Monthly Archives: June 2015

Just outside of Dublin (Or: Glasnevin cemetery and National Botanic Gardens)

Just after Marco and I visited Kilmainham Gaol (the prison mentioned in the last post) we hopped on bus 40 around the corner to go north of the city to Glasnevin cemetery and the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. From Kilmainham it was about a 40-45 minute ride (from the city center it would probably be closer to 25 minutes). They are right next to each other and connected so that you don’t have to walk all the way around along the main road to get to the other.

Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin

Statues near the center of the cemetery, The tower in the background is called O’Connell tower and it stands over the tomb of Daniel O’Connell.

Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin 3

It doesn’t show as well in the photos I have selected, but some parts of the cemetery are very, very crowded, with no space between grave markers. This part was a bit older and much less crowded.

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Kilmainham Gaol (Or: Another piece of Irish History)

On Friday Marco and I went to Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison which closed in 1924 after the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence. It was restored in the 1960s after suffering from disrepair and disuse. Unfortunately the East Wing was closed for renovation at the time (we were told it would actually be re-opening in a few weeks) although this closure was reflected in the discounted ticket price. A ticket price that was definitely affordable. I think it was €6, although the website says €7. The tour lasts about 45 to 50 minutes. My biggest advice is to arrive early right when it opens at 9.30 – We got there around 9.40 and took the tour around 10.00. When we left the next tour was full (about 30 people maximum) with about 15 people waiting outside.

Altar at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin

Above: the altar at the jail. Here you see a brief presentation and hear about the history of the jail from your tour guide. Do you see the barely visible white outline of a door behind the altar? It’s painted over and no longer in use. Remember that for the end of the blog post.Cell door at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin

One of the jail doors. The doors were made of the same material as shields back in the medieval ages, a leather mixed with tar to reinforce it.

Walkway at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin

One of the walkways in the old part of the jail. What we were standing on was the same as the floor above – wooden reinforcement on the left side and iron bridges (not quite visible but look for the iron bridge near the middle – the grid iron directly above wasn’t the walkable part) that lead to each door.

Note that Kilmainham Gaol was one of the first modern prisons. Before this, prisoners were generally locked up 25 to 30 in one large room, women and children with the men. Unfortunately this had the side effect of making it a place to learn the “tricks of the trade” as it were and commit more crimes. As Kilmainham Gaol’s goal was rehabilitation, each prisoner was in their own room with about 180 cells in total.

In theory. This was no longer possible during the Great Potato Famine in the 1840s. During those 5 years people there were on average 8 people in each cell. One cell still containing only one bed, table, and chair. With no plumbing. You can imagine the amount of disease here. With that said, a lot of people (women and children) committed crimes just to get into the prison – at least here you were guaranteed one meager meal per day. Better than on the outside.

Outside area at Kilmainham Gaol in DublinDoor in the general “exercise” area leading outside the jail. Exercise was mainly everyone walking in a circle, heads down looking at your feet. This was unfortunately also the home of the 1916 Easter Rising executions.

Remember that door behind the altar mentioned in the first photo? If you were scheduled to be executed you first visited the chapel to receive your last rites. Then you walked through that door to come to this area where you were executed.

Cross at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin One of the two crosses in the exercise area. The matching one was on the other side of the yard. One cross (not pictured) was placed for the death of 13 of the 14 men during the 1916 Easter Rising. The cross pictured above was placed to commemorate the death of James Connolly.

His death was particularly shocking as he had been gravely wounded during the rising and was expected to die within a few days regardless, likely from gangrene due to an un-amputated limb. Still, he was taken from the hospital to Kilmainham in an ambulance to be executed at the cross above, opposite from where the other executions took place. Possibly it was right next to the gate so that the ambulance did not have to go far. At the moment of execution he was too weak to stand and thus had to be tied to a chair before being shot. It was his death, particularly the manner of his death, that really swayed public support for the cause (support that had started to grow with the deaths of the other 13 men).

And that is your history for today!


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A busy weekend (Or: Events in The Hague)

This has been a very busy weekend in The Hague. Let’s see…

Friday: Shopping night in The Hague. I didn’t take any pictures myself, but the official website posted pictures up on Facebook. The theme for the night was Sand in the City. Although a lot of people (like Marco and I) just walk around, many of the shops are open to midnight. Generally shops in The Hague close around 6pm (maybe 7pm) except on Thursdays where most are open until 9pm.

Saturday: Night at the Park – traditionally the night before Parkpop in the Zuiderpark, this paid entry concert included Duran Duran, UB40, K’s choice and more.

Sunday: Parkpop – a free concert held every year (also Zuiderpark). Some of the names include Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Frans Bauer and more.

