Milk Markets and Castles
So here is an update on what I have been doing since my last post. After my lamentations on Thursday about not having anywhere to go I was invited out to dinner with my lovely friend from New Paltz Lydia. It is really fortunate we came together because she is naturally more outgoing than I am so she has been instrumental in me actually doing things. Anyway, we went to dinner with some friends and then went for a lovely walk down to the bank of the Shannon river. It was so beautiful. Yesterday I had an intense day of classes. My law class is amazing. We did so much Irish history yesterday it made me so happy. That’s what I love most about traveling I think, it awakens the history nerd inside of me. Last night i actually went out in to the city with friends. You have no idea what a big deal this is for me. I am a lay in bed and watch SVU or read a book on Friday night kind of lass. I am so glad I went because I had a wonderful time.
Today we had a planned excursion. We went to this wonderful farmer’s market in the city of Limerick. They call it a milk market here. It was so grand. There was traditional music, free samples, and lots of very lovely people. It felt kind of old-fashioned to me. After the market we walked around the city and I found a birthday gift for my New Paltz roommate, which I am sure is a fascinating point for all my readers.
Then we went to Bunratty Castle. First, we had an amazing lunch at the castle hotel. I love food so much. I keep gorging myself it is seriously a problem. If it weren’t for all the walking I’ve been doing, (for those of you who are not aware Europeans do a lot more walking than most Americans because they are not as lazy) I would be afraid of gaining the Limerick fifteen.
So then we got to go into a castle. An actual castle that was build hundreds of years ago. It was an Irish castle built of stone. Most of the castles in Ireland had been built by the Vikings and were made of wood but the Irish burned them down. (hey give the Irish a break! If someone invaded your country and did lots of rape and pillaging you would burn down their castle too) Anyway, as I sat with my hands on a table that was built over five hundred years ago, my mind drifted to all the soldiers who had sat there before me. To them, it had not been extraordinary. It was just their life. We know the history of what happened, but really we can never know what most of those people felt and thought. How many children did they have? Did they enjoy the meals they ate at that wooden table? The table was slanted on a slight uneven incline and I thought it was very symbolic of how we see the world. From our own tilted perspectives made biased by nostalgia.
We learned that the staircases spiraled to the right as a safety measure. We learned that women could not be in the great hall while the men made big decisions. They could only listen through a window. The tour guide made a joke about how now it is opposite, that the women are now in charge. I chuckled but I could not help wondering…Why is that funny? If I get upset when women are made to be inferior why should it be funny when the same is done to men?
Perhaps the most fascinating artifact to me was the Irish fertility stone. It was a small stone in the wall of the castle. Tradition says it helps women have children. Despite my skeptic nature I found myself running my fingers over the stone, which was a picture of a woman giving birth. As I made a personal wish I thought about what it means to be a woman. I appreciated that stone because a lot of portrayals of women make them sex objects. This symbol is a much better representation of one of the central aspects of being a woman. I also thought about how lucky I am. So many women who worry about fertility will never get a chance to touch that stone. Whether it helps me in the future or not, or if it helps the others I wished for, it is still a reminder to me of what a lucky woman I am. I was born in to a wealthy country in a time where women can go to college.
I am in an even smaller percentage who is lucky enough to travel the world. The people who lived in that castle would have never gotten that opportunity.