For reference, Castles and Tombs and Dead Folks, Oh My! Part 1 can be found here.
After lunch, we piled back into the bus and headed off to Newgrange. Cue sleepytime for Leili and I and most everyone else. Apparently lunch caused everyone to doze a bit (it was really good soup, y’all), but it meant it was not long until we arrived in Newgrange.
Oh Newgrange. What can one not say about Newgrange?
Newgrange is beautiful from the top to the bottom and deserves an entire day of valuable time to properly enjoy, not being scrunched into a teeny two hours or so. Unfortunately, Tomas warned us that we were running late (apparently we took too long eating), and gave us a strict warning about time (because he did not want us to be late for supper).
To enter the compound, one walks through a treeish corridor somewhat resembling Fushimi Inari Shrine in Japan. The museum itself is breathtaking, but unfortunately, due to time, everyone was immediately shuttled out to the tours…except one person. Somehow, whether Tomas miscounted or the people at Newgrange oversold, there were not enough seats for everyone (and adding extra people on to the tour would be impossible, of course). Two people would be unable to go, and Leili and I firmly decided that we would both get on the tour by any means necessary, even if it meant purposefully bumping someone else out. I’ve got wide hips. I know how to use ’em. Because I’ll be damned if the idiots partying in the back of the bus were going to edge me out from seeing something I’ve dreamed about seeing for years. Tomas said he would sit it out, but it meant that one person–a student this time–would also be unable to go.
It was not either of us. We might have been toward the end, but neither of us lost our seat, and we piled on the proper bus and drove off, admiring the greenery around us. While I have seen many pictures of Newgrange and read quite a lot about this neolithic tomb site, nearly all of them had been directly aerial shots, the actual excavations, or the interior. Thus when we turned down the dirt lane and walked through the gate, finally seeing the modern face of the site, it was not quite what I expected. The strong white wall glared brilliantly in the sunlight, and, given the fact that I am neither a fan of white or bright sunlight, left me much more comfortable examining the stones on the back of the mound.
Newgrange is one of those places that no one actually knows for sure what it was meant to be. It qualifies as a burial only because, surprise! bones. However, given the immense size of the mound, the fact that only about five people were buried inside, and that it is a passage tomb, meaning it was designed for something to go in and out, one would think there would be many more. But there are not. There are lots of valid theories about this, of course, and they are all interesting, but perhaps a bit outside the scope of this particular story (perhaps I will write about it again another day, especially since I have a small inkling of my own theory, but which I would have to walk through Newgrange again to properly support). Nearly all of the stones have a design of some sort on them, especially an overly curly S spiral.
We were on one of the last tours, as the rowdy Back Bus Peoples edged us out, and I was not willing to utilize the hip bumper cars twice in a day. We were not able to take any pictures inside Newgrange, but Oh. My. Platypus. I did not want to leave. Ever. It was beautiful and cold and dark and did I mention it was beautiful? For reference, the interior of Newgrange is styled somewhat like a weirdly distended cross, with short arms and a very long base, and a circular interior where the arms of the cross and the main corridor collide.
One has to stoop a bit to enter in, and the corridor narrows as you go in, leading to a point where most are better off turning sideways, before widening out again. The design of the interior highlights three large cubbies, each about large enough for an individual to stand in comfortably. Two of these had large basins resting in them, with an archaeologists two favorite things in them: perfectly round balls and then these other things that kinda look like extra-large cylinder seed beads. As with most things that have no apparent use or purpose, the assumption is that these must be phallic symbols of some type. I rather think they would make a good set for playing cup-and-ball, but I could be wrong. I mean, it was not until recently that people figured out the weird gold disc things in the National Museum were actually spool earrings. If people can misidentify earrings and think they are useless trinkets (wait…), then I have a hunch that prehistoric people had a lot less sexy decorations than we think they did.
Anyway. Back to Newgrange. As we were finishing up (did I mention how beautiful it was in there?), our guide shut the lights off, with the exception of one, which mimicked the path the sun would follow on the winter solstice.
Someday I want to be rich enough to actually be there for the real winter solstice.
Unfortunately, that also concluded the tour, and out we all went, mindful of the fact that at least two of us (Leili and I) needed to get back to our bus, because Tomas was threatening to leave people behind this time. Thus, we skipped going through the museum, for which I have forever been kicking myself, because I never managed to go back and experience it on my own. With just a minute or two to spare, we made it back and settled in our seats.
And then we waited.
And waited some more.
Tomas stood at the front of the bus looking increasingly annoyed and re-counting people, as if he couldn’t figure out by the relative silence who was missing.
At this point we figured out that he was not actually going to leave anyone behind, which further made me kick myself for not having at least stopped in at the museum. Finally, Tomas left. After a while we heard laughter, and we finally saw them: it was the Back Bus Peoples, walking slowly and eating ice cream, with Tomas behind them, trying not to look like he hated herding cats.
“We were hungry,” was all they could offer in explanation.
“We’re going to get dinner now.”
No one knows were they managed to find the ice cream. Newgrange isn’t exactly in the middle of town.
Poor Tomas. I wonder how long he’ll keep offering to teach classes that include hosting tours.