Photos taken by Madison Russell
At least its not hot, my life in Ireland, part three
So far, Ireland has been a remarkable place; somewhere I could make loads of friends, go out drinking (allegedly) and be completely disconnected from anything resembling “class” or “school.”
But good times cannot stay the same forever, and these too had to evolve. Though my semester did not exactly start off with a bang, just one 5pm economics class - but classes here are two hours each, so it was hard. Tuesday and Wednesday were similarly tame and somehow, I am lucky enough to not have any classes Thursday and Friday.
After a long week of classes, some friends and I were anxious to blow off some steam, taking a trip to the nearby town of Cohb. Cohb (known as Queensland during the English colonization) was the last stop of the doomed Titanic before the fateful iceberg.
Characteristic of Ireland, Cohb was cold, rainy, with splitting wind exhausting the former to their extremes. My friends and I are dedicated walkers and not at all interested in paying for transportation if the destination could be reached on foot. So, needless to say we walked a lot this day, up hills, down hills and skirting the ocean, all of which equated to about ten miles. A commendable distance, but made more impressive on my end due to the fact I wore Doc Martens all day- I know, I’m so brave.
One of Cohb’s most iconic sites is St. Coleman’s cathedral, an imposing, gothic church which has loomed over the city from its hilltop for over 150 years. I entered the church first into a vestibule upon which I had to push aside a thin green net- odd but easily brushed off as I continued to enter.
Then, I was assaulted.
The assailant came down upon me in a torrent. Reflexively, I screamed “Oh my God - what the hell!” And the pigeon flew away just as frightened but with a better means of escape. A few feet to my left was a sign alerting all entrances to the presence of pigeons within the church.
So, after defeating the fearsome guardians of this antique church, I entered further, realizing with every step how echoey the place was, meaning that everyone who had been in the Cathedral had heard my screams.
To say that Cobh was exhausting would be an understatement. The nightlife waits for no one however, and the pubs in Cork happen to be the best- so, we drink.
The next day was also a busy one with another group trip, this time to Blarney Castle just outside of the city. While a bit of a tourist trap, the groups are stunning and personally I enjoyed my visit there very much.
I began my time here with a solo walk through the ancient forest. Dark, damp and a bit foreboding- it was perfect. As I walked through, I felt as if I had been transported to the faerie realm. There were even large Irish cows at the end of the path, an idyllic scene more fitting for a travel catalog than for real life. And I was in the middle of it.
The Blarney Castle itself though is less idyllic. The climb to the famous “Blarney Stone” is tight, crowded, and (did I mention?) full of people. The very top is a crows nest view of the surrounding countryside, decorated with greenery and cows throughout.
The Blarney Stone is famous for its legendary power to gift those who kiss it with “the gift of the gab”- eloquence. There are many stories of how the stone found itself at the top of an 15th century Irish castle, but my personal favorite involves the goddess Cliodhna, the patron of County Cork. It is said the goddess, as patron of County Cork, gifted the stone to the castle’s owner as he had begged for her help in a legal matter; the stone helped him to succeed in court, as he was able to “deceive without offending.” Following this victory, he placed the stone into the construction of the stone castle.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is no easy task; those who hope to receive the stone’s gift must hold onto iron handholds and lean their head over the edge of the castle, 85 feet from the ground. This opening seems like the perfect opportunity for your body to completely slide through, with certain death at the bottom, but after the 100 cramped steps I had braved to reach the top I was determined to kiss the stone once I reached the front of the line.
I am not necessarily a short woman, but still, I had to stretch in order to reach the stone, during which time, I looked down. Not a great idea. I was sure that only seconds separated my grip and the long fall to the ground, white knuckling is not even the correct term, it felt like, to avoid falling off of the unforgiving ledge I would have to restructure the anatomy of my bones to fit the bars perfectly.
I stretched my neck, my shoulders and finally my lips themselves before I was able to kiss the stone. I don’t remember arising from the awkward position, but I know it was fast and the adrenaline the experience left behind made me want to run for a few miles.
Who knows if the legends surrounding the Blarney Stone are “true,” but as a writer I could not pass up the chance to receive some magical interventions to inspire my prose, especially when the alternative is to quit procrastinating.