Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Day 3 - Wicklow Way - To Glendalough

The forests of this country are magical with trees looking like they could come alive as happens in animated features, and today was a walk primarily through forests.  Green beyond description with frequent brooks and pine needle paths, the forests are a place of serenity.  The walk to Glendalough (pronounced Glendalock and meaning valley of two lakes) was comparatively short (about 4 hours) so I arrived early afternoon with lots of time to explore.  This is a glacial valley where an early medieval monastic city was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin where it was renowned for its manuscript writing and had workshops, farming, an infirmary, all for both the monks and lay population.

I am again staying in a hostel, but one busier than the last where I only shared a large room with one other woman.  Apparently that hostel is popular with people from Dublin who come and stay a few days (all ages including families) so they can do some of the many hikes in the area.  This one is pretty full so sleep is less assured.  Tomorrow is another comparatively reasonable distance and I have been told that on Day 4 the pain is gone.

Day 2 - Wicklow Way to Oldbridge

This was the day I questioned my sanity about making this trek.  This was most certainly one of the most strenuous hikes I can recall and likely made more difficult by the fact that my entire body hurt from the previous day's mountain trek.  It involved a 1500+ ft elevation change (several times) with inclines of about 60 degrees.  No mountain bikers today.  So my legs were sore & shaky and the trek already felt perilous due to high winds and steepness of the terrain.  I think I was very fortunate that it did not rain as that would have been terrifying if the rocks had been slippery.  I kept thinking that the trail would start heading down, but then it continued to climb.  Finally, when it started to become comparatively flatter, there was a raised wooden foot path which continued for a couple of kilometers and which felt particularly hazardous in the high winds.  Unlike some other hikes I have done, there really was no turning back once it was started.  However, I also have to say that I saw several 70+ year old men just sailing along without much trouble (these are the famous "hill walkers" of Irish & British nationalities.).  By the time I got down off the mountain, it was getting late and I still had an additional 7+ kilometers to my B&B and I just couldn't do it.  So I called "Seamus" (the perfect Irish name) who picked me up and took me into the nearby town so I could get some food (which appears a challenge on this Wicklow Way Walk) and then the pub owner drove me back to the B&B.  Nice service.  I wish I had not been near psychotic with exhaustion as the room was beautiful with a king size bed and embroidered duvet cover.  They also had what they called a "steam heat room" which is where the house pipes run and it is a hot room for drying clothing.  So I was able to do some wash, slept wonderfully, and awoke to a vegetarian Irish breakfast of porridge with cream with a side of muesli and fruit.  So I was still sore, but in the process of recovery.  As a side note, the woman who ran the B&B said that many times guests have turned up with injuries from this walk, particularly due to the high winds.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Wicklow Way - Day 1: Marlay Park to Knockree Hostel

No energy to write last night, so I will make brief entry this morning before heading out to Roundwood.  The walk began in a park on the south edge of Dublin, so the first 30 minutes was spent walking along lovely paths and lanes: all very magical.  Then the walk suddenly became a trek & 90% of the day was hiking in the Wicklow Moutains.  Not high altitude, but long steady climbs followed at times by very steep descents.  The weather was great, but highly changeable: one moment very cool and windy, and then back to just a t-shirt.  The walk was reported to be 21 kms., but actually somewhat farther (my Fitbit said 27 kilometers & 101 flights of stairs.). Today I woke up with both sore arms (trekking poles) and legs, and I am told today is even more challenging. Fortunately, some other residents at the hostel provided me with additional food as none was available either along the Way or nearby.  They will pack a lunch however.

Not a lot of walkers on the Way: yesterday lots of day walkers in the morning, but only a few trekkers later on.  It is quite a bit more challenging than the Camino Francés & and without the support structure.  However, it is quite exhilarating to be walking all alone out in the mountains with vast scenic views: just not the place to get lost or fall. However, thus far the markings are good & I have had cellular reception!

                                             Fairy castle tree.

         This is what it looks like when I do not try to "travel light."  Too much stuff.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Dublin Day 3 - Part 2

Continuing to have technological problems, so starting a new post.
The rebels were able to hold Dublin for 7 days before surrendering in order to prevent additional civilian casualties.  The British General in charge decided to treat all the leaders of the rebellion as traitors rather than prisoners, executing the whole crew excepting the women.  And as frequently occurs with military actions, there were significant unintended consequences of this strategy.  The populace of Ireland were galvanized by this cruel treatment, and even those not supportive of the uprising became radicalized such that the struggle for independence continued unabated.  There was eventually a treaty with England which allowed a degree of self-rule, but the taste for independence was not satiated.  After the release of the remaining prisoners in 1918, the party of Sinn Féin won 75% of the seats in the new Irish Parliament, and they set up courts, etc., which functioned better than those run by the British.  The treaty was with only 26 of the 32 counties, and an 18 month long civil war ensued.  However, by 1937, there was a Republic of Ireland.  Unlike the U.S. And France, there was never an actual day of independence since liberation from Britain was a slow process.  So, to this day, the Easter Rebellion of 1916 is celebrated as the beginning of Irish independence from British rule.  The story of Northern Ireland will have to wait for another trip.  So next year will likely be a great time to visit Dublin and share in the centennial celebration. 

