Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chester Beatty Library

It's difficult to write blog posts about museums. Not because museums don't have wonderful exhibits or fascinating stories, its just that museums are difficult to capture in words and photos, especially as photography is usually limited or prohibited in museums.

All that said, it's high time we document another one of Dublin's museum treasures, Chester Beatty Library. The library is a bit off the beaten path, and not as conspicuous as some of the other free Dublin museums. It sits at the back of the Dublin Castle complex, behind the famous structures of Dublin Castle proper.

Part of Dublin Castle Dublin Ireland
Part of Dublin Castle

Go 'Round Back

At the back of the complex, the entrance to Chester Beatty Library looks on to a large grassy circle. This beautiful mini-park is decorated with bricks laying out Celtic knot shapes. Benches surround the intimate little garden, and the Garda (Irish police force) Memorial Garden, dedicated to the memory of Garda officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

It was most interesting to see on a small plaque this large green circle is a decorative-but-still-functional helipad. It lacks the universal H shape of modern pads, but the Celtic knot pattern can be easily spotted and targeted by pilots from the air.

Dubhlinn Garden Dublin Castle, Dublin
Dubhlinn Garden

Chester Beatty Entrance Dublin Castle, Dublin
Chester Beatty Entrance

The Library

The library itself is so called because the collection is almost entirely books and literary materials, with heavy emphasis on Asian and Islamic texts. Chester Beatty was an American collector who spent his life acquiring rare and exotic books and artwork. He was particularly interested in the culture and literature of the East. Upon his death, he left his collection to his library in Dublin, near his long time home in Donnybrook. The library was located at the original Donnybrook location until recently, when it was moved to its current home in Dublin Castle, nearer the City Centre and more accessible for visitors.

Were I would normally share photos of all the museum highlights, I have to simply describe my favorites, as photos are not allowed in the controlled preservative conditions of the library.

Among our favorites in the fabulous permanent collection are...

  • Chinese jade books, text literally engraved and into solid jade "pages" and inlaid with gold paint. 
  • Japanese story paintings, like an ancient wordless comic book painted in a series of images on a scroll, which would have been rolled and unrolled to look at the image series in the story.
  • An ancient Egyptian love poem written in hieroglyphics on preserved papyrus.
  • A large room-sized exhibit dedicated to religious works of a number of Eastern and Western religions, some of which I have never seen before visiting the library.
The museum also houses a rotating temporary exhibit. At my last visit with our friend Emily, the exhibit was dedicated to costumes and fashion. The collection included sketches of interesting fashions and real pieces on mannequins. The education corner for young visitors encouraged visitors to sit down and color a postcard with some provided colored pencils. One of us colored a beautiful dress, the other made an obnoxious-looking and poorly-colored message on a blank card. Won't say whose was whose. 

Homeboy! (respectfully) Chester Beatty Library Dublin
Homeboy! (respectfully)

For the weary visitor, the library offers a peaceful rooftop garden. The sides have high walls with windows affording a nice view of the Dubhlinn Garden below. Unfortunately, other tall(ish) buildings in the castle complex block views of Dublin at large. A gravel surface and curvy walkways weave through small raised flowerbeds.

Chester Beatty Roof Garden Dublin Castle Dublin
Chester Beatty Roof Garden

If planning a trip to Dublin, try to budget some time for Chester Beatty. Did I mention admission is always free? Yes, while Dublin Castle charges to look at a few old state apartments, Chester Beatty offers a unique look at art and literature from cultures we don't often see in the West. To learn more about Irish history, check out the Archaeological Museum and Kilmainham Gaol. To finish off a Dublin museum day, snap some (free) photos of Dublin Castle courtyard and make your way around the back for Chester Beatty.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

First Time Fishing in 2014

Fishing season on the River Dodder began the day after St. Patrick's Day. Fortunately for the fish in the river, we were so busy traveling and sightseeing in March that I just couldn't find a free moment on a day with good fishing weather.

Finally, I was able to squeeze in a few morning hours in April. I cycled over to the newly-cleaned Dodder and found my favorite pool. It might not be the very best fishing on the river, but it is conveniently located for me and one of the most beautiful views in all of Dublin.

