Up and out early for the first of our two out-of-town tours. Today was a trip north to Newgrange. We had a quick bowl of runny porridge at the hotel restaurant for too much money, and then we walked as fast as we could over to the meeting place for the tour. We stopped in the 24-hour Starbucks to use the restroom and get a coffee before getting on the bus, and there we ran into Deena. When I first started working at the City of Eugene, Deena was in high school and she worked part-time in the office. Now it is 20 years later and she is living in Dublin. A mutual friend let me know that she was here, and she decided to come on the tour with us. What fun!
The drive out was lovely. We have been in the big city our whole trip so far, and today we got to see some rolling hills, cows, sheep and lots of green.
We were at the UNESCO site early, so we were first in line for the visit. Newgrange is amazing in that it is a building constructed more than 5,000 years ago. It is older than Stonehenge, and older than the Great Pyramid. Its purpose was to (as far as we can tell) provide for ceremony related to funeral activities. It is also part of a complicated series of similar structures in the area that align perfectly with astronomical events. For 17 minutes on the winder solstice (Dec 21), the light of the sun funnels just perfectly through the entry way, up the passage and into the center of the inner chamber.
The inner chamber is more than six meters high and made in a dome shape. Amazing considering the time period when it was constructed. One of the puzzles of this Neolithic tomb is how it was actually constructed. The materials came from far away, during a time when there weren’t any wheels or beasts of burden to assist. There were no roads to convey the huge kerbstone boulders to the top of the hill where the structure is located. It took more than 100 years to build during an age when people seldom lived past 35 years of age Imagine passing on the complicated information needed to keep the project going from generation to generation to generation. (Note that Mom and I bought matching style sweaters, in different colors!)
After enjoying Newgrange and having a little lunch in the cafeteria, we headed back into the bus for a drive to the Hill of Tara. This is a sacred place for the Irish kings. We walked to the top of the hill and had a beautiful view over the whole valley.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and kept the story going for the whole bus ride out and back. He had a quite dry sense of humor and now and then injected outlandish ideas into the explanation, including that aliens built Newgrange.
We got back late afternoon and did a little shopping and eating on the way back to the hotel. Before dark, we took a quick walk around Trinity College, where Mom had me make a silly pose for a picture.