Let’s go back in time. The first “documented” history of Dublin begins with the Viking Raids during the 8th and 9th century. This term was coined by Dudo of Saint Quentin and refers to a time period in which activities, such as war battles, began. Like many parts of Europe, the first documented history of Dublin is disputed. While many think the Viking settlement of 841AD, known as Dyflin, was the first, others say it was predated by a Christian ecclesiastical settlement known as “Duiblinn.” Skipping a ton of history and three centuries worth of viking rules, by the time the 18th century rolled around, the English had established control and imposed the harsh Penal Laws on the Catholic majority of Ireland’s population. To be frank, it has never been easy to be an Irishman in Ireland. You may be asking yourself, “of all places, why Ireland?” I asked myself the same question. Despite the fact that it’s a big island with many positive characteristics nowadays, back then, Ireland didn’t quite have its cultural status yet. It wasn’t known for anything in particular. The Vikings were good at sailing and ransacking, and traveling to Ireland was easy. Once they arrived, they took advantage of how small the country was and collected vital information in a brisk manner. Throughout time, Ireland was a country that was always able to bounce back and recover quickly. It brings me peace of mind to learn this. Ireland has moved mountains within me, and after only visiting the country once, I can confidently say that this is my new favorite travel destination thus far. Hope you enjoyed the little history lesson.
Speaking of Ireland’s history, after my visit with Fionnuala, I decide to scope out Dublin’s oldest Pub, “The Brazen Head.” This pub is located on Lower Bridge Street and sits between a beautiful church and River Liffey. The structure was built in the year 1754. I walk in and am immediately taken by the interior design – natural, yet quaint. I run my fingers along the cobblestone wall and feel its rough surface. The fact that I am touching a wall that has remained in its place since the 1700s is quite amazing and sends a chill down my spine. The Brazen Head has a few different rooms, the largest and main one being half outside. However, I was automatically drawn to the smaller and darker room. With romantic candles scattered about and beautiful photos laminated on the walls, I couldn’t help but think of the wildly cinematic show “Game of Thrones.” I notice how different this bar is from other bars that I’ve been to in the past, and note that hidden gems like this are unlikely to exist in the United States. It was here that the Irishmen planned their revolution and Robert Emmet used this pub to plan “The Rising of 1798.” For those who don’t know, “The Rising of 1798” was an uprising against British rulers in Ireland. Its proximity to the quay, the churches and the law courts also made it a hub for gossip and a place for strangers to pass on their secrets. When Emmet was on the premises, he stayed close to the front door to see which enemies would approach. Unfortunately, his method to keep the enemies away failed, and on September 20th, 1803, he was hung near Saint Thomas Street. In contrary to what I’ve experienced in the states, the locals here seem to be okay with drinking at a bar alone. It is more acceptable. I latch onto this information and with this knowledge now in the back of my mind, I sit down with confidence. The bartender approaches me right away.
Bartender: “What can I get for you, my dear?”
Me: “A Guinness, please.”
Bartender: “I don’t think so. I know you’re a tourist who has been drinking Guinness far too much since you arrived to this country. Don’t think I didn’t see you prancing around my bar like Curious George. Sorry, I just know a tourist when I see one. Perhaps a cider?”
Me: “No, I still want a Guinness. Thank you.”
The level of arrogance I just witnessed is certainly not what I expected from a mixologist in Ireland. To each their own I guess. As soon as the bartender walks away from his station, I take a deep breath and rest my hands on the edge of the bar. Next thing I know, a young lady who looks to be about the same age as me, sits next to me. I continue to drink my beverage in silence and allow my thoughts to wander off, mainly reflecting on how the meeting with Fionnuala went. After about ten minutes, the young lady and I happen to look at each other simultaneously, without warning. She introduces herself as Abbey and tells me that she is originally from Nashville, Tennessee. Abbey certainly exudes a warm and bubbly personality. I did, however, confuse her Tennessee accent for an Irish one. Ha, only me. I learn that Abbey just recently moved to Nashville and already doesn’t like it. She says she is a real estate agent and feels as though she could be doing her line of work elsewhere. She simply wants to choose a different location to start off her career path. I nod. Abbey and I talk about what we have done since being in Ireland. She mentions that she has been here for two weeks already and has driven herself from Galway to Dublin. “Holy hell girl, you’ve got guts!” I say. Abbey gives off a vibe that says, “if I were to die tomorrow, I would be okay with it because I know I have lived my life to the fullest.” Encouraging indeed. I told her that I was too nervous to drive on the other side of the road, especially by myself. She inspired me, saying that if I ever change my mind, it’s relatively easy. I conclude that if I can drive in Los Angeles, one of the busiest cities in the world, I can certainly drive in Ireland. We continue to chat about our career paths and where we want to end up in twenty years time. Our time together will always carry on in my memory.