It is locally known as The Waterfall in Donnybrook. The river cascades down a short stone weir that looks natural, but is actually a carved weir, or dam. Opposite the river is Beaver Row, an interestingly-named Donnybrook street. The street is so named for a beaver pelt hat factory that stood on the river in the nineteenth century. Maybe more on that story in another post.

Below the Donnybrook Waterfall River Dodder, Dublin, Ireland
Below the Donnybrook Waterfall

I was trying some new bait for trout on my first trip out. I have documented before that live bait is expensive and perishable here in Dublin. Maggots are the most popular live trout bait, and are very effective. Unfortunately, the cost and storage problems of live maggots (Honey, what is that bag of squirming larvae doing on the refrigerator?) keep me away from the tackle shop.

As an alternative to expensive maggots, I decided to try a new bait that I can collect for free. Mussels and cockles (of should I phrase it Cockles and Mussels?) are easily collected on nearby Sandymount Strand but are a bit too gritty and sandy for my human taste. If I could collect some shellfish and cook them to firm up the meat, would they be effective as a freshwater trout bait? I did just that earlier in the Spring on the strand. I picked a handful of mussels from the old Victorian Baths foundation and dug a few live cockles (small clams) from the sand at low tide. I steamed them just enough to open the shells and firm the meat, and froze them in hook-sized pieces. I took them fishing on the Dodder to find out if they would be tempting to the trout.

Fishing on the Dodder Dublin, Ireland
Fishing on the Dodder

 Well, the answer is inconclusive. Just because I spent a whole morning fishing with a bait with no bites doesn't mean the bait doesn't work, right? Most anglers I know would agree. Lots of other factors can result in a skunk day. Water levels, weather conditions, time of day, and the always-easy-to-blame blind luck of fishing can all be the difference between bent rods and broken dreams.

...And other anglers will also agree with the old American fishing motto:

A bad day fishing is still better than a good day at work.
Too true.

Dodder Pool Dublin, Ireland
Dodder Pool

Donnybrook Waterfall River Dodder Dublin, Ireland
Donnybrook Waterfall

Sunny Waterfall River Dodder Dublin, Ireland
Sunny Waterfall

Monday, April 28, 2014

Train Ticket Follies

"Validate your ticket."

"Make sure to stamp your train ticket."

"Big fines for unstamped train tickets..."

What does all that mean? We nearly found out the very hard way after our first full night in Munich. We both grew up in small cities without large public transport systems, making us mild metro noobs. Not that we've never used a large public transit system. All three of us (Sara, our friend Emily, and myself) had used buses, trains, and trams in the States and in Europe before, but we ran into a bit of a wrinkle in Germany...

In Munich, we were hoping to catch an early train to Dachau to visit the concentration camp. The cheaper-than-can-be-believed Partner Ticket was our best and cheapest option, so we purchased the ticket at one of the many handy automated kiosks. Our Rick Steves guidebook instructed us to get the ticket validated, but we misunderstood that page in our scan of the book, as we were distracted by...

Construction at the station. The train station that served the overland (S-Bahn) and underground (U-Bahn) trains was under renovation and some signage and track labeling were incorrect. We were waiting on a platform for our Dachau train for 25 minutes, and no train of our number arrived. We kept seeing the same line served over and over. Finally, we asked for help and were directed to another platform on the other end of the station.

We arrived just in time for the train to arrive. Relieved, I whipped out our travel book again and reread the instructions to validate our ticket. Confusingly, some tickets need to be validated and others do not. We are cheap, so of course we purchased an out-of-date book, no fault of the book, but we needed to figure out what to do... and fast.

Our train was at the platform and boarding. I grabbed a total stranger to ask about the ticket. He said (in his best English, God bless him!) that we indeed would have to validate the ticket. Unfortunately, he didn't know where the closest stamping machine might be. He directed us back downstairs, telling us to run as fast as we could.

What is validating a ticket? Also sometimes called canceling, this puts a time and date stamp on the ticket before use. It was confusing to us, because we purchased a day-long ticket with the date printed clearly on the ticket itself. Clearly if any ticket would not need an additional time and date stamp, it would be this one.

