Socialization, the way of life in Ireland
Tailor and I bussed from University of Limerick (UL) out to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park (almost all the way out to Shannon Airport). It was a nice relaxing day exploring off campus on our own for the first time. It was just the two of us; not six busses full. We could go at our own pace; not have to be back at the bus at 1:15pm to get everywhere we were visiting. Arriving at Bunratty, we bought our passes and talked to the cashier/greeter for a little while as she explained to us about the park and asked us where we are from. One of the first questions locals ask is “how’s the weather here?” I always say I’m from Seattle and it’s the same weather back home, so it doesn’t bother me. I think many locals are used to people from sunny climates who do not know what to do when it rains all the time. She wished us good luck at UL and we entered the park, beginning our exploration.
For lunch, Tailor and went to MacNamara’s Pub in the Folk Park. We had a nice lunch (Two choices: Vegetable soup or toasted ham, cheese, and veggie sandwich) and sat and talked for almost an hour as we enjoyed the atmosphere. The culture back home in the U.S. is very fast paced; people are always scheduled and rushing to get places. Most Americans do not know how to sit still and hang out without their brains running at a million miles per hour thinking about all the other things they could/should be doing. I’ll admit, I struggle with that; I’ve always been one that needs to constantly be doing something. Here in Ireland, people will hang out at pubs for hours catching up on life and not worry about everything else going on (or at least not as much as Americans). The waiters and waitresses do not bring you a check until you request for one to be brought; they do not try to rush your time at the restaurant, pub, bar, or where ever you are. Yes, this is only week two for me in Ireland, but I think patience and a slower-paced lifestyle is good practice for Americans. I could change my mind as the semester progresses, but I think we need to realize that value in community and focussing on what’s happening in the moment rather than thinking about everything else going on in your life.
Bunratty Castle was built around 1425. Over the course of the years, it was a stronghold of the O’Briens and then the earls of Thomond and North Munster. There are three main floors, but then each of the four towers has six floors. As you climb the stairs higher and higher in the towers, the steps get much steeper and narrower. Many people comment about how I have steep stairs at home. Once you start walking up the stairs in Bunratty Castle, you’ll probably take back your comment. Many of the doorways were very short, causing me to duck every time, but much of the furniture was very large. One of the dressers in The Great Hall had very intricate wood carvings on it from various biblical stories, but it was definitely too large to fit through any of the doorways. It was actually brought up in 36 pieces!
The dungeon was quite a miserable place. Just getting through the doorway to walk down the steps to the dungeon was a puzzle because it was so tiny. Anyone with claustrophobia should avoid going those stairs. It puts an even more realistic picture in my head of how it was to be sent to the dungeon and any of those other medieval torture devices and places.
This was the first castle I visited in Ireland, so I’m excited to see others and compare the architecture; particularly the internal design. Are all stairwells super small? Are all doorways small? What are the living quarters like in other castles?
We wandered around the Folk Park, featuring houses, the school house, various huts where people would work, an Irish church, garden, and lots of animals freely wandering. I was surprised how large and fancy some of the sleeping quarters were for those who were not royalty based on what I’ve seen for servants in historical U.S. locations. But, they still weren’t all that large. At the same time, many of the bedrooms for the royalty were not actually all the large in Bunratty Castle.
The Village Street in the Folk Park was very quiet as we went during off season, so there are not many tourists. But the buildings were very cute. I noticed each building had a color theme for both inside and out, something that I’m not as used to back home. If the outside was green, almost all the walks and flooring and china were a shade of green (same for other colors).
Ardcroney Church used to be located in Ardcroney in County Tipperary, but it was moved stone by stone to Bunratty Folk Park to help preserve historical Ireland. This church was very simplistic. I’m used to seeing pictures and hearing about all the very intricate stained glass windows and detailed architecture. Ardcroney Church was the opposite of that. There was a very tiny stained glass window, but otherwise it was all clear glass and very simplistic inside. There was also a stray cat that had wandered inside that was very skittish and sprang out of a pew, leaping at least three pews back and sprinting out of the church. It was quite startling!
Our last stop during out exploration around Bunratty Folk Park was the Fairy Village. Fairies are not unique to Ireland, but they are much more prominent when it comes to Irish folklore. Many of you may think Leprechauns are super popular in Ireland, but in fact, the Irish do not talk about Leprechauns much in folklore at all; the fairies are a much greater part. There are many beliefs about fairies, but one is that they are the people blamed for things which we cannot explain. It is bad luck to disturb them, though if you are a sweet little child, you might be able to get one of the fairies to come our an grant you a wish. I am taking an Irish Folklore class this spring, so I’ll be able to explain the myths behind fairies in a lot more depth later in the semester.
I loved looking at all the different fairy houses; they were all so intricate and have different stories behind which fairies lived in each house. It’s quite a magical area for little kids, one which it may be difficult to get them to want to see anything else. The village was put together very well and had many hidden treasures.
Tailor and I wandered around downtown Bunratty before catching our bus back to UL. There were fewer shops there than in Forest Grove (or at least that we saw). Finding the bus stop was an adventure. Google Maps made it seem like it was across the street from where we got dropped off, but there was no bus stop there. So, we waited under the very nice bus shelter where we dropped off figuring we would see the bus when it comes and figure out where we needed to go. The bus came and drove past the stop we were at to the one down the road, so Tailor and I sprinted down the sidewalk to catch the bus. Luckily, there were a number of people getting on, so we were able to make it. Tailor and I love adventures. 🙂
I went hiking through the countryside in Kerry County yesterday, so pictures and stories to come, and I register for classes this week. There will probably be posts about my Irish Folklore class so you can learn about Ireland with me. As always, let me know if you have questions or specific things you want to hear about or suggestions of things I need to experience/visit.