After being up for 24 hours and traveling for 15 of them, I hopped into a new rental car at the Dublin airport, killed it twice just getting out of the parking space, asked Pamela to keep yelling at me 'keep left!!!!', hit the first round-about out of the airport and tried to go the wrong way. 'Keep left... Keep left'
Pamela sat on the left side yelling 'your too close... your too close' while all the time I'm facing an onslaught of double decker buses coming from the other direction half way into my lane. Thus began our journey through rush hour Dublin in search of our B&B for the evening.
By dead reckoning we got within about 4 blocks before taking a wrong turn into a bus only lane... 'keep left.... keep left!!!' An hour later we finally found a street on the map... reconnoitered and arrived at Number 31 Leeson Close five minutes later. Yes, GPS would have helped, but our old GPS buggered out and we didn't have time to order a new one before leaving home. Amazon UK has already received the order.
Having survived the present, we decided today to visit the past. Mary Gibbon's Tours took us in one of those huge buses along perilously narrow country lanes to Newgrange and Tara north of Dublin in the Boyne Valley.
Newgrange is a burial mound/chamber 80 meters across, 10 meters high constructed approximately 3000 B.C.E. at least a thousand years before the pyramids of Egypt were built. It was constructed as a burial chamber with an entrance tunnel accepting the sun's light for only five days surrounding the winter equinox around December 21st of each year. Be clear this is a stone age structure, astronomically accurate, predating Celtic culture, Mayan pyramids, bronze and iron ages.
It is the most intact, undisturbed structure of its nature in the world. After squeezing through a 30 meter long tunnel (I do mean squeeze... these people were not fat old OMOTICs... there were several spots I had to inhale to get past the rock walls....) we arrived in a twenty foot wide circle of rock with niches where mostly ashes and some bones of people were stored. Glad I'm not claustrophobic because they then turned out the lights and allowed a simulated sun to shine weakly into the room from the direction of the entrance. Upon leaving we passed the site of the Battle of Boyne ( more about that later.)
Next came a visit to the hill of kings, Tara. This is the place of coronation and residence of the High Kings of Ireland. For centuries the most prominent structure on top was a large stone phallus. The High King was expected to guarantee fecundity of the people and the land from this spot. If he didn't he was usually beheaded and a new more 'fertile' king installed. More often than not the High Kingship was established by a constant running battle between the many, many lesser kings of Ireland throughout the centuries.
A somewhat smaller cross now sits next to the phallus, reminding us how the church co-opted much of ancient Irish history and religion in a brilliant move to bring the people into the faith... St. Patrick had a real knack for this. Tara, by the way may sound familiar as it was the name given the estate in "Gone With the Wind" by Scarlett's Irish father.
More history tomorrow... the Book of Kells and the Guinness Brewery. Hey, who says beer isn't history?