Monday, January 31, 2011

The Hill of Tara

Today we were blessed with some better weather than we've been experiencing! This morning was sunny and about 45, we wished we had been at the zoo today! It quickly changed, however, and once we got to the Hill of Tara it was rather chilly and very windy. We didn't stay outside long though, and it was still enjoyable. We also got to watch Leap Year on the bus to Tara so that was awesome!

The Hill of Tara is another of Ireland's many mystical locations with deep pagan roots. It is said to originally be the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, where they were coronated and also performed many ceremonies and had huge banquets.  There is a 700 meter long structure that is believed to have been a long banquet hall. They actually found what essentially is a guest list and seating chart for banquets!

Our awesome tour guide whose sister actually lives in South Weymouth! He is 80 and is still looking after the grounds and giving tours, we actually had trouble keeping up with him!

On the actual "Hill" of Tara there are many little mounds. Each one serving a specific purpose and having their own historical significance. The oldest mound is the Mound of the Hostages which dates back to 3000 BC meaning it is OLDER THAN THE PYRAMIDS! 

This is the entrance to the Mound of Hostages, the one thats older than the pyramids. It's layout is very similar to the mound at Newgrange. If you haven't heard of Newgrange I highly suggest researching it. I hope to be able to go there at some point!

The way this mound is set up is that there are several openings, and only on certain days of the year, such as the summer and winter solstice, the sun will shine through and illuminate intricate carvings and drawings on the inside.

Also there are many people buried within the outer "shell" of the mound. Mostly were cremated but they did find a skeleton of a man who had expensive jewelry and is thought to be rather important. Another interesting fact is that about 100 years ago a group of israelites traveled to Tara and excavated this mound because they believed the arc of the covenant was buried inside it. An old story says that the locals were getting so much business from these men that at night they would go and bury just to keep them there! Irish nationalists eventually made them leave though because they were desecrating a sacred and historical site with no real luck.

The settlement is believed to have pagan roots, based on artifacts and later writings. Once the introduction of widespread Christianity by St. Patrick, The Hill's importance lessened. There are stories about druids and St. Patrick having basically magic contests to prove whose religion was the stronger one. One story was that a druid covered the Hill of Tara in snow but when Patrick challenged him to remove the snow, he could not. It is said that Patrick was able to remove the snow, proving his superiority. There was a large statue of Saint Patrick on a mound in Tara that had been disintegrating rapidly. One day it just disappeared! The residents argued about replacing it for nearly 10 years until a covenant in France offered a statue they had as a replacement, which is what stands there now.

This is the Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny, legend states that if a potential High King of Ireland touched the stone it would roar. Also There are two similar looking stones that use to be on a near by mound that were spaced about a foot apart. Potential kings had to ride their chariot towards them and if he was the rightful king they would move apart and allow him to ride through. These rocks were moved into the church yard to preserve them

Lots of sheep!

Another view of the Stone of Destiny.

A commemorative tombstone for the hundreds that died in the Battle of Tara.

More mounds..

The only way to be buried in Tara's cemetery is to be related to someone who was buried there long ago.

The church isn't open during the winter months so we couldn't go inside. It does however, open one day a year for masses, and that is St. Patrick's Day!

Something I found really interesting was their way of cutting the grass. Because the area could contain precious artifacts they don't allow large machinery to come in and mow. Instead they have huge herds of sheep that graze all day.

Unfortunately because of all the sheep you also get A LOT of sheep poop. If you go, I would highly recommend wearing wellies or shoes you can easily clean!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Dublin Zoo

So today was the first day since I've gotten here that we didn't have anything planned! Lauren and Gracie wanted to go to the zoo so I decided to go with them! It's a little ways outside of Dublin but it's very close to the bus stop and there is also a beautiful park right by it.

The layout of the zoo is shaped like a giraffe!

The tigers seemed a little bored and were pacing around their habitats.

I thought it was too cold for monkeys to be outside, especially since they're from Africa! There was a couple babies but I couldn't get a good picture of one! He's the little guy running to the left.

The Snow Leopards were so pretty! They have the longest tails.

This guy was loving all the attention!!

A pack of gray wolves was hiding in the back.

These otters were so funny! They were running around and doing summersaults.

 Some sea lions from California!

They had a mini sea lion show. She was waving to us!

They had elephant feet tracks that were really hard to follow!

They had a bunch of peacocks just walking around!

I caught this goat right in the middle of a 'baa.'

These black birds reminded us of Kevin in Up.

Red Pandas!

 And his house!

I am going to bed because I am exhausted. Tomorrow I am going to the Hill of Tara with my history class. I don't know a lot about it thought, so I'll fill you all in tomorrow!

Miss you!

P.S. Can we talk about how ferocious Will looks in this picture? Kind of scary if you ask me. Rocco is a really good sport for always putting up with him! 

P.P.S. One day until Will turns one!