crowd was coming in to watch the Cork-Kerry soccer game. We drove to Cahir to see its castle ruins, and to the Rock of Cashel to see its church ruins. We'd had an expensive lunch in a castle hotel in Mallow (where a helicopter took off from its vast front lawn while we waited for our food) and later had an expensive dinner in a castle hotel in Kittinny, where we spent the night -- getting there involved going through another town whose soccer game had just ended and had a huge traffic jam.
Today we went to Bend of the Boyne, a site featuring three large "passage tombs" from the Neolithic era, built about 500 years before the Pyramids in 3000 BC or so. Each one was a large mound under which archaeologists discovered a passage from the outside to an internal chamber containing human remains, much like the Pyramids. Unlike the Pyramids, the remains had been cremated instead of mummified. There was artwork on the stones inside and surrounding the mounds. The mounds had an amazing roof structure which has held up for 5000 years without any reconstruction -- the chambers are perhaps 20 feet high on the inside. One of the mounds is aligned with the sunrise on the winter solstice -- its chamber gets sun 5 days a year. They have a lottery for people to sign up to try to get to go see the sun when it enters the chamber each year. Between the Pyramids, this site, and Stonehenge, this is quite the Neolithic Tour.
We'll spend the next few days in Dublin, celebrating James Joyce, touring just generally, and figuring out what to do with the car whose parking space is no longer available.