So I had been trying to think of a way to communicate the ambiance of this city and how it reminds me of the energy and playfulness of Austin in the 70's and 80's.  So on my way back from the Rebellion Tour, I encountered Dublin's Gay Pride Parade.  I was treated to an ongoing informative commentary on the various groups involved by a young man from Germany who has made Ireland his home.  As I hope will be evident from my photos, this was an exuberant crowd

Dublin Day 3

I am feeling a bit frustrated with my technology here as I already wrote this blog post, but it got deleted in the internet black hole.  So, I will try again, but perhaps shorter.

I was looking forward to today's history lesson which focused on the Irish fight for independence, referred to as the Easter Rebellion of 1916.  This was touched upon during previous historical walking tours, but I wanted more.  What follows is my (hopefully) succinct version of that history.  As most people are aware, Ireland was under British rule from the early 1500's with several failed attempts at independence over the years.  In fact, there was a brief period where Ireland had its own Parliament around 1800.  But that did not last & England was determined to keep the Emerald a Island as part of its troika of England, Scotland & Ireland (I guess Wales did not make the cut) which was the center of British rule (remember that it had a vast number of colonies around the world at this time.). However, since Ireland was about 80% Catholic and was held under the thumb of Protestant England, the desire for home rule continued to grow.  Like many independence movements, there were two separate branches of thought about how to bring about independence from the British.  The more conservative side favored working within the existing system by winning seats in the British parliament; the more radical side believed that England would not relinquish its rule without a fight.

In the middle of the First World War, Britain looked to be otherwise occupied with more imminent problems and so the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) thought that they had found the right time to  lead the fight for sovereignty.  Furthermore, Germany made the commitment to provide the rebels with arms (although I am sure they had their own agenda), and it looked like the time had arrived to struggle for independence.

Unfortunately, a series of events conspired to defeat this dream.  In particular, the men who were to meet the German boats off the coast of Kerry were unfamiliar with the area, became lost, drove off a pier which they confused with a road, and drowned.  So the planned uprising had insufficient arms and only about 2000 soldiers (which actually included a number of women, two of which were in positions of leadership.)

But the country had been awaiting this rebellion so the IRB decided to go forward since they had already published their own "Declaration of Independence," and they expected to be punished by the British one way or the other.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dublin Day 2

Today we had remarkably wonderful weather: Ireland is having something of a heat wave, so it was sunny & about 72 degrees.  It does not get dark until about 11 pm which leaves time for a bunch of activities.  My day started with a walking history tour of the city led by a self-described "recovering academic."  We started at Trinity College which I learned was established in 1592 as an Anglican college by Elizabeth I, in part to consolidate the Tudor monarchy in Ireland.  For many years, Catholics were disallowed from attending the university, first by the college and later by the Catholic Church.   Important alumni include Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Jonathan Swift, and Bram Stoker. It is also the home of the "Book of Kells" which I saw in the afternoon.  The history tour followed the earliest invasions by the Vikings through the early efforts at self-governing (inspired in part by the American Revolution) through the Easter Uprising in 1916, leading, in time, to Ireland as an independent republic in 1923 (will learn more tomorrow at the "Rebellion Tour.")

This evening I went on the Musical Pub Crawl with two musicians who played music and while telling stories of Irish music, drinking, and the life of the village pub over the years in Ireland. We were given an explanation of the difference between a"jig" and a "reel" which is already lost to me.  One of the highlights of the evening was the flute player who was one of the musicians for the soundtrack of "Lord of the Rings," playing a tune from the film.  For me, not as enthralling as the literary tour, but very entertaining nonetheless.  I may have one photo to illustrate this section, but in general the pubs were too crowded for photography.  Now it's late & I need to sleep, but will write more tomorrow.

Dublin: Day 1

After fairly extensive nap at hotel, I explored the city by foot & then attended a fantastic 3 hour "Literary Pub Tour" where two actors performed readings and theater pieces by the writers of Ireland.  First we were treated to a short scene from Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and learned about the origins of the play (Beckett's time with his partner living underground in France during the war when there was literally nothing to do but wait.). After the time at the pub, we walked to Trinity College where they performed (always in character) writings from Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and others. Three more pubs and then the Quiz where I won second place and a (tiny) bottle of Irish Whiskey (going to my friend's son who requested I bring him back some whiskey.). Today, I have a historical walking tour this morning, perhaps followed by the "Rebellion Tour" later in the day.

Weather is perfect: cool, cloudy, with some misty rain.  Last night I met two people from Vancouver who had just completed the Dingle Way walk: my first sighting of anyone who has actually done the walk.  The guy said it was a "bit of a stretch" for him, but both found it spectacularly beautiful!  And they reassured me that it was well marked, but required attention.

Characters from James Joyce's "Ulysses"

Pub where we began literary pub crawl

Another Joyce character

Pharmacy from the novel referred to as the "worst pharmacy in Dublin" and where there are daily readings of Joyce in assorted languages.

                              Pub where we started the literary tour.