Munich train ticket with timestamp
Timestamp: 0016 22 1035

Still a bit baffling to us, apparently this system of ticket validation limits misuse of tickets. Trains in Munich don't have turnstiles or gates. Riders purchase tickets, validate them, and carry them onto the train. Passengers are checked randomly on the trains by plainclothes transport agents, who issue stiff fines for anyone with no ticket- or with a legitimate ticket that hasn't been validated. According to the book, the touristy, "I didn't know!" means nothing to the rail operators.

So off we ran in search of a ticket puncher, not entirely sure if we would know one if we saw one. Before we had gone very far, Sara spotted an unmarked blue box with what looked like a ticket slot. We were unsure of what this box would do. If we put the ticket in the slot, would it be stamped as hoped, or would it suck in the ticket for some unknown purpose, leaving us bereft, out the cash, and waiting for the next train?

Boldly, Sara grabbed the ticket, pushed it into the slot, and prayed. The high-pitched squeal of a dot-matrix printer told us all we needed to know. The ticket came out correctly stamped, and it was a footrace to beat the closing doors of the train.

We dove into the train just before the conductor locked the doors for departure. An unfortunate person just a few beats behind us got to door just a moment too late, and pushed the open button to no avail.

There we were, after a taxing and harrowing ordeal, on a train bound for our main site for the day, Dachau concentration camp. For the record, we were not randomly checked on the train, but at least we were riding with peace of mind.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Retro Saturday: Adventures of Lolo Floor 7

Like the title card? Check it out on some of my older videos as well. I was inspired to make a custom thumbnail image by Lolo because every level has the same monochromatic brown garbage look. It isn't appealing on YouTube and won't really attract any attention in a search. At least these make them look like they were competently made.

Floor 7 is one of the easier floors, especially given its late-game status. Just watch the arrow puzzle carefully if using the video as a guide. Difficult to describe but easy to execute.

Friday, April 25, 2014

American Expat Easter Celebration

Being away from friends and family on holidays can be tough. To combat homesickness and missed family blues, we scheduled a jam-packed weekend of distractions- mainly involving food.

On Thursday, we had tickets to our favorite comedian Jim Gaffigan. This wasn't specifically planned as an Easter diversion, we purchased the tickets months ago, but it was nice that he happened to be in town on Holy Thursday evening. His show was spot-on as we knew it would be. He leaned heavily on the fact that the pubs would be closed on Good Friday, and what would the alcohol-loving Irish do with themselves?

Jim Gaffigan in the Toilets sign at Vicar Street Theatre Dublin
Jim Gaffigan in the Toilets

On Saturday, we had our big Easter meal- as we had plans to attend the Clontarf Festival on Sunday. We prepared scalloped potatoes, lemon-garlic green beans, rosemary and pepper biscuits, and an interesting unsmoked ham. We Yankees always have our ham smoked, so most American hams are already cooked. They only require a glaze and a thorough heat-up before serving. Hams here are usually unsmoked, and are cooked rather like an American pork roast. They taste a bit like a pink pork roast. Good, but different.

Cheesy Sauce
Cheesy Sauce

Potatoes Pre-Baking
Potatoes Pre-Baking

Biscuits Pre-Baking
Biscuits Pre-Baking

Cooked Potatoes
Cooked Potatoes

The final product was a great Easter meal for two. The plated photo is a bit messy as we were so eager to tuck in that we forgot to take a photo until we were almost out of green beans and the plates were smeared with cheese and crumbs. Oh well...

Finished Plate
Finished Plate

Another American Easter classic is candy. Lots and lots of candy. There is no shortage of Easter candy here in Ireland, but there is something just a bit... depressing about two married adults buying unreasonable amounts of candy with no one else with whom to enjoy it. It was also a bit of a challenge to find some of our favorites. Starburst brand jelly beans are a particular favorite of mine, but I sadly had to settle for Tesco cheapy beans. We did get a chocolate bunny and a Cadbury egg, both American Easter staples.

Chocolate Bunny for Two
Chocolate Bunny for Two

The Only Cadbury Candy Americans Ever See
The Only Cadbury Candy Americans Ever See

Tesco Cheapy Beans
Tesco Cheapy Beans

Coloring hard-boiled eggs is another tradition we skipped this year. Irish families don't usually color eggs at home, and most grocery store eggs have brown shells here anyway. The Germans we have met know all about coloring eggs, and we hope they found some white-shelled eggs to color. I suppose we could have made it work with our brown eggs with some very bold colors of dye and a little extra vinegar.

