Friday, September 7, 2012

Croke Park & Hop on/Hop off bus

Thursday was mostly a free-day, so forgive me for the lack of knowledge, but I have pictures! We all left the hostel together and took a bus to Croke Park, where the GAA sports are played. The professional players who play on this field, are NOT paid. They do it purely for the love of the sport (endorsements and advertisements help their bank account, of course) and most players have a regular job working 9-5 five days a week. Fortunately, the Irish people love these sports so much that there was eventually enough funding to construct this incredible stadium. I believe our tour guide said it was the 3rd largest stadium in Europe.
The stadium was build over railway tracks, which I found to be quite odd, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Having the tracks there makes it so easy to get to and from the stadium SAFELY. Even the way the stadium was built was different. I know nothing about architecture or anything of the sort so if some one shows me a stadium, I assume nothing is wrong with it. However, the guide mentioned that most people ask why it isn't finished.
As you can see in the picture above, I suppose it does look unfinished, but something about the way the wind blows would have made it impossible to have stands/a wall there. As you can also see from the picture, the field is HUGE. I do not have a single picture where the entire field is captured. We walked all around the stadium, inside the stadium, in the locker rooms, in the victory room, the cafe, and the museum. There is SO much history everywhere you go in Ireland!
On a more solemn note related to history, Croke Park is where the famous Bloody Sunday occurred. GAA events always happen on Sundays (for the county leagues, we went to a smaller division game on a Friday-tomorrow!!!) Anyway, the Black and Tans opened fire during a hurling match, people were killed, including a player, a young woman who was about to be married and 2 younger children. Hundreds were injured. In the museum, there is a memorial for those who were lost on that tragic day.
After our tour was over, we were free to go off and explore the museum and/or eat at the cafe if we wanted to. We had some time before the bus came back to get us so I checked out the museum and got a warm bowl of soup at the cafe-- soup ALWAYS hits the spot when you're in Ireland, it takes the chill off your bones and the Irish really know how to make a delicious bowl of soul every time. The picture below is a quote that was in the museum, a nice pick-me-up if you're in need of some inspiration. :)
Now to the Hop on/Hop off bus tour! I wish I could have recorded what all the drivers were saying while we were on their buses because 1. they were informative and 2. they were hysterical. I don't know what's in the water but it really seemed like the driver/tour guide loved his job (a common theme with our tour guides in Ireland, save for one, maybe). I understand enthusiasm is a part of the job description, but these people were fantastic. Anyway, Kaitlynn (from University of Wyoming) and I checked out Trinity College briefly and considered seeing the Book of Kells. We decided against it because we felt it was pretty expensive. Later, I talked to a friend who did go see the Book of Kells and she said it was disappointing because you can only look at one page, so I'm glad we got to go back to Trinity College after the first day but I'm glad we ended up not seeing the Book of Kells. Then, we hopped back on the bus and made our way to St. Patrick's Cathedral. This place was GORGEOUS. Absolutely breathtaking. Maybe it's just the Christian in me, but I love churches. And I love photography in churches...
 Inside St. Patrick's
 Outside St. Patrick's
 Driving by the entrance to Dublin Castle
Inside St. Patrick's again
Not only was everything about St. Patrick's beautiful, but something happened while I was there that I just loved. While all the tourists, myself included, were standing around gawking at the beauty of this church, the children from the school across the street (St. Patrick's school, I'm assuming) were in the church having choir practice. I can't say for sure what it was, but something about that just touched me. These kids are exposed to this kind of beauty every single day! They walk down the street and see incredible amounts of history. I walk down the street and see trees or congestion (depending if I'm in south or north Jersey..). I just so hope that these kids appreciate what they experience every day.
After hopping back on the bus, we went to Kilmainham Gaol museum/former jail. If you want to go to a creepy place, this is where to go. Maybe it was just the day in general, but I was chilled to the bone the entire time I was there. Every room was damp and cold and dark. Honestly, I couldn't hear much of what the tour guide was saying and I was so cold and uncomfortable that I don't remember the facts, not a must-see on my list, but interesting if you're into jails the way I'm into churches. The chained dragons were above the main entrance to the jail and are meant to symbolize rebellion.
We were going to go to the zoo in Dublin but the weather was just so awful that we decided to return to the hostel, warm up, and then go out again for some dinner. My taste of local life that day was passing by the street bands in Temple Bar. To avoid confusion, "Temple Bar" is not a bar, but an area, a few years ago a man decided that he would open a bar called "Temple Bar" in Temple Bar. It's very confusing and annoying to explain but we were in Temple Bar (the area) looking for a place to eat that wasn't jam-packed when we saw the band on the street. They were scattered everywhere, really. Being home now, the street bands and performers are something I really miss.

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