Galway- Ireland's Cultural Capital

Trip Start Mar 01, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Ireland  , Western Ireland,
Monday, December 3, 2012

I hadn’t planned to stay in Galway, but I found the most wonderful hostel and thoroughly enjoyed my one night visit.  The lobby was filled with travelers playing guitar and piano.  And in the kitchen they had a beautiful quote about living life to the fullest.  They even had cocoa krispies for breakfast! I took a wonderful free tour and had a delicious Shepherd's Pie for lunch by the fire. Can't beat that.

Amanda, my lovely tour guide from San Diego (studying in town), shared stories about these local landmarks:

Galway was a medieval fishing village, founded around 1125.  It has had its share of unfortunate events. In 1200 it was conquered by the Nors who built a big city wall to keep out the Irish. In 1651, Oliver Cromwell ransacked the city and in the 1840's the potato famine wiped out millions of people nationwide. Ireland’s population dropped from 8.3M to 4.5 million when disease killed the crop so many depended upon for their sole source of nutrition.

  • Lynch’s Castle: Now a bank, it is the oldest existing townhouse belonging to the founding 14 families. Local lore explains the unusual sculpture of a monkey holding a baby.  The building suffered a huge fire in the 15th C.  In the panic to escape, the mother realized that she had left her infant sleeping on the 5th floor.  As she cried for help, the family’s pet monkey climbed the wall and brought the baby back to safety.
  • The local newspaper: this 100 year-old newspaper has a local hall of fame posted in the window each Monday.  Ireland has only had radio since 1929 and TV since 1960.
  • Lynching: 15th C mayor, Charles Lynch Fitzstephen loved justice more than his family.  When his son killed the man who stole away his lover’s heart, the mayor insisted that the crime be punished with the death penalty.  None of the town’s citizens would agree to the punishment, so the mayor hung him himself from this window.
  • Nora Barnacle House: Nora was the wife of James Joyce.  The museum houses many of the love letters they exchanged over the years.  Joyce referenced the day they met, June 16, in several of his works and Blooms Day is celebrated much like Valentine’s Day.
  • St. Nicholas Collegiate Church: It was built in 1310 as a Catholic church and Christopher Columbus worshiped here in 1477.  While destroying the city, Cromwell stabled his horses inside, allowing them to literally walk over the graves of the people buried here.
  • Spanish Arch/Ancient City Walls- in the 1500’s it was a marketplace for the Spanish and French merchants who arrived on the River Corrib.  The town of Claddagh, just across the river, had its own king because Galway was isolated by the walls.
  • Cathedral: This was the last great stone church built in Europe in 1965.  It’s beautiful, with mahogany ceilings and red marble from Connemara, which is now considered so valuable that it’s only used for jewellery. There's a mosaic of President Kennedy in one of the chapels.  His family is originally from the area and it's not unusual to visit a home in Galway where a portrait of JFK sits above the fireplace alongside one of the Pope.
Off to Moycullen to work on the pet farm...
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