Part VII: Dublin, But Primarily Newgrange


So this day I have set aside to head up to Newgrange. Contradictory name for a very old place. This place is about a couple hour bus trip north of Dublin. Therefore, I get to go find the bus station. I have my nifty tourist map and a keen sense of direction, so off I go. If you’re thinking what follows next is some story about getting lost, well you are wrong. It sure as hell was further away than I thought it was though. Smile Ireland’s public transportation system seems to be pretty good. I sure wasn’t going to rent a car and wander about their roads though. They could use some work. And some widening, but I’ll get to that later.

Again the sea! Out the bus window it lies, tantalizingly close, yet still out of reach. Soon…

Here’s some of the area around Newgrange, near the visitor center, next to the River Boyne.

Newgrange is a passage tomb on a hill in a river valley. It’s the most well known of a number in the area. These next pics are shot from in front, facing out across the valley.

It was built approximately 5000 years ago. That’s right, those stupid caveman types were a bit more advanced than you might have given them credit for. At the tour, they gave a detailed explanation of the contstruction methods involved. I won’t go into that so much here, but it was laid out with mathematical precision by people who could easily be described as engineers. In a nutshell, there is a small passage way that leads into the center of the mound. Every winter solstice the sunlight shines through for a short period of time, illuminating the burial chamber itself. It is thought that these people may have been sun worshippers, but no one is really sure. Very little is known about their actual beliefs. What isn’t difficult to say is that they must have felt whatever it was, quite strongly.

As you can see from the scale, with the people to the left, this is no tiny construction. It took massive effort to build this. They brought in stones from miles and miles away. They appear to have journeyed out in lil’ crappy boats out on the ocean and up the river to get from where much of the rock was quarried.

I borrowed this picture to show you the scale better.

This site has informative explanations on these tombs as well as other sites. Well worth a visit for a better description than I have provided here.

Wondering about how this place was built and what was in the minds of the people who did it, what they believed in…I couldn’t help but think of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.” It’s about the Aztecs, and of course a certain Conquistador. The relevancy is this idealized image of a society where they all worked together for the common good…

And the women all were beautiful
The men stood straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So others could go on.

Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones.

They carried them to the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up with their bare hands
What we still can’t do today.

This song kept coming to me. Obviously Neil was heading towards the deep end here Wink, but it puts you in mind of a fascination with these people from long ago who did something amazing.

Here’s a couple of pics from the backside.

I’m not sure when this building dates to, but it certainly seems to be newer.

Between the two trees there seems to be another mound on the next ridge over. It’s harder to make out in the picture though. There was something bright and vertical in the center, but I could not tell what it was.

So after a late lunch in the neato yet surprisingly good cafeteria in the visitor center, and a meander around the exhibits in the center itself, it was time to hop back on the bus back to town. Yaay! Let’s hear it for public transportation. Couple hours on a bus is good for the soul.

Heading back from the bus station I wrangled down the waterfront. Here’s the Irish Navy.

There is also a replica Viking boat. Those pesky Vikings used to stop by for a rape and a pillage with irritating regularity. It’s not really a good picture, as I could not get close enough and they seemed to be closed for the day.

Hey, remember what I said about Irish history in general being sad?

Still ambling down the waterfront, I run into this cheerful bunch. It is a collection of sculptures representing Irish emigrants during the time of the Famine. In the 1840s the main crop, the potato, decided not to grow and just rot in the ground instead. The population was decimated. Increasing numbers left their homeland for some hope of a new life, or at least not having the current one end soon. This was actually quite moving, another case where the photo doesn’t do it justice. They are all gaunt and raggedy, having nothing but a glimmer of hope. Crying or Very sad

As a counterpoint to the haunting and depressing famine statues…we have Butt Bridge. (not the rail bridge) I tried to get a closer photo also, but the sign is on the bridge itself, cut into the marble. You can read it, but it just doesn’t come out well in a photo. Anyway, I’m just immature enough to enjoy the name, I don’t know why. I got the same enjoyment out of the name Butts Field, the airfield out at Fort Carson, Colorado. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

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