Showing posts from August, 2021

Time to bring back the bears

  AS EVENING turns into night a bat flits just above my head through the darkening sky. Nothing too remarkable about that, you might think – but then this is Transylvania. On top of a hill overlooking the village is an eerie-looking fortress but I decide not to venture in – not out of fear, you understand: What could there be to fear about entering a creepy building in Transylvania as bats swoop overhead and night falls? The reason is actually much more banal – a sign on the wall says opening hours are between 10am and 6pm and it is nearly eight. As for the bats, there are actually 32 species of bat in Romania, one of the most diverse populations in Europe – we have just nine species here in Ireland. However, despite such a variety of these winged creatures of the night there are no vampire bats in Transylvania; they are native to South and Central America. The village of Viscri dates from the 12th century when Saxons from Germany settled in the area. Cattle and geese roam the main str

Manchán Magan's is out standing in his field

THE churning water rears and foams and then drops away as if a plug has suddenly been pulled from the rocky confines in which it had become trapped. The rectangular hollow on a fossil-covered limestone outcrop looks as if has been hewn by hand to create a swimming pool, but it is a natural feature on the Atlantic shoreline of Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. Poll na bPéist is translated on the signs that guide visitors to it as 'The Wormhole'; however, on some maps it is named 'The Serpent's Lair'. 'Poll' is an Irish word for hole which can also be used to describe an animal's lair while 'péist' can mean worm, serpent or even monster, so both translations are valid. While the idea of a serpent's or monster's lair is more evocative, the word wormhole also has intriguing connotations – describing the underground channels through which the currents surge and retreat from the open sea into this deep rocky pool from which, if you jum