Saturday night, we mixed up some cinnamon roll dough for breakfast on Sunday. We had big plans and would need a megaload of carbs for energy. The next morning, we rolled it, filled it, cut it, baked it, and frosted it for a truly epic pan on cinnamon rolls. We don't know how popular these are in Ireland or the rest of Europe, but we had been in a considerable cinnamon roll drought. They were like heaven.

Cinnamon Roll Dough
Cinnamon Roll Dough

Cinnamon Roll Dough with Filling
Cinnamon Roll Dough with Filling

Rolling Cinnamon Roll Dough with Filling
Rolling Cinnamon Roll Dough with Filling

Cutting Cinnamon Roll Dough
Cutting Cinnamon Roll Dough

Arranging Cinnamon Rolls
Arranging Cinnamon Rolls

Finished Rolls
Finished Rolls

After the cinnamon rolls on Easter Sunday? We spent the rest of the day in Clontarf at the festival.

The day after Easter is a national holiday here in Ireland as a day of rest and recovery from traveling to see family and friends. We spent it recovering from a huge weekend of diversions, distractions, and food.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Battle of Clontarf Millennial Part 2 of 2

(Continued from Part 1)

You Can't Fight City Hall...

Dublin City Hall was also hosting a series of historical lectures on Clontarf. I was able to attend just one very interesting talk before yesterday's millenium. The lecture took place in the city hall chamber itself, surrounded by portraits of former Lord Mayors of Dublin. The lecture was titled Picturing the Battle of Clontarf: James Ward's Dublin City Hall Murals. In the main rotunda of Dublin City Hall, the one with the interestingly-dressed Irish Founding Fathers, a ring of murals circles the base of the dome.

The twelve murals were commissioned and painted from 1913-1918 by a Belfast-born Protestant by the name of James Ward. Today, Ward is a mostly-forgotten muralist and fresco painter famous for a small number of wall murals in Ireland and England. What is most interesting about the job is the years in which it was done. The 1910's was a turbulent decade for Ireland, and a Belfast man would certainly have reason to be nervous in Dublin, center of much of the fighting. Further, the Irish officials choosing the artist would have probably paused before hiring someone so connected with the English crown for their nationalist artistic work.

Sadly, the fun story that might accompany the job itself is lost, as neither Ward nor his Irish employers wrote much about the hot political situation. Ward just went about his business, taking his fine time with the job as the city and the rest of the country grew more dangerous.

One of the works is an image of the Battle of Clontarf. Brian Boru is pictured as an old man giving his troops a final inspiration before they charge into almost certain death.

Boru on the Right of the mural by James Ward at Dublin City Hall Ireland
Boru on the Right

The rest of the series of murals depict very Classical-heavy images of important historical events in Ireland, and the seal of each of the four historic provinces of the island of Ireland, including Ulster, what is now mostly Northern Ireland. It was a bit controversial to include Ulster in the murals at the time, as it was (and would be for years) the land most hotly contested.

Artistically they are interesting because they are in a throwback style, even for the early twentieth century. The artistic trend at the time was aiming for more realistic and plausible subjects. Ward, with suggestions from his employer, went for the well-entrenched Classical style so as not to offend the sensibilities of anyone in such an uneasy time.

Easter Weekend

After having absorbed so much new information in the historical talks about the Battle of Clontarf, Easter weekend was upon us, as were all the Viking-centric festivities. In Clontarf proper, The Battle of Clontarf Festival took over much of St. Anne's Park. We had a long journey to the park, much of it on a lovely seaside walking/biking trail, conveniently named the Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail.

Obligatory Cory-Looking-at-the-Water Shot Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail Dublin
Obligatory Cory-Looking-at-the-Water Shot

Battle of Clontarf Festival Welcome Sign Dublin 2014

At the park, we were just in time for the afternoon battle reenactment. Unfortunately, we were there too late to get a good viewing spot and had to take photos over the heads of other spectators. The running commentary was a hoot, though...
Oh no! He's just separated several bits of him from several other bits of him!

