img_24637 According to my Mawmaw, our family came from Cork, Ireland many, many years ago.  I’d already planned on Cork being a stop on my trip based on it’s proximity to Blarney, Cahir, Cashel, and Kinsale, four places not to be missed (per guidebooks).  So to find that I’d be returning to a place my ancestors vacated for whatever reason, that was like a cherry on top of my trip.  I did feel a strange connection to Cork, both Cork City and the outlying areas of County Cork.  One thing I really loved about the city was the two rivers running through, the River Lee and the River Shannon, and their subsequent tides that came and went, giving photo ops like the one you see here.  Cork is a riot of color and life, teeming with college students and fashion.  Not even the serious gray of a normal rainy day could take away it’s charm.

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Of all the cathedrals I saw in my time in Ireland, none stunned me quite like St Finbarre’s Cathedral in Cork.  This picture was taken when I rounded a street corner and came upon this sight, a towering, weathered cathedral rising to staggering heights from the street before me.  I stopped in my tracks, my mouth open to catch the flies, and numbly brought the camera up to snap.  No words can describe the familiarity of wandering the grounds and the cathedral.  I entered those rod iron gates and suddenly felt like I’d come home.  I searched the Church registry and found several Roberts from a hundred years ago…were they my ancestors?  I don’t know, but St Finnbarre’s was most definitely my cathedral.

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Ah, the Irish and their drinking!  It’s a well known fact they’re a pack of drunken lushes, singing bawdy songs about big breasted woman while hanging upon one another’s shoulders in the streets, pint of Guinness in hand and a round of Jameson’s on the way.  I passed a pub across the street from where this picture was taken, to find this little forest of kegs cooling their heels against the fence on the river.  This was a Tuesday morning, and that is about thirty kegs.  Empty.  I’ll bet a bottle of of Irish Whiskey those are NOT left over from the weekend…

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I couldn’t decide what my favorite picture from Cahir Castle is, because Cahir Castle was very worth every picture I took.  So, I told myself to pick one that would capture the essence of how being inside the place felt.  This is it.  The roughly carved stone walls and stairs, reverted back to their original structures as the white wash has washed away over the centuries, the halls and rooms of Cahir Castle whisper with secrets.  If you don’t watch your feet as you ascend, you’re likely to trip and fall on your face, the stairs wet and worn with use.  Cahir is the epitomal castle, with staircases leading to lower regions unlit and dank, and others leading to high towers overlooking a vaguely industrial town; only with imagination can you see what it’s original owners once viewed from it’s crude, open-to-the-elements windows.  Ghosts surely roamed these halls, tracing my every echoing footstep, wondering what the hell I was doing oohing and ahhing to myself in the silence.

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Cahir Abbey is nestled behind a concrete company and a company specializing in some other type of industrial work.  Only one tiny sign alerts the wandering tourist to it’s location, tucked back against the trees and crumbling into nonexistence.  It’s reached such a sad state of affairs, that while it is ran by the Irish Heritage Foundation, they don’t waste the manpower on staffing it.  It is unlit, no wiring for electricity at all, the transept walls still standing (somewhat) minus the ceiling, but the rest of the abbey reduced to foundations and piles of stones.  In the yard outside, I came to this statue of a crucified Jesus, and yes, it’s as tall as it looks.  My head barely came to his feet.  Bending down, I snapped this, what is possibly one of my favorite shots from the trip.  As we all know, I’m not Christian, but I do hold a certain respect for the man called Jesus.  Was it Gandhi who said “I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  They are so unlike your Christ”?  This image is one of infinte sadness–the despair of a murdered man and the ruination of a building built in his name.  Gives me chills.

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One person I learned I have a real love for during my trip, is Mary.  Her serene face, her unwavering strength, and the love the Catholic people have for this little girl who has a special place in a patriarchal system.  Mary is the leftover, the mortal woman containing all the love and majesty of goddess worship, in a religion dead set against just that heresy.  This monument to Mary prayed over a grave at the Rock of Cashel, an ancient seat of Kings in Ireland, later turned into a church/abbey/monastery.  By bending at her feet, as if praying to her myself, I snapped this picture with the roofless transept of the Rock in the background, a cloudy sky giving just a glimpse of the sun hiding behind.  Cashel was magnificent in every sense of the word.

img_246313 In the fields below the towering crag that is Cashel lie the ruins of Hore Abbey, a mere blip compared to the monstrous Rock, but so compact and put together, you can almost imagine it’s still in use.  That is, until you get around the block and take the cow poop smattered sidewalk into the ruined abbey.  I was the only visitor to Hore Abbey that day, and I spent a peaceful, contemplative thirty minutes among the ruins, snapping pictures and getting shat on by a pigeon (oh yes, that happened.)  Being alone in a historic relic, I commended myself on the decision to visit Ireland in the low tourist season.

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When researching for my much anticipated trip, I came across a photo of Hore Abbey with the Rock of Cashel in the background.  Risking life and limb (aka ankles) in the cow field, I managed to capture my own version of that picture.  Of course, I got a tree half in the way of the Rock and it’s hill, but if I’d tried to go any further in the holey field, I’d have broken my legs and spent the rest of my trip in a hospital.  I did one up the other photo by capturing the birds flying just above the transept roof.  The day was just cloudy and grim enough to make for perfect ruined abbey pictures.  There’s something to be said for atmosphere.