Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The past few days...

John finally arrived into Dublin on Sunday afternoon and after letting him rest up for a day we all went out to dinner on Monday night! Captain America's... the most obvious choice for a bunch of American students to frequent. I'm not entirely thrilled with the decision, but they serve pints of beer for 3 Euro to students, so we keep going back. Anyway, sitting around for dinner we somehow got on the topic of Zoolander and I thought it would be funny to have everyone do their best impression of the "Blue Steel". Some were a bit better than others...

This week my school load has been particularly light so I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to get out of the city for a little while. Yesterday Kyle and I planned to leave after our morning class and take a train 20 miles south to the town of Bray. Unfortunately things didn't work out exactly as planned and we had to roll with the punches. We arrived at the Pearse train station and bought our tickets for 2.50 Euro and went up to the platform to wait when all of a sudden this announcement came on informing us that something had happened on the rail and certain train tickets would be recognized by the bus system. Kyle hopped up to ask one of the rail workers if this affected our trip and was told that we should be fine. When the next southbound train pulled into the station we hopped on expecting to relax for about 35 minutes before arriving in Bray.

Wrong answer. Instead we traveled two stops south and were told we had to get off! So we followed the crowd to the nearest southbound bus stop and started chatting with some Irish girls who had apparently been trying to get to their first day of college for at least an HOUR longer than we'd been traveling - also due to this problem on the rail. When we realized that Bray was not on the list of stops scheduled for the bus we decided to ask these girls for help and they told us we could take the bus as far as Dun Laoghaire (Dunne Lowry) and catch the train from there. Before we could even find the station Kyle realized he'd lost his train ticket. Just our luck! We finally got to the station and figured out which train would get us to Bray.

Bray turned out to be a really quaint little beach town with tons of little shops, seafood eateries, and a hiking trail that went along the cliffs to the next town south, Greystones. We decided to hike it!

This morning for my critical thinking class we took a trip to the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) where pretty much everyone who was anyone during the 19th and 20th century were imprisoned.

A man named Joseph Plunkett was sentenced to death in Kilmainham after the 1916 Rebellion. Prior to his imprisonment he was engaged to be married. As a last request, he asked to be wed to his fiance. Below is the chapel where they were married just a few hours prior to his execution.

Here is one of the corridors in the older West Wing

A portrait of Charles Stewart Parnell's holding cell. He was an extremely popular politician who was arrested for a publication that denounced the Land Act in a newspaper that he owned. However, he was allowed so many luxuries while in jail that it was as if he merely lived there for eight months rather than being imprisoned. He was not required to shave his head or his facial hair, he was allowed to wear his own clothes, have visitors at any hour of the day or night, bring furniture from his own home, and drink alcohol. He even had a working fireplace and two gas lamps and at one point for two weeks he was allowed a vacation to Paris and Italy where he visited his mistress!

Eventually we made our way into the new East Wing which was remodeled in 1785 by an English architect named Jeremy Bentham. He envisioned a place where prisoners would be under the impression that they were being watched by the guards at all times - the design is called a panopticon. The East Wing, upon being remodeled, was also extremely noise sensitive. The guards instituted a rule of silence thus granting them the ability to pinpoint where any noise might be coming from. The panopticon at Kilmainham Gaol contains 96 cells.

The last stop of our tour was out to the Stone Yard where men sentenced to hard labor worked, breaking stone (go figure). The walls to the stone yard are extremely tall and so the yard cannot be seen into from any of the cell windows. Upon closer inspection of a plaque on the far wall I realized there were the 14 names of the leaders of the 1916 Rebellion. Kilmainham is the location that all 14 of them were executed between May 3rd and May 12th of 1916.

The first thirteen had been contained at Kilmainham and were executed by firing squad to the right of the yard. Today a cross stands to mark the place where each of them stood.

However, the last of the 14, James Connolly, had been shot in the ankle during the fighting in the Rebellion and suffered from gangrene in his leg. Leading up to the execution date he had been contained elsewhere but was brought to Kilmainham in an ambulance to face the firing squad. The guards intended to carry out his execution the same way as the other thirteen with his arms tied behind his back and his eyes blindfolded, but Connolly was too weak to stand. So instead he was assisted a short way into the yard through a separate set of doors that the ambulance could pull up to, was tied to a chair, and then executed. His death caused incredibly controversy as soon as it went public and soon the cause of the Rebellion picked up support all over the country.

All in all I have had a wonderful time exploring Ireland the past few days! I can't wait to share more!