Saturday, February 26, 2011

Back from Germany!!

We got back to Ballyvaughan this morning around three, after a few days in Berlin. It was loads of fun, but really exhausting! I will definitely post pictures, stories, etc... only I feel like I should get caught up with everything else, or I'll get confused and forget things. So be patient :D

Until then, one story from Germany. It happened yesterday evening, as we were getting on the bus to the airport. It was a bus provided for us by the travel agency. The driver pulled up outside the hotel (along the street, by the little driveway into the parkinglot/courtyard). Most of us were on the bus, and the driver was waiting for the last of us to get luggage and working on making it all fit in the hold. Some idiot wanted out of the parking lot, and pulled up really close to the bus, got out, and demanded that the driver move the bus. When the driver asked him to wait a minute, he grabbed him by the collar and slammed him up against a car/on the ground (I did not see this part, as I was already on the bus, and everything was so crazy, there are conflicting views). At this point, one of the driver's two kids (who were sitting at the front of the bus) went crazy, and ran off the bus screaming and calling for his dad. That was when those of us already getting settled on the bus realized something was wrong. Because the car had pulled up so close to the bus, and because of the screaming child, my first impression was that the man had gotten run over by the car. Luckily that was not the case.

Our photo teacher got the child back on the bus, and I sat next to him, trying to calm him down. The language barrier proved itself to be very difficult - how to reassure a boy that his father is going to be ok if he can't understand what I'm saying?? I missed exactly what happened next, because of trying to keep the boy on the bus, but at some point someone from a shop next door came and tried to intervene/help. The guy backed off, but was still yelling a lot. It was really crazy - he was so very impatient that he couldn't wait two minutes? And had to resort to physical violence??

At this point, I was still with the boy, and our teacher was standing at the front of the bus before the seats started - she was being a barrier, both for keeping the boy on the bus so he didn't get hurt, and also to keep us all on. There was more arguing (all in German, of course), and at one point the man grabbed our driver again, and started attacking him. The man from the shop was able to get crazy man off the driver, and our driver got on the bus and called the police. The guy had calmed down a bit (?) and the rest of our group somehow managed to get on the bus. We stayed there for a while longer (not sure if it was to keep the crazy guy there till the police came), but then the driver got back on the bus again, and backed it up enough for the man to drive away. We stayed until the police came, and they talked to the driver and one of the girls who had been outside and seen most of it. His son had calmed down a bit, due to the fact that the crazy man went away, and with the help of games on somebody's iPod Touch.

Thankfully everyone was ok, and I hope that the police will be able to find the man. I missed a lot of the details, due to not speaking German, so I don't know what will happen with that. We made it to the airport with plenty of time, though I was rather shaky after the adrenaline rush wore off.
It was an interesting end to our stay in Berlin..

Sunday, February 20, 2011


A couple weeks ago now, we all went to Dublin from Thursday morning to Friday evening. It was really a lot of fun, and a great experience.
We went to A LOT of art museums and galleries. Some of them were really cool, but some were less than interesting (but that's just me and a lot of contemporary art!). It also got hard after so many hours of standing around and walking really slowly - for some reason the pace of being in a museum tends to make me sleepy after about two hours.

One of the museums had a lovely formal garden off to one side, though. So I got to escape  for a while and wander around outside.

There was a really interesting fountain in the garden - and art sculpture of some sort, of course!

It reminded me a lot of drippy sandcastles. Also crustaceans.

Umm.... Captain Cait?

There was also this really cool mural that was just sort of randomly in a parking lot.... Not entirely sure what it was all about, but it was pretty fantastic!

Selling cockles and mussles, alive alive-o

If anyone reading this does not know this song, please PLEASE go look it up! There were a surprising number of my classmates who had no idea why I was so excited that there was a Molly Malone statue.

There was a man doing sidewalk art, but it was really really impressive sidewalk art! I think he may have been using paints somehow, instead of chalk.

Trinity College

Dublin is a really pretty city. Unfortunately, most of my photos ended up blurry, since I was taking them whil walking around, and not paying much attention to focus.

This is Dublin Castle (the tower) with a cathedral attached to the side. It was sorta cool.. only you had to pay to get in, and had to take a guided tour (I hate guided tours) so I decided to pass. Also, it was kinda sad - there was a much more modern building attached to the other side of the castle, and the parking lot went right up to the base of the building. So it sort of ruined the whole feel of it, to be surrounded by pavement and really ugly buildings.

As we were walking from the castle back to the hostel, we passed this really interesting building.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Happy belated Valentine's Day, everyone!!

A couple notes:
1. Only one person guessed about the picture I posted from Durham. And yes, Grammy, you were right - the cloisters at Durham Cathedral were used in the filming of the Harry Potter movies.

2. I'm not sure how best to work the whole comments thing... I get notices in my email whenever anyone comments. I really should be responding to some of them, but I don't know if you ever go back and check the comments? So I suppose I'll start trying to respond in the comments, and if you feel something else (like emailing) would work better, just let me know!