Also on Friday the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships began. Games are being held in The Hague as well as in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Appeldoorn. The Hague will be hosting the finals as well.

Marco and I took a walk this afternoon getting some pictures of the volleyball areas:

Beach Valleyball court map 2015 The Hague

Map of various tournament sites around the center of The Hague

Warm up courts Beach Valleyball 2015 The Hague

Warm up courts at the Spui

Valleyball courts Beach Valleyball 2015 The Hague

One of the courts was actually built in the water of the Hofvijfer by the Buitenhof. Cool!

Beach Valleyball courts at the Hofvijfer 2015 The Hague

A look at the courts on in the Hofvijfer, from the other side.

Quite a busy weekend! And it looks like the temperatures will be rising next week (25C/77F or hotter, 31C/87F on Wednesday). Yay!

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A bit closer to home (Or: Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague, City hall in Gouda)

I still have some more Dublin photos to post but I wanted to take a quick break and post some pictures from places a bit closer to home. I’ve wanted to post these for a while but never got around to it for whatever reason. First is the city hall of Gouda which Marco and I visited back in May (although most of the day was spent in Utrecht):

City hall Gouda in the Netherlands

The second photo was taken by Marco a few months ago as he passed though the Centrum (downtown area) of The Hague. The lights through the church windows at the Nieuwe Kerk (“New church”) caught his eye.

Nieuwe Kerk at night in the Hague

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Garden of Remembrance (Or: On Irish freedom)

Another Dublin post – one of the places Marco and I visited was the Garden of Remembrance. It is on the northern side of the city center, near Parnell Square. The park commemorates fighters from the various uprisings, from the 1798 rebellion to the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence.

Garden of Remembrance in Dublin 2

It is a bit hard to tell from this angle but the water is in the form of crucifix. It reminded me a lot of the Lincoln Memorial Reflection Pool in Washington D.C.

Garden of Remembrance in Dublin

The other side of the water. What you can barely see in the water is drawings of broken weapons. Irishmen would historically break their weapons and throw them into water as a sign of peace. You can see these images a bit better on the Wikipedia page.

The focal point is a statue, Children of Lir, which references an Irish legend. In short, the three children of Lir were turned into swans for 900 years (representing the struggle for Irish independence over 900 years).

Garden of Remembrance in Dublin statue

And a close up from another angle:

Garden of Remembrance in Dublin statue 2

All in all a beautiful place full of Irish history.

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Guinness storehouse and St. Michan’s Church (But: Not at the same time)

Another Dublin post! This one about Guinness storehouse and also St. Michan’s Church, known for its crypts.

The blue waterfall near the beginning of the tour of the storehouse:

Blue water at entrance to Guiness storehouse

This first section (the first few floors) talked mainly about how one makes Guinness. There was also a section with a huge container of hops for you to grab, touch, and put back. If you so desire.

One tip: before going here check out the Carroll’s gift stores that dot the city, especially the large one on O’Connell street. A lot of stores sell Guinness items, although obviously the store in the storehouse has the largest selection.

Barrels of guiness at Guiness storehouse

Finished barrels at the storehouse. There is a whole section on how the old barrels were made by coopers back in the day.

Sculpture at Guiness storehouse

Large sculpture at the storehouse, complete with a large film screen showing how it was made. It is a 12 foot wooden carving of a Guinness pint. The second half of the tour focuses on advertising through the years (including “Guinness makes you strong!”)

View from Gravity Bar at Guiness storehouse

The last stop on the Guinness storehouse tour is the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor which gives you 360 degree views of the city. The above photo is only one piece of it, of course. I couldn’t tell you off hand which part of the city this overlooks as the bar was quite busy in the afternoon. Note that the finishing bit of the tour is turning in your ticket to receive a free pint of Guinness (or soft drink) to sip while you take in the views of the city.

Another place that Marco and I visited during the trip was St. Michan’s Church – primarily because you could go below to see the crypts. It is a reasonably priced tour (€6/adult).

Altar at St Michans Church Dublin

Above: back of the church.

St Michans stained glass window DublinAbove: stained glass windows at the church.

Plaque in Michans Church Dublin Above: Plaque on the wall. There were at least a dozen of these. It gives the place a bit of history!

It was definitely more off the beaten path that I expected – Marco and I did the first half of the tour with the guide alone. The first half of the tour is a few small burial vaults, including one with the “Crusader” who has been dead about 650 years. If you are lucky they will let you touch him for good luck. The story with the first crypt is that you are not allowed to open them, but some of the caskets were stacked haphazardly on top of each other and over the years fell open, allowing access to the mummies. The foundation of the church is limestone, which keeps the crypts at an optimal temperature and helps to preserve the bodies.

