For our last stop in Ireland, we visited Cork, the country’s second largest city and the first place that actually reminded us of Dublin. Cork was like a mini-Dublin, the same feeling but smaller in size, industry, influence, etc. This was exciting for us because we love Dublin and we were happy to get that Dublin feeling again, even if it was in Cork.
This is Cork. Does it look like Dublin? Yes or no, this city is beautiful.
Here is Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, one of Cork’s grandest churches. Even more interesting, this church had something we’d never seen before: a labyrinth. Labyrinths serve a spiritual purpose, allowing you to lose yourself in your walk (one windy path from the entrance to the center) and become one with nature and God.
Next to Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is Elizabeth Fortress, Cork’s former main defense fortification. Built in the 17th century, this fort was originally located outside the city, although the city has expanded and now the fortress is inside it. Cork’s expansion reduced this fortress’s effectiveness, so it was changed to a military barracks, then to a prison, then a police station. Now it is a tourist attraction.
This is a model of a brass monkey and how cannonballs were stored inside them. The brass monkey is the square contraption the cannonballs are stacked inside, and sometimes it would get so cold the brass monkey would shrink enough to destabilize the cannonballs and cause them to fall. Hence the phrase “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”.
We found this subtle Halloween decoration inside Elizabeth Fortress. Very nice Corkster who did this, very nice.
On the opposite side of Cork, we found these impressive buildings. Both are churches, the one on the right also doubling as a clocktower.
Here it is, Cork’s most famous attraction*: the Cork City Gaol. Built in 1818, this building served as Cork’s main prison until 1878, when it became a woman only prison. It remained women only until 1922, when it went coed again in order to house prisoners from the Irish Civil War. The prison was decommissioned after the war, at which point it was converted to a radio broadcasting station. The building reopened as a museum in 1993.
* Cork’s real most famous attraction is Blarney Castle and its Kissing Stone. But this attraction is in Cork County, not Cork City, and we heard it is touristy and not worth the price of admission, so we didn’t go.
Inna and I were very impressed with Cork City Gaol’s presentation. Specifically, the museum features life-size mannequins depicting life in the museum, much of which was disturbing, haunting, and powerful to see first hand (sort of).
This is an exhibit from the radio broadcast portion of the museum. A prison converted to a radio broadcast center is definitely one of the weirder things we’ve seen while traveling western Europe.
Cork’s other claim to fame is University College Cork, one of the highest ranking universities in Europe. Founded in 1845, this college is most notable for its first professor of mathematics: George Boole.
So far, this post has skirted destinations around the perimeter of Cork, so now, lets move to city center. Central Cork isn’t the most photogenic city, but it did have some amazing places. Like the river in this post’s first photograph, or the produce and meat market pictured above.
We also enjoyed the art and public works in Central Cork. This piece was our favorite, we found it particularly creative and inspiring.
Central Cork is filled with restaurants and pubs, and thus it had amazing nightlife. Here we are passing a zombie walk, it was one of the largest and had the most intricate makeup/costumes of any street gathering I’ve ever seen.
Finally, there’s all the things Irish culture is known for (pubs, music, dancing, Guinness), and Cork delivers spectacularly. Everything about Ireland is so amazing, we love this country and can’t wait to come back!
This brings us to the end of our visit to Cork, and also to the end of our three weeks in Ireland. We enjoyed our visit so much; we had so much fun, met so many wonderful people, did so many wonderful things. But our trip goes on, and we are excited for what’s next. For its back to mainland Europe, to Amsterdam!