Turlough: a lake that appears when there is a lot of rain, and dries up when there's not (especially during the summer)
It happens a lot in the Burren, because of the fact that the main stone here is limestone. So the rivers and streams here are pretty much underground (due to limestone being porous). There are extensive cave systems as well. But when there's too much rain, it comes down from the hills and fills up the water table until it bubbles out of weak spots and fills the fields with water.
We have several of them in Ballyvaughan, that show up  when it's been raining a lot. There are ditches that lead from the turloughs to the sea, to help drain them and keep them from flooding the road. When there's been a lot of rain, the water rushes through them really intensely!!

Here are two of several turloughs that turn up around Ballyvaughan, seen from the top of our castle.

This is one of the largest turloughs in the area. We went and visited it in our Irish Studies class, and hiked around the far end.

The light here is so pretty, and everything is so green! It's still winter, I know, so I can't wait to see what spring looks like.

Here's an example of a wall in the Burren. It's not the most extreme example of a wall going up the side of the hill - some of them look like they're almost vertical!

In the foreground is a modern stone wall, and the next one back is the remains of a Medieval slab wall (!!!)

This one's a little hard to see, but the ridges crossing the field (some of them with stones sticking out the top) are the remains of other Medieval walls. This would have been part of a settlement, with small patchwork fields for crops, gardens, and livestock.

Again, hard to see - but the mound of earth here is horseshoe shaped. The open part of the horseshoe is facing away from the camera. It's a fulacht fia - a Bronze Age site near a spring of some sort. Stones were heated up by fire, and used to heat the water (either for cooking or for bathing, the evidence is not conclusive either way). The remains of burnt stones are found in the mounds.

We stopped in Kinvara for tea and scones (yum!) and I just thought these boats were lovely in the light.

Here's another turlough that we went to, with the remains of a tower on the opposite shore. I still can't get over how much history is here!

Me with the remains of my lovely tea!

We walked up a path towards a ring fort, and startled some sheep that were grazing in it!! Aren't they cute?

Here's a shot of the ring fort - you can sort of see how the walls go around, and there's been some collapsing/wearing down of the earth. I believe this one was made out of earth (rather than stone) so it's called a rath.

We couldn't go in, because it was someone's property, but it looked like there was some sort of shelter on the far side (not sure if it's recent or not).

Saturday, February 12, 2011


In my last post, I said that this line of stones maybe had something to do with a pathway. Yesterday in Irish Studies, Gordon talked about them again, and apparently they actually are related to the sun and the solstices. I guess I misheard the first time around. :D

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


So our first Irish studies trip was to the hills of Connemara. In this class, we have lecture every Friday morning, and then in the afternoon we go on a field trip! Connemara, which is in Co. Galway, north of Ballyvaughan, was beautiful! The hills are so crazy and majestic looking - it makes it very hard to remember that Ireland is a rather small island, when it contains an area so impressively huge. I don't know if it looks like this all the time, but the grasses and bogs of the Connemara lowlands/valleys, combined with the tons of overground streams (due to a different kind of bedrock that the water can't penetrate).... it looks a whole lot like Rohan. It was very exciting. Unfortunately, we were on the bus through all of the Rohan part, so I didn't get any good photos to show.

Some of the hills, right after a rainstorm

Same place, about five minutes later - the weather changes so quickly here!!

Kylemore Abbey - it was originally built for a nobleman's wife, but she died while traveling in Egypt.

The first of two beaches we traveled to. It was so nice to explore a good beach - and the ocean was lovely!

The "sand" here was really coarse - and made of little skeletons. I don't think they were actually coral, but some sort of marine life.

The second beach we went to - it's a beautiful crescent. And the sand here was really fine and very white. The air was so clear, it didn't feel quite real.

Some lichen that we found on rocks. Apparently it's used for dye quite often. Liz gathered some, and has since made a dye out of it. I'm going to use a little bit on a piece of wool that I found snagged on some grass.

These rocks were positioned by humans at some point in the past - possibly as a marker for a direction or path.
Scattered around the area were all these small stones surrounded by empty shells. Apparently birds find these stones, and use them to open the shells.

This robin was sitting on a fence on our walk back to the bus. He wasn't bothered by us at all, and we were able to get ridiculously close - probably about two or three feet!!

Monday, February 7, 2011


So just a quick update - last night, there was a ceili in Kilfenora. It's a decent ways away, but we were able to get Brian to drive some of us over there in the bus. There's been a bit of Irish set dancing in the pub in Ballyvaughan, and I've been joining in a little bit. Last week the teacher was there, so a bunch of us got some good formal instruction in steps and figures. It's a bit different from the Scottish dancing I've been doing, but still loads of fun. The dance last night was great - about 14 of us from the college went, and there were a bunch of other people there, and live music. It went on for about two hours, and I think I danced in all the sets except for two (which I was glad to sit out, due to getting overheated!). I don't have any photos, but a couple other students from the college brought cameras, so I'm going to see if they got any good photos, and if I can get them on my computer. I really hope that we can go to more ceilis in the future, too!!!