The second crypt contains more rooms, with one including the death mask of Theobald Wolfe Tone. Most of the rooms were unlit – you can peek inside but you won’t see much – because they are still actively in use and someone in the family could be buried there. The room with the death mask is lit and another room in the far back is also lit. The latter room is lit because no one else will be buried in the room (the last to die there was a “black sheep” and the family has since been buried elsewhere).

Note that no photographs are allowed in the crypts. There are some photographs on the church’s “about the crypts” page (linked above) and at the gallery at Wikipedia. Expect a small tour – a handful of people at the same time. Check the hours before you go. If the guide is busy with another group, you will be able to wait inside the church and take pictures there (which is what you see above in my photographs).

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Vacation in Dublin (Or: Phoenix Park and Dublin Zoo)

Sorry for the lack of posts, all! Marco and I were actually in Dublin for the last week. So I guess I will have to apologize again for all of the Dublin related posts you are about to see, but I took a LOT of photos… not that you need to see them all!

Our trip was Monday to Monday, and on the first day we visited Phoenix Park right by our hotel (Ashling hotel).

statue of Sean Huston in Phoenix Park Dublin

Above is a statue of Sean Huston, one of the 14 men executed after the 1916 Easter Rising. You can read more about him over at Wikipedia.

Wellington Monument in Dublin far away

In Phoenix Park you also have the Wellington Monument, currently the tallest obelisk in Europe. It commemorates the victories of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

Wellington Monument in Dublin close up

A closeup of the monument – not quite stairs.

On Tuesday we went to Dublin Zoo, situated in Phoenix Park. Here are some of the photos I took:

Tiger at Dublin Zoo

One of the tigers, slightly blurry photo – added for my mother-in-law. ;p

Orangutans at Dublin Zoo

Zoom-in of two orangutans. Cute! The one lying down was quite affectionate, occasionally grasping the other’s hand.

Sea lions at Dublin Zoo

Sea lions swimming past…

Two bongos at Dublin Zoo

Two bongos. These are antelopes. See more at Wikipedia.

Waterfall and duck at Dublin Zoo

A small waterfall. Note the duck peeking out from the left side of the rock. I take photos of waterfalls whenever I can.

Hippopotamus at Dublin Zoo

A hippopotamus just lounging away. Kind of what I wanted to do this morning instead of going to work!

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Yet another try for Spuistraat 19-20a (Or: SoLow XXL)

Spuistraat 19-20a used to be a bookstore by the name of De Slegte. Many years ago, that is – Marco used to get his used textbooks there. Then a few years ago it was taken over by another bookstore, Selexyz. Then last year or so it became Paagman’s, yet another bookstore. See a pattern yet? Then Paagman’s moved to Lange Poten… So that particular location seemed rather cursed.

In early May a new store moved in – this time a SoLow, a discount store. It’s pretty decent, with a mix of normal discount items and random items that they just happened to get in stock that month.

SoLow XXL in The Hague

XXL is definitely the correct term – it’s pretty large inside. I do recommend giving it a look if you live in The Hague. It is also good to check out for Halloween costumes as well closer to October.

Here’s a bonus picture of the neighbor’s cat napping in the garden:

Cat in the garden


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Exhibition football (Or: The Netherlands vs the United States)

Friday night I went with a small group (Marco, Roger and Roger’s mom) to an exhibition football (soccer) game. The game was between the U.S. and the Netherlands and held at the Amsterdam ArenA. No, the last A is not a typo!


The stands, before most arrived


Orange streamers before the game started


A note about the above picture. It looks like a flyer but if you look very closely you can see lines, each about an inch or an inch and a half apart, where it can be folded. It is a pretty thick cardboard, so when it is folded it becomes a very thin but powerful noisemaker. You smack it against your hand instead of clapping. And there was one at every single seat. Thanks to the stadium’s acoustics it is LOUD. Unfortunately it is nowhere near as powerful outside the stadium!


You can see the football in the bottom right (the white streak) as the Dutch advance. About 2 seconds later they scored to go ahead 2-1.

Speaking of the score, with about 5 minutes to the Dutch were ahead 3-2. And then the Americans scored twice to win the game. With 5 minutes to go…


Score at end: 4-3

Marco said it was because the American national team’s coach is from Germany and he was a great forward in the 1990’s. The Germans have a habit for coming back from behind at the end of the game. Regardless, it was definitely a fun experience.

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Summer (Correction: One day of summer)

Here in the Hague it is 30C (86F).

Yahoo weather app Den Haag

Unfortunately it will only be for today, reinforcing my belief that summers are few and far between here. This was only the second day I didn’t take a jacket to work this year! It’s okay though… the winters are currently just as mild which IS nice.

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