Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Weekend in Dublin

Like I mentioned earlier, I haven't updated for a while because we've just been so busy, what with our geology trip (last Thursday) and our weekend trip to Dublin (Friday morning to Sunday night). We are now back and recovered fully from our weekend of little sleep, so I'll try to explain a little more about Dublin!


I would just first like to say that Dublin is nothing like Galway. Galway is all cobblestone streets, narrow roads for cars, no building more than three stories tall, everything painted vibrant colors that have faded with the rain but still manage to be quaint and insistent under the coat of fog. Galway is charming. Dublin is not, at least not in the same way.

Dublin was founded in 988 by some adventurous Vikings who figured out that raiding the pacifist monks and peaceful herd-tending native Irish was a hell of a lot easier than raiding defended English settlements. Today, the city has a population of over 500,000 (more than six times that of Galway) and looks far more like the American conception of a "city": tall buildings in grey stone, concrete, and glass, industrial bridges and garbage-stained streets, busy people walking back and forth with their eyes fixed ahead of them. However, for all its modernity, Dublin still preserves the friendly feel of Galway and Ireland in general. If you ask a person on the street where a certain pub is (The First Law of Irish Travel: everyone always knows where every pub is), you will get a smile and some brief instructions, even if they give you the tourism-eye first.

As modern-industrial as Dublin looks, there are still some quiet, peaceful, open places tucked away. Trinity College is one of those places. The campus is located in the middle of Dublin, surrounded on all sides by vibrant, loud city, but inside the walls are open squares and plazas like this one, filled with old buildings and ancient trees. There are only a few gates in the walls, and they are all watched closely--the college really is an insular community, and when inside you can barely hear the city outside.

Trinity College is where we stayed while in Dublin, in the rooms usually reserved for graduate student Fellows (the highest academic honor a student can achieve). They were really, really nice. In the picture above, the belltower on the arches marks the site of the original monastery that the college replaced in 1592, though the monastery itself was much older. After we had checked in and made ourselves comfortable, we took a tour of the Guinness factory.

The Guinness factory and brewery covers something like six acres in the middle of downtown Dublin, and contains an entire museum dedicated to the beer as well as the actual brewing and distributing facilities.

The view from one of the windows of the museum. The steel tanks are filled with roasted barley mash, waiting to be introduced to the brewing vats.

We were able to participate in a little Guinness tasting session led by one of the professional brewers whose job it is to taste the beer during its maturation and report when it is done maturing and ready to be served. There is a very specific science to it, apparently. You've got to get all the arm angles right and everything. Sarah and I had an advantage because we didn't already have beer drinking habits, so I think we performed our duty marvelously.

Apparently this advertisement was famous or something. I was told we just had to get a picture with it.

The word that comes to mind when describing the Guinness factory is, strangely, nationalistic. Guinness is hyper-aggressive in its branding and takes itself so seriously it ends up being comical. In this room, we learned how to properly serve a pint of Guinness in our Guinness-branded glasses. It takes 119.5 seconds, if you were wondering.

We got to keep the pints we poured, along with little certificates that proclaim us masters of pouring the perfect pint. They have our names on and everything. Some of us were more excited than others about it. A few of us were already drunk.

At the top of the Guinness factory is the "Gravity Bar", a fully functional bar that seems to serve only an endless line of Guinness, with a beautiful view over the city of Dublin.

The next day, we took a walking tour of the city. Our guide was incredible, an extremely informed Irishman who clearly cared a lot about the history and future of the city. We started in the College, since it contains some of the oldest buildings still standing in Dublin, but gradually moved on to other historical sites in the city. Pictured above is the Parliament House, from which the country was run during the early modern period. Now it houses parts of the national bank and some government offices.

Dublin Castle is one of the oldest buildings in Dublin, built in the medieval period when castles were a thing and Dublin needed to be defended from constant military raids by various Northern European groups (and, again, the Vikings). It has since been refurbished and expanded on, and the original keep is no longer standing, but the historical site is well-preserved. It is right down the street from the College, in the cultural-historical quarter of the city.

The last remaining tower of the castle has a small Gothic cathedral attached to it now. The stone is the same color, but the tower vastly predates the cathedral. They were both refurbished last century, which is why they appear the same.

We did so much walking in Dublin between the walking tour and the walking ten to twenty minutes to get anywhere of interest, that our feet began to hurt by the middle of the second day (Saturday) in Dublin. We wanted to sit and rest, but our guide was so full of energy and excited to give the tour that we decided we couldn't disappoint him, so we resisted the urge to sit and carried on.

Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral was built in the year 1090. Construction on this cathedral started closer to the time of Jesus than it did to us. We didn't go inside, but we walked all around the outside and sat on the damp lawn.

Dublin's main streets are open and airy, but in the older and cultural quarters, particularly the neighborhood of Temple Bar, where we spent most of our time, the street were winding and narrow, like early Dublin's. The width of early Dublin's streets can be seen above, where the cathedral's front door hit the front door of the pub (that pit in the ground there is a historical site of one of Dublin's first pubs) about six feet from where the wood ends.

It threatened to rain all day Saturday, but we were blessed with dry and mild weather. If it had rained, we would have seen waterfalls from those drain-spouts on Cathedral.

After the tour, we walked up and down the River Liffey (the word "liffe" means "river" in Irish) for a bit before searching for lunch. The river is one of those bodies of water that is best appreciated at a distance.

That afternoon, instead of resting our tired feet, we opted to go walking around the city, particularly farther down the river, to see what we could find. It was absolutely worth it. This is the Customs House, where an important battle for Irish independence was fought in 1921.

Further down the road, we found the Great Famine Memorial, with statues commemorating those who died and plaques with the names of those who had donated to the foundation that sponsored the memorial and funds programs that attempt to feed the hungry in Dublin.

Closer to the College, down a very tourist-oriented street, we saw this huge spire. It is difficult to tell from the picture, but the thing is probably around 400ft tall. It is made of stainless steel and is, to all methods of observation and deduction, just a spire. There is no plaque, no nearby statue, no information booth. It is just a goddamn huge piece of steel sticking out of a Dublin street.

That night, we stopped for pizza before going to the theater. I don't know if PaPa' Pizzeria was the best pizza in Dublin, but it was the best pizza I had in Dublin. It was also the only pizza I had in Dublin. It was a cute little place, with a very New York feel--long, narrow building that is half counter and half oven.

After pizza, we went to a performance of an Irish play called "Dirty Laundry" at a nearby theater. No photography was allowed, so I can't prove it, but I assure you that we went and it was enjoyable. It was a short play written in a sort of modern style that was very concerned with home and the idea of Ireland as a home. The actors all had a very strong emotional investment in their characters, and many of them were quite good. We all talked about it for a while after.

That night, we went to a pub called the Norseman, which is featured in James Joyce's "The Dubliners" (which we are reading in our literature class). We saw it during our walking tour, and the guide pointed it out for its literary significance. We decided we would have to return to Temple Bar, where all the culture in Dublin is located, that night. We did, and we had a wonderful time, singing and dancing along with the live music until about two in the morning.

The next morning, we were up at 8:30, our second day of little sleep and a lot of activity. Before breakfast, we visited the exhibit in Trinity College where the Book of Kells is housed, the most famous illuminated manuscript in the world.

We also visited the famous and historical Trinity College Library, but we didn't stay for long, because we desperately needed breakfast.


And we found it.


That's all for now. We visited some ruins on the way back from Dublin, but I will cover than another day, because I need to get started on this paper. Thanks for reading! Much love from both Sarah and Jonah from across the sea.

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