Viking re enactors at the Battle of Clontarf Festival Dublin

Viking re enactors at the Battle of Clontarf Festival Dublin
More Fight!

Viking re enactors at the Battle of Clontarf Festival Dublin
All Dead. Ha!

The Rest of the Fest

After the big fight, we were free to explore the rest of the sprawling festival. The park was jam-packed, no surprise with such nice weather on Easter Sunday. Families with kids and dogs explored the tents and demonstrations with us. We saw people demonstrating a variety of period activities and crafts. A particular favorite of mine without a good photo was the foot-and-live-treetrunk-powered wood turner. The craftsman pushed a pedal down, which pulled a leather strap to spin his lathe. The strap was connected at the top to a fresh-cut green tree branch, which flexed and pulled the lathe back up for the turner. While the skilled worker pedaled to spin the device, he gouged out bowls and other pieces with a sharp metal blade.

Main Street of the Battle of Clontarf Festival Dublin
Main Street of the Festival

We also spent some time at a falconry demonstration and ogled the birds on display. The bird keeper brought around a falcon for the spectators to pet, but I was much more interested in the owl. Not sure if the owl was a trained hunter like the falcons of tradition, but it was enough just for me to watch the little one hop around on her tether.

An Owl at the Battle of Clontarf Festival Dublin
Hey Buddy!

After the raptors and the costumed demonstrator exhibits, we explored the "festival" part of the festival. Ya know, the real family entertainment. A large stage was assembled and live music was performed when a live reenactment wasn't on in the main arena. Food vendors ringed the area we dubbed The Food Court, which was nothing more than an acre of grass covered with straw. Perfect for a picnic. We decided to try a decidedly non-Irish food, a meat pie slathered in gravy. Pies are distinctly English, not Irish, so I counted the meat pie as ethnic food.

Meat Pie at the Battle of Clontarf Festival Dublin
English food Ain't Irish food, but I haven't found the difference yet!

...And for the kiddies, a few rickety thrill rides with amazingly cheap and decidedly unlicensed airbrushed artwork.

I Swear I Will Not Kill Anyone on this Ride
I Swear I Will Not Kill Anyone on this Ride
After meat pies and demonstrations, it was time to make the long trek home. We had four miles to talk along the coast before picking up our bikes and riding three more miles home. The new Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail is fitted with an interesting series of exercise and stretching machines. Each one is made of durable and appealing red and yellow metal, and comes with specific use and safety instructions. 

Obligatory Cory-Looking-at-the-Water-on-an-Elliptical Shot

We got great views of our own southern chunk of Co. Dublin from Clontarf, including the higher peaks of the Dublin Mountains which are screened by the lower peaks closer to our neighborhood in Donnybrook. The tide was coming in, covering the inevitable low-tide garbage and giving us a chance to watch the wildlife. We made it home shortly after it began to rain, cold, tired, and satisfied after a great day out.

A Diving Bird on the Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail Dublin
Diving Bird

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Battle of Clontarf Millennial Part 1 of 2


One thousand years ago today (23 April 2014), a very important battle took place on (or near) the northeastern coast of what is now known as Dublin City. That's right, one thousand years. It's amazing to this American to see a nation so young in its official current status (The Republic of Ireland was only recognized in 1922) celebrating a national heritage going back so far. The island of Ireland and its people have a strong connection to their heritage, and it's no surprise that so many Irish-Americans feel that ancestral connection calling every St. Patrick's Day.

With The United States being a relatively young (1776) country, and the American continent settled (read: seized, stolen, and worse) by meticulous written-record-keeping Europeans since the sixteenth century, it is very rare to have so much knowledge going back those thousand years.

The Battle of Clontarf was famously fought near the modern-day north Dublin neighborhood of Clontarf on one long, bloody day. Very briefly, the battle was the culmination of a long struggle for control over the Island of Ireland. Brian Boru and his Irish allies took on the Viking King of Dublin and his Viking and Irish allies in a nasty slugfest for control of Dubh Linn, even then the political capital of Ireland. 

Both leaders had their own armies and the armies of friends from around Ireland and the surrounding isles. The fight supposedly began at first light and high tide. By sunset, the Vikings had been routed and forced to retreat, many of them fleeing into the second high tide of the day and drowning. After the battle, Brian Boru was assassinated in his tent by one of the Viking allies.

