Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Diary of a World Traveler

Cork Day 4: The Fig Leaf 

What a long but satisfying day. We started off with a quick breakfast and then classes in the morning from 9AM-noon. It was imperative that we end at noon because we then only had a half hour to grab a to-go lunch, organize our coats/hats/cameras/etc., and get back to the lobby to walk to the train station. Because today, we were off to the beautiful coastal city of Cobh.

Cobh (or Cove, for the rest of us) is a historic port in Ireland because it connects to the ocean on the south coast of the island. The landscape from the train told of silty, thick water patches that make up the coastal terrain. Little island inlets and pockets littered the view, all bordered neatly with row houses in bright colors. The sun, once again, shone mistily over the scene as we worked our way slowly but surely to the sea.

Immediately when we arrived, I could feel the difference in the air. That fresh ocean water can’t be mistaken or replaced by anything else—it is its own special blend, and I will forever be welcomed home by it. Our first stop was actually attached to the train station: the Cobh Historical Centre, a museum-like tour set up to educate visitors on the exciting history of the small but well-known town. Though the Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast of Cobh, perhaps the most famous ship from its port is the Titanic. Built in Belfast, the Titanic sailed from the North to Southampton, and then on to France, and then to made a final stop in Cobh (then called Queenstown to commemorate the visit of the Queen to the port) before leaving for America. Cobh was the last place the Titanic was seen, and I think that is astounding to think about. People left their relatives, their livelihoods, their everything here in that town. The place I stood is where someone, in some time, said their last goodbyes to their family before never seeing them again. As a person who cares deeply about these things, the exhibit resonated with me, simply because of the place. Hearing their stories from our lively tour guide was an equally fascinating and humbling experience.

The museum through, the professors set us loose to explore the city. We decided to follow McDowell to the very top of the city, where the huge, commanding cathedral sits atop the daunting hill. We took it as a challenge and started the trek immediately. I, for one, wanted to see the inside of that church. We climbed the steep city center hill first, then up another hill, then up some long steps. We stopped for a picture, then we crossed a road and went up some more steps. Then we stopped for another picture (which actually turned out blurry because the sun was so bright—who would have thought, in Ireland of all places?), and then we finally headed inside. Immediately, we were greeted by an elderly gentleman who was either the priest or some sort of executive member, because he took the time to bless us. As it was Catholic and I am not, I have no idea what he did, but he did not seem to care that I wasn’t up with the whole process. We even had a non-Christian with us, but he kept going anyway! It was strange to experience, but I suppose that is something to be expected in a place like this. Religion is important here, and I need to continuously remember that. The church itself, once we were safe to enter, was absolutely gorgeous. Stone detailing throughout the entire building, stained glass to admire for hours, and an organ that framed the back circular window perfectly. I cannot even describe what it felt like to be inside this beautiful building. Everything was in perfect order, and my eyes were constantly drawn up into the intricate wooden ceiling. Nothing went unembellished. I left feeling uncomfortable, but in a good way. I am so glad I got to see inside this building that was already so intriguing from the outside!

To our surprise, the beachfront gelato shop was not open. Instead, we decided on the Old Sweet Shoppe. Luckily enough, we walked in and saw hard packed ice cream for sale! After each buying a scoop, we walked across the street to the park that looks out over the ocean. Kelp stirred at my feet as the low tide washed waves rhythmically against the concrete barriers. The smell of salt air, though not intense, was just enough to make me happy in the afternoon sun. Then, another surprise: a marching band playing a parade down the main street of Cobh! Though they were actually called the Highlanders and dressed in full Scottish garb, it was interesting to see them marching a historic Irish song. They were really quite good, and I gave them props for memorizing their music. As odd as it was to see an American marching band in the middle of the Irish coast, it was a crazy and kind of cool moment to have happen. We walked back to the train station, happy to breathe in the air and take pictures of the amazing skyline, and we listened to the drum line play cadences in the distance. What a way to end the day in a beautiful city.

The ride back was uneventful, and dinner was lovely as usual. I have decided, however, that my body cannot take three full meals a day—I have started to get a little sick from all the food we get served. So I am going to try my hardest to try everything, but cut back as much as I can. This much food is not going to help me in the long run, especially as we get to cities where we aren’t walking as much as we were in Dublin. More fruit, more vegetables, and less meat and bread. I think I can live with that.

Tomorrow we have class in the morning and have nothing in the afternoon, so unless we go to an amazing session, I don’t think I’ll have a post. But I have been enjoying the past two days enough to last a whole week, if not the next month. And we haven’t even reached St. Patrick’s Day yet… Cheers!

photo credit Diana Cleveland 

No comments:

Post a Comment