We took a day trip to Cashel and Waterford from our home base at Kilkenny. Our first stop was the Rock of Cashel, a fortified location atop a hill.
No blue sky this morning; it's all gray. We were rained on a bit as well. Here Holger is introducing our guide through the buildings. Despite being surrounded by walls an on top of a hill, the site is not a fortress. It's a round tower built about A.D. 1100, a church known as Cormac's Chapel from about 1130, and a cathedral from about 100 years after that.
At the left is St Patrick's Cross. Carved from limestone, it has weathered so badly that it can no longer be outside, and this is a (very convincing) replica. The original is now in a museum elsewhere in the town.
Only Cormac's Chapel still has a roof. The cathedral is very much a ruin.
Most of the ground has been used for burials over the years, and there are a great many Celtic crosses like this one.
Two views of carved decorations in the Chapel. The face on the first one looks almost like something from a Mayan site. Much of the Chapel was damaged during the Reformation, but the carved heads in the second photo have not been defaced, perhaps because they are so small (only a few inches high).
Part of the cathedral can't be entered because its filled with scaffolding while preservation work is being done.
Here our group is huddled beneath an arch in the cathedral. It's raining pretty hard now.
Before flying buttresses, cathedrals had to have thick walls, as does this one. The pillars between the windows are triangluar, letting the light from the narrow windows flood the interior. A passageway inside the walls can be seen.
Plants have taken root in the gaps in the masonry.
This is the area adjacent to the Rock of Cashel. Ireland really is as green as everyone says.
More graves, and more Celtic crosses. The sun's come out now.
We walked down the hill into the town for lunch, passing this Irish setter along the way.
Next stop, Waterford. Remember the black and yellow checkered flags? The owner of the house below must be a truly dedicated fan of the hurling team.
The Waterford Crystal factory is right in downtown Waterford. The company also has several plants in Europe. They used to have a huge facility here, but that's been closed and is for sale. Employment in manufacturing Waterford Crystal has dropped from several thousand workers at the old plant to less than 200 in the new one.
Curiously, they fly the Irish and American flags.
Many Waterford pieces are hand blown into molds and then finished by hand grinding, cutting, and polishing. Molds are made of wood for pieces that aren't going to have a large "run"; wood molds last a few weeks to a few months. For pieces with enough volume to justify the expense, cast iron molds are made; they last about 50 years.
The Justin Timberlake mold isn't about him, it's for an award at a charity event that he hosts. The one that says American Football is for a crystal football which we'll see later.
The glass blowing shop was fascinating. Here the glass blower is working on a vase. The finished piece won't look anything like what we see here, because it will be blown inside a mold.
This is the cullet bin. Cullet is broken glass ready to be put back into the furnace and remelted.
The glass blowing process.
The glass blower and the quality inspector measure and inspect the still-hot piece. It doesn't pass. The glass blower picks up the piece and drops it in the cullet bin.
A view of a different cullet bin. It's all Waterford crystal.
We had a chance to hold on of the vases that Waterford is making for the 2012 Olympics. They're heavy!
We saw examples of many different trophies and other large items that Waterford makes. There's the football.
The last thing we saw in the factory was a small-scale version of a September 11 memorial that Waterford made for the Fire Department of New York. Seeing this on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks, was moving.
As always, exit through the gift shop. We did our part to strengthen the Irish economy.
Back to Kilkenny for the evening. Here's the route we took today.
Tomorrow we're off to Killarney.