After the battle, the Vikings slowly lost their political power over the island of Ireland, and Brian's successors began slowly unifying the island into a single political entity, no small feat in those days. 

Historical Lectures

To commemorate this legendary battle, local governments and educational institutions have been hosting a number of entertaining and educational events. More than one series of free historical lectures have been running in Dublin, and I've tried to attend as many as I can, given the unfortunate why-is-everything-on-Tuesday-at-lunchtime!? circumstance. 

The first lecture I attended was at the Royal Irish Academy library. The subject of the lecture was the genealogy of Brian Boru and the challenges of ancient genealogical research. Boru was part of a mini-dynasty, but the origins of the clan are, like any millenium-old records, murky. I was most interested in learning about the process of research of this kind. When the only surviving records of an ancient time are the epic poems and stories commissioned by powerful people for only a few literate elite, one must question the veracity of any statement. Powerful families would often exaggerate, or completely fabricate, connections to other royal families in order to artificially boost their own families' prestige. Because of all this historical boasting and lying, it is very difficult to judge the merits of any particular record.

The next lecture at the RIA was a discussion of the hard archaeological evidence, or lack thereof, from the Battle of Clontarf. Interestingly and surprisingly, nothing of hard material evidence has been found from the battle, and it is unlikely anything ever will be found. This was quite a shock to me, but the explanation was sound. Medieval battles were fought with swords, spears, arrows, and other like weapons. In the heat of battle, the field would be littered with these pieces, but they would all be collected after the battle (probably by the winners) for repair and reuse. Ancient peoples with limited resources would never leave valuable metal and tools lying around to be buried and recovered centuries later. 

A number of mass graves have been found throughout the development of Dublin, and some of them were attributed to Clontarf, but modern researches wonder. There is little evidence of the people of this time burying battle dead in large graves at the battle site. Certainly mass graves were used, but they more commonly transported their dead to be buried in consecrated religious ground. That some of these graves have been found with weapons and armor gives further credence to the theory, as these people would have never buried their rank-and-file soldiers with valuable weapons and armor. These were most likely people of political or religious importance, and the weapons and armor were buried as offerings or rituals. 

Modern battles fought with guns and small projectiles leave much more durable evidence for researchers to retrieve, but Clontarf leaves us only with written accounts, many of which were written decades or centuries after the battle, and are fluffed up with no small amount of myth, legend, and ancient propaganda. These documents have to be tested with other, more scientific, forms of measurement. In one document, it is recorded that the tide was high at sunrise and high again as the battle drew to a close in the evening. It goes on to say that the tides were at the highest of their cycle, indicating a spring tide, which occurs when the sun and moon are in syzygy (my favorite science word) and pull the oceans with their combined gravity. Researchers have calculated back through the years that the tides would indeed have been high at sunrise and evening on that day, but they were nowhere near the high levels of a spring tide. Most likely, the bard recording the events added the spring tide for an extra bit of flair, and a better reward from his patron.

The tide check is but a minor victory of fact checking in a sea of myth and mystery. When a battle like this is recorded in only a few documents, none of which were actually written by eyewitnesses, it is next to impossible to test most of the claims. A wide range of estimates exists among scholars as to the actual number of participants and casualties of the battle, but who knows for sure? Through the years, the number of combatants seemed to grow to an unreasonable number as the tale got taller. What important Irish family wouldn't want to claim their ancestors had fought in the most important battle in Ireland's history? The same thing has happened among common Irish lore with the 1916 Easter Rising and the siege of the General Post Office in Dublin. More people claim to have had grandparents in the building than the building could have ever held. Clearly, some (or most) of them are fabricated. At this reference in the lecture, I observed the common chuckle and murmur of agreement I have seen so many times in Irish audiences at historical talks. 

Clontarf coverage to be continued...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My First Published Article!

Recently, I have been wondering if I can do some writing for more than just the blog forum. Dublin has several free community newspapers, and I offered to do some voluntary writing for them. On Monday this week, Southside People ran an article I wrote about the second annual Dodder Day, organized by Dodder Action Dublin. 

