Like Dublin, Waterford is an old Irish Viking city, founded in 853 by the Scandinavians who crossed the North Sea to pillage the towns and monasteries of Ireland.
The Vikings created a permanent camp on the river Suir where they found protected anchorage, easily access to the sea, and a defensible base from the local Irish population. The Viking legacy is still apparent today. For example, the name Waterford is a derivative of the original Viking name of the settlement; the primary old town area is the called the Viking Triangle; and Reginald’s Tower, an old Viking fortress, is still used as a museum.
Over the centuries the city became important for seafaring commerce, not just piracy. Many fortunes were made by Waterford trading families who supplied the Atlantic cod fishing fleet. Apparently the town became quite a scene every year when 50 or 60 fishing ships arrived to unload fish and crewmen who had been at sea for 9 months. We learned that dried cod was a major source of low-cost protein for Europe because it lasted years without refrigeration. During our visit to Iceland we tasted a piece of Greenland Shark as part of the Icelandic experience. This time we decided didn’t need to try years-old dried cod to experience Waterford.
Around our house in Northern California, the Waterford name represents heavy crystal objects received for wedding and birth gifts. So, when Suzanne spotted the Waterford Crystal building down the street from our hotel, we made a point to check it out. The Waterford company changed ownership in 2009 and the new owners significantly reduced the Ireland based manufacturing – moving it to Asia. Hmmm, that kind of took the fun out of visiting the “source” of the world-famous crystal.
We walked through the show room and ogled at the sparkly items and the astronomic prices, but decided not to pay the 15 Euro per person to take a tour. Instead we crossed the street to a local shop where a few former Waterford artisans have hung their own shingle. We watched an artisan work with the glass, discuss what he was doing, then help us pick out a small piece similar to what he had just created.
Kilkenny was our final touring stop in Ireland. By this time in our journey we had all mostly had our fill of long walks and wet stone stairs. Perhaps it was the Fairies messing with me, but I was starting to see everything with a slight shade of green…
While in Kilkenny we took a quick tour of the Kilkenny Castle. The Castle is a stately home that has been extensively renovated over the past 20 years to something near it’s likely condition in the early 1800’s. The foundations of the building date back to the 1300 or earlier. We were all getting a little tired and probably didn’t give this building or this town the attention it deserved. I did managed to snap a few nice photos before we packed everyone back into the Big Red Van and headed for Dublin.