After a satisfying visit to “The Brazen Head,” I drag my tired legs up a steep hill and head West. At this point, I am aware that if I continue in the direction I am going, I would be outside the city. Unlike many cities that I have visited in the past, Dublin is a much smaller city that is very straightforward. I notice the small businesses I am walking past start to turn into townhouses, and it appeared that I was entering into residential neighborhoods. I inspect each townhouse and compare it to the townhouses in Rockville Maryland, my hometown. I’m not exactly sure why I chose to compare the homes in Ireland to the ones I grew up near, as they are not even remotely similar to each other. Perhaps I was taking note of their differences. I revert back to Abbey, as she mentioned she is a real estate agent and thought maybe she’d like to move here. I wouldn’t blame her. Anyway, I make my way towards townhouses that remind me of Harry Potter’s house (4 Privet Drive). In real life, Harry Potter’s house does not exist at the aforementioned address, but rather, is located about 40 miles west of London. The actual address of the house you see in Harry Potter is, ‘12 Picket Post Close, Bracknell, Berkshire.’ While I want to believe I am meandering my way through Harry Potter’s neighborhood, I can’t imagine doing that right now, simply because I am more concerned that I am lost.
By fortunate happenstance, I stumble across Phoenix Park. This is an urban park situated Northwest of River Liffey and is on the border of the city, but still remains within Dublin’s walls. If you look up Phoenix Park on Google Images, the first photo that pops up is the statue in which this park is famous for – The Wellington Monument. This monument was designed to pay tribute to the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the battle of Waterloo. The battle was fought in Belgium on June 18th, 1815 and sought to end France’s dominance in Europe. Although it didn’t take place in Ireland, it still had a significant effect on the country. There were Irish warriors, such as Arthur Wellesley, who fought in the battle and lived to tell the tail. Arthur was a famous military and political figure in the 19th century and defeated Napoleon Bonaparte as a result of the attack. Beating Napoleon was a remarkable achievement given that he previously conquered most of Europe throughout the century. For all you Washington DC folks, the Wellington Monument will most likely remind you of a scaled-down version of the Washington Monument (they’re similar in name; note the difference). Viewing the monument up close brought me right back to DC. In fact, as I was strolling through Phoenix Park on this glorious afternoon, I was brought back to Maryland, metaphorically speaking that is. The freshly mowed grass, the crisp air and the chirping of the birds, all reminded me of the suburban areas of Maryland that encompass DC. As I lay on a grassy patch near the monument, I see other people lounging about in close proximity. Some are lying on blankets while others are sitting upright, eating sandwiches and chatting amongst themselves. It’s almost five o’clock and from where I rest on my blanket, it’s clear that golden hour has officially made its way into the city. As the sun begins to set, the smell of grass is becoming more pungent and the chill in the air, more prominent. I overhear talking in the distance, so I put on my headphones and blast “Color of Anyhow” by Beverly Glenn-Copeland, hoping to drown out any noise coming from the outside world. Grateful, indeed.