The cleanup day was a resounding success, with mounds of trash and garbage of all kinds pulled out of the river and banks by over 250 volunteers, including Yours Truly. I teamed up with two other gents in Milltown to pull out a huge pile of scrap metal from a steep bank. The photo I took of my Milltown teammates was run in page 6 of the print edition of the paper.

I worked with and met some great people at the Donnybrook and Milltown cleanup locations. The hard work of all the volunteers made a big difference, and hopefully inspires the community to care for the priceless natural resources we have.

Here's the online edition.
...And the print edition

Following are some photos taken that day that didn't make the paper.

Dodder Action Dublin Set Out a Great Volunteer Spread
Dodder Action Dublin Set Out a Great Volunteer Spread

Cory With some Trash on Dodder Day 2 Dublin, Ireland
Cory With some Trash

Our Three-Man Milltown Trash Heap Dodder Day in Dublin
Our Three-Man Milltown Trash Heap

Final Milltown Take Dodder Day in Dublin
Final Milltown Take

Monday, April 21, 2014

Night Stroll in Munich

By the time we had finished our, ahem, business at Hofbrauhaus, night had fallen and the city had quieted. It was too late to finish the walking tour we had started, but we would have time for that the following day. 

Our first wandering had to be back to our Munich home base, Marienplatz, with its impressive New Town Hall. Pictured behind the Hall (farther away than it looks) are the twin onion domes of Frauenkirche. I love the way historic European buildings are illuminated at night. Care is taken to catch every facet of the buildings, and details can be seen at night that are washed out by bright daytime sun. The soft yellow and white glow bring out the figures of each of the countless statues, reliefs, and Neo-Gothic points on this beautiful building.

New Town Hall at Night Munich, Germany
New Town Hall at Night

New Town Hall at night Munich Germany
A Brighter Angle

It seemed the pretzels weren't enough for a sustaining meal. Luckily, street food carts were still open, and we had the first of what would prove to be many, many, (many) sausages on this Continental journey. The bratwursts here were, as expected, nothing like the old Johnsonville brats of American fame. We noticed much more fennel taste in all of the sausages here, and American packaged brats usually have very little fennel flavor. For those unfamiliar, fennel tastes just a bit like black licorice. As scary as that sounds, it only actually makes food taste like licorice when it is overused. When added in proper ratio with other sausage spices, it imparts a very fragrant and almost floral taste and smell. It's quite nice. Maybe not enough to make one forswear the old Johnsonville variety, but it's always good to enjoy more than one kind of sausage, right?

...I hope so.

First of Many Sausages in Munich, Germany
First of Many Sausages

We took a nice walk through the now-sleepy shopping district of Munich. The nightlife scene is in a different part of town, so much like Dublin's Grafton Street, things seemed to shut down early and the street was left to the evening strollers like us.

Landgericht Munchen- Munich District Court Germany
Landgericht Munchen- Munich District Court Palace of Justice

A building we had seen shortly after getting off the train was the enormous Palace of Justice, which sounds better in English than Munich District Court. Not much signage labeled it as such, at least not on the side we passed each day. We made a note to look it up when we got home. We should have known it was a courthouse, as so many American local courts sport the same towers and statues. Lady Justice must be up there somewhere...

Upon returning to the hostel, we couldn't help but avail ourselves of the 2 Euro Augustiner beers at the hostel bar. Dubliners would scramble for a 2 Euro pint anywhere in town, even if it meant they had to hang around with a bunch of younger, more-attractive-than-they-are-and-so-what-if-they-are? backpackers.

We would pay a visit to the home of Augustiner beer the following day, but that's for another post.

First Augustiner Pints Munich Germany
First Augustiner Pints

We had to get our beauty sleep, for we had a big day of Munich sightseeing the next day, and had to get an early start.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Retro Saturday: Adventures of Lolo Floor 6

Once the player figures out the water physics of the final two screens, Floor 6 is quite easy. The player in this particular video (me) nearly botches the first screen but recovers thanks to some quick thinking and forgiving level design.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Easter Weekend!

Good Friday

Today (when this post goes live) is Good Friday 2014. Dublin is getting excited for the big Easter holiday... even though Ireland (Dublin in particular) seems to be Catholic in name (and some antiquated laws) alone. Culturally, the country is getting quite progressive, but a good number of theocratic traditions live on.

