Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day 13: Erin go Bragh :)

We started off our day by hearing the waves on the beach as we left our hostel called the Surf-n-stay this morning in Strandhill. We followed the Atlantic coast on our bus before we made our stop for the day at Westport to visit the Croagh Patrick mountain.

On our bus ride to the mountain, our bus driver Shawn gave us an overview of the history of St. Patrick in Ireland. I will give you a brief history lesson as well in case you don't know the real story.

St. Patrick was actually originally from Wales and was captured one night, at the age of 16, from his home by an Irish raiding party and was brought to Ireland. As a slave, his duties were to mind the sheep as a shepherd boy on a mountain. Patrick was a slave for 6 years and was often hungry, cold, and lonely so he prayed a lot to God to save him. God answered his prayers one night telling him there would be ship near Dublin that would take him home. Patrick returned home to his awaiting family and realized his vocation was to become a priest. St. Patrick was then ordained and sent back to Ireland to evangelize the Irish pagans and setup dioceses and a structured church system in Ireland. Christianity spread throughout Ireland and Europe and St. Patrick taught the faith by using the Irish clover which has 3 leaves to symbolize the Holy trinity. Patrick died in 461 AD in Armagh and is buried in the Cathedral there.

Fun facts:
  • St. Patrick is actually not a saint but the Irish people consider him one and the name stuck
  •  March 17th is known as St. Patrick's day all over the world and the Irish heritage is celebrated by all (Irish or not) Be sure to wear green!
  • Patrick is a popular name with over 7 million in the world
  •  Many establishments, institutions, and churches are also named after him. The most famous is St. Patrick's church in New York

After hearing the story from Shawn we got ready to climb the Croagh Patrick mountain which was partly covered in clouds. Some of us had already climbed a mountain this week and were experts at climbing by now (right?). I unfortunately am not a nature person at all and struggled up the steps leading to the bottom of the mountain.

Croagh Patrick Mountain
The mountain is actually a holy pilgrimage site and many people from all over the world come to climb the famous mountain. Thousands of people climb the mountain on Reek Sunday which is the last Sunday in July as it is the pilgrimage day. The sign by the entrance read "Every pilgrim who ascends the mountain on St. Patrick's day or within the months of June, July, August and September and prays in or near the chapel at the top for the intentions of the Pope will receive special indulgence for their own personal intentions."

Some pilgrims even climb the mountain barefoot as a sacrificial offering to God. We did happen to see some people make the trek up without any shoes on! The mountain is also the place where St. Patrick supposedly drove out all the snakes from Ireland and sent them to the Atlantic ocean to never come back to Ireland.I think this is just a myth though.

We began the trek up the mountain as a group, some more behind than others (including myself). We were hiking through loose rocks, passed a little creek, and even saw sheep surprises everywhere. We took several stops along the way to catch our breath and took a long break to enjoy the view at the top. It was gorgeous to look out and see small islands on the Atlantic coast.
After our journey back down the mountain
 We couldn't quite reach the top because the clouds were rolling in and it began to get windier and started raining. A lot of us were disappointed but the view was perfect. The climb back down the mountain was faster than the climb up with less stops along the way. The rocks were loose and I was afraid I was going to twist an ankle but I made it down just fine.

My sustainability for today was that the mountain had no trash cans anywhere and there was a sign to pick up all trash. On my way back down the mountain I picked up a ball of aluminum foil and threw it away when we got to the bottom. I'm trying to be more sustainable on this trip!

We took a break to catch our breaths for a little bit at the bottom. At a pub nearby some even ordered beer and sandwiches because it was after lunch time and to celebrate climbing a mountain today. From Westport we drove 2 more hours on the bus until we made it to our destination for the night called Galway. We checked into our hostel which is like a hotel, and headed out to tour the local shops and eat dinner. The group all split up and went their separate ways but my group first went to the Galway mall to check out some shops and then went on to 3-4 souvenir shops. I knew I would spend most of my money in Ireland and get more gifts here than England or Wales. My family is pure Irish on my mother's side and I know they would love something from the homeland. I even bought a gift for my grandpa about our original family name Kenny, that includes the history and our family tree. I had a lot of fun checking out the gift shops and we even ran into the other people from our group in the shops too. Alot of the girls bought claddagh rings which symbolize love, loyalty, and friendship. After shopping, Andrea, Laura and I found a cafe and ate dinner in an upstairs room. It was delicious! From there we knew we wanted dessert so we found a gelato shop and walked back to the hostel.

Can't wait to go to the Aran Islands tomorrow and see more of where my Irish heritage comes from!

Katie Kustra

Senior, Leisure, Youth, and Human Services