The Wellington Monument
Trinity College/The Book of Kells
Trinity College, located in the heart of Dublin’s City Centre, is Ireland’s oldest university. Its renowned campus is a big tourist attraction to visitors from all over the world and its fame reaches back to the 1500s. Trinity College was created by Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1592 and is one of the most elite academic institutions in Europe, not to mention the most prestigious in Ireland. The college is particularly eulogized in the fields of law, literature and the humanities. It was established outside the city of Dublin in buildings that originally housed the outlawed Catholic Augustinian Priory of “All Hallows.” Put simply, the city of Dublin didn’t exist way back when. Trinity’s foundation came at a time when many universities were still being established across Western Europe in the belief that they would give prestige to the state in which they were located, and that their graduates would perform a vital service as their civil duty. This is a noble idea in which I can applaud and agree with. However, what I don’t agree with is that women were not admitted as full-time students until 1904. Although this is not uncommon throughout the “civilized world,” that is still 312 years of educational discrimination against women. In today’s society, it seems the school is inclined to get students from other cultures involved in their academic programs and are motivated to have students, initially from Ireland, collaborate with those from other countries. With kindness and generosity being Ireland’s most celebrated trademark, I can only hope that the locals would treat those with diverse backgrounds with the utmost respect. I can’t imagine otherwise.
Before I came to Dublin, I read an article that showcased Trinity College. From an outside perspective, I have always known Trinity College to be a university with class. The fact that it’s a multicultural school in Europe undoubtedly paints a lovely picture. From what I’ve picked up on, the students who attend this university are passionate about learning and are grateful for generations before them that have afforded them this experience. This suggests a school run by educators willing to jumpstart their students to self-awareness. In other words, they create a space where students are not intimidated by people who have different opinions from their own. They express what they feel and argue passionately, but with respect. They are open to discussing the counterarguments from their peers and even to those who do not attend the school. While I was able to study a semester abroad, I wonder how different of a person I would be had I attended a European school for four years versus my American College experience. Food for thought.
Trinity College Campus
Once I enter through the Trinity College gates, I walk the campus for a bit and take in the beautiful architecture that surrounds me on all four sides. To my left, there is a long building with a line backed up with at least 40 people. Curious, I approach someone and ask them what the line is for. “The Book of Kells,” they say. I jump in line. Due to this place being such a popular tourist attraction, security only lets in a few people at a time. I quickly advance my way to the front of the line, and as I step foot through large doors that take me into the first room of the library, I immediately get the sense that I’ve been taken back in time. Once inside, I get a strong whiff of wood. The aroma can’t be mistaken around these parts. The Book of Kells, dating all the way back to 800AD, is a manuscript of the four gospels of the new Christian Testament. The illuminated manuscript is predominantly famous for its intricate detail and majestic images. Seriously though, the detail of these manuscripts is breathtaking and well worth examining. The leaves or folios of the Book of Kells, meaning the pages constituting the volumes of the book itself, were made from calf vellum. The use of this high-quality parchment has undoubtedly contributed to the longevity of the manuscript. There are several rooms I must go through before entering into the main section. Each room has either laminated pages or glass shields covering everything in reach of you. In other words, there is no possible way for you to pick up a book and start reading it — sorry folks. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I had to enter through two security checkpoints just to get into the main area. Now I understand why these security checkpoints are necessary. I meander my way through each room at snail pace, nourishing myself with as much knowledge as I can hold onto. Although it only cost me $13.00 to get in, I would have easily paid $30.00. For goodness sakes, if you can’t afford to pay $13.00 for an educational experience, then you probably can’t afford to travel. This attraction was inarguably worth the money and I highly recommend it to any newcomer of the city.
The Book of Kells
The illuminated Manuscript
While still on the subject of prehistoric architecture, I can’t help but revert back to Ireland’s general housed population and the story behind how houses were made in ancient times versus recent times. When I picture what houses looked like back in the day, I envision a white cobblestone exterior with flowered window ceils and colorful gardens in the front yard. I picture wooden tables with boutique lamp shades hovering over the table. I imagine old fashion instruments nestled in the corner of the living room. A cottage-like house, if you will. When I eventually get a house, I’d love to live in the one that I just described. As I’ve grown older, I have developed a sense of devotion and fondness for houses like this. I remember one time, I walked past this beautiful blue house in Maryland. It was one floor tall, with a light blue exterior. It had flowered window ceils on the outside, and the blue tone made the green grass in the front yard look very saturated. If I ever move back to Maryland and that house goes up for sale, it’s all mine. One might consider this house to be dream like.