On Good Friday, no alcohol can be sold in Ireland. Period. Except... well... not really...

Let me pass it on to our local Dublin hero Joerg, author of the weekly Dublin Event Guide.

Good Friday – The oddest day of the year!
This week is Good Friday, an important day for all Christians in the religious year and a very odd day for everybody in Ireland. Why is it odd?
Well, with the big role the catholic religion plays in Ireland (Education is still dominated by catholic institutions, the majority of laws and rules are directly or indirectly influenced by the catholic church), you would think that Good Friday is a public holiday, but it isn’t. It is a bank holiday, but no public holiday. Which means that most of us will have to work on that day.
On the other hand, when it comes to pubs, the day is even odder. Suddenly it is soooo important that there are special laws for it: Pubs are not allowed to open on Good Friday. (And it doesn’t matter if you are catholic or not, the all-caring Irish state is protecting you from yourself so that you don’t accidentally commit a sinful act of consuming alcohol on that day.) BUT….wait…it is permitted to sell alcohol IF it is in connection with a substantial meal, so that travelling people won’t have to miss their alcohol. And last year a number of Greyhound stadiums got a permission to sell alcohol. Hotels are allowed to sell alcohol, but restaurants are not. Mad!
All a bit contradictory or hypocritical? You bet!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about the fact that people have a day less per year to get drunk. But this is a LAW in 2014, which means that the police is obliged to enforce it! Odd, outdated and just plain bonkers!
And how do (too) many people in Ireland react to this oddness? With even odder behaviour! Watch Off-licenses on Thursday evening!! Some will have queues outside, others will just be packed. ALL will be super busy. Why? Because, “OMG, the pubs will be closed on Friday and how could I survive without alcohol for a WHOLE day?”
Dublin residents and prospective Dublin visitors, go on over to the Dublin Event Guide page for an expansive list of free events going on all over town. Without Joerg's help, we wouldn't be able to report on as many of the fun (and free!) activities in Dublin.

 Also, an expat blogger friend of mine wrote a more personal piece about her experience with alcohol and the Irish. Another paradox with the presumably alcohol-loving Irish and their antiquated and puritanical laws. Where are we, Pennsylvania?

Even the Irish Independent, one of the national newspapers, marks one of the interesting less-than-religious exceptions to the rule.

In 1927, the Intoxicating Liquor Act enshrined in law that alcoholic drink could not be sold on Christmas Day, Good Friday and St Patrick's Day.
The law relating to St Patrick's Day was later repealed in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1960 to cater for foreign visitors coming to celebrate the national feast day.
Is this evidence that Ireland sacrificed some of her religious principles to allow the tidal wave of cash to pour in on Paddy's Day?

[Edit] An interesting editorial published today in the Independent approaches the issue from an Atheist's point of view. Should the State govern the morality of her people? It's murky water in any country.

Battle of Clontarf Anniversary Coming Up

The actual 1000th anniversary of the battle is April 23, but the battle took place on what was Good Friday, 1014. Look for at least one post about the various lectures and activities I've attended this month. Difficult to believe we have records here of something happening one thousand years ago. Details are sketchy and steeped in legend and exaggeration as I've learned, but that just makes it a better story, right?

Easter Monday

Here's a very practical idea (for Christians) that probably wouldn't fly in America, but it sure works well in a country with an official state-sanctioned religion. Here, the day after Easter Sunday is a national holiday. So many American Christians have to travel on Easter Sunday to be back at work on the following Monday. Many schools schedule their "Spring Breaks" around the Easter weekend, in hopes of making travel easier for Christian families and crossing their fingers that Passover week falls on Easter weekend (as it does this year, happy Passover!) Non-school employee Christians have to make those big family drives back home on the holiday. 

Here in Ireland, Good Friday is (sorta...) a holiday, schools are off for a full week before and after Easter, and Easter Monday is a shut-'er-down kind of holiday. We aren't doing anything particularly travel-heavy this year, but we'll take advantage of a day off whenever we can, whatever the religious, secular, or just-because reason!

Happy Easter if you celebrate it!

Sara and Cory

...You mean Sara and Cory, right?