Inspiration in Ireland; My favorite place
Ireland is not the Emerald Isle. It is the land of banshee winds and numbing cold. Its gray skies and rocks defy its pastoral reputation. We went at Easter, bringing colds and sore throats from England, where we were living. The ferry butted its way through the Irish Sea from Fishguard to Rosslare.
During our 12-day trip, the sun rarely appeared. We visited castles and crystal factories, kissed the Blarney stone and prayed in cathedrals. We sampled Irish hospitality in bed and breakfasts and pubs packed with locals. We drove the Ring of Kerry and hiked to the Cliffs of Moher. Our teen-aged son played golf on courses where the cows stood in sand traps to get out of the wind. It was entertaining and enlightening, but not nearly as inspiring as our exploration of the Dingle, the Burren and the New Grange.
The Dingle, a west-coast peninsula, is an area of fishing villages and artisans. The land, rising and falling in short spurts, boasts 3 feet of rock for every 10 feet of soil. Stubborn farms challenge the landscape. About a thousand years ago, the inhabitants built beehive-shaped stone structures called clochans. Each clochan is about 10 feet across and 12 feet high. They were usually perched on a rise inviting the wind but overlooking the land for miles around. Some were still completely intact. I thought only the bravest could have survived such an environment. That was before I saw Burren.
Standing on slabs of limestone that dominate hundreds of miles of County Clare, I felt as if the Ice Age had just ended. On the Burren, the ratio of rock to soil seems to be about 100-to-1. Megalithic tombs called dolmen punctuate the land. These structures of two upright stones supporting a horizontal slab demonstrate an awe-inspiring respect for life. Though the landscape is among the harshest I've seen, Irishmen graze their cattle there, and rare flowers bloom.
On the opposite coast, just north of Dublin, is Newgrange, a 4,000-year-old site that humbles modern man. From the outside, the tomb looks like a hill. A huge, carved stone marks its small entrance. Above the entrance is a niche designed so that on the shortest day of the year, sunlight will travel through the narrow passageway to fall on the exact center of the tomb. From this center, we could marvel at the large, hollowed-out stones that resemble altars and the "ceiling" built of decorated slabs. In this tomb, I recalled Faulkner's statement of faith that "man will not merely endure; he will prevail." This is the image of Ireland that I keep in my soul.
Terry Berg lives in Arnold.
EUROPE BY RIVERBOAT
Judy Volkman, Baltimore
"After 20-plus cruises, our favorite has been a two-week riverboat cruise from Vienna to Amsterdam. Each night, we docked at a small town and were free to explore on our own. We went through 66 locks, saw many churches, castles and vineyards. Daytime tours took us to Heidelberg and Cologne."
Gayle Westmoreland, Columbia
"Imagine a Garden of Eden in modern times - a place where people live off the fruit of the trees.... With the warm climate and bountiful vegetation, nature supplies man's every need. In this spice island, homelessness and hunger are anomalies."
SANTA CATALINA, CALIF.
Patricia and Edward Ward, Bel Air
"We rested on a promenade beach, gazing into the blue waves lapping the shore at Santa Catalina Island. A refreshing summer breeze, a mild sun and the pleasant sounds of saxophonist Kenny G. from the nearby casino combined for a heavenly, exhilarating moment of contentment."
Where is your favorite place to ski?
Please answer in 50 words or less. Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St.,
Baltimore, Md. 21278.
Pub Date: 12/27/98