Published: June 12th 2011June 1st 2011
A statue of the fictional fish seller Molly Malone.
In Dublin's Fair City
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
These are the opening words to a classic song about a young fish seller which kept replaying itself in my head as we wandered the streets of Dublin.
John and I arrived after an overnight flight from Greece. We spent a week leisurely sightseeing the city before setting off with Vicky and Gary (friends from Colorado) to see the rest of Ireland. We then spent one more day in Dublin before leaving the country. This blog covers both visits.
My lasting impression of Dublin is that it is very multicultural. Most of the speaking accents are eastern European and an individual on the street is just as likely to have the black straight hair of an Asian as the stereotypical red hair of an Irishman. There are Irish pubs and fish and chips shops but there are also Chinese, Italian, and international restaurants as well as frequent hamburger joints.
We stayed at a guest house in a small village called Rathmines. It used to be on the outskirts of Dublin but is now part of the city proper.
Rathmines Clock Tower
This is the small town we stayed in near Dublin.
It is completely non-touristy so was a great place to accomplish necessary chores like haircuts and laundry. Rathmines has a lovely clock tower which chimes every quarter hour. It also has several pubs including one with a Texas themed menu.
Downtown Dublin is split into North and South by the river Liffey. The South side has Trinity College, Temple Bar and St Stephens Green. The North side is newer and has O’Connell Street and the Spire. Trinity College is a University that was founded in 1592 and Temple Bar is a neighborhood known for its art scene and its pubs. St Stephen’s Green is a lovely park in the heart of the city and a great place to people-watch. O’Connell Street is a large mall that is the heart of the shopping district and pointing skywards is a piece of art called The Spire—a stainless steel sculpture erected so there would be something tall at that spot.
No trip to Dublin would be complete without a stop at the Guinness Storeroom which is what they call the brewery where Guinness is made. The admission is expensive and the “Guinness is great” fervor was a bit over the top
but it is a good explanation of how to make beer and we did get a free pint of Guinness.
Next we took a double-decker bus to Glasnevin Cemetery
. We were driving past what appeared to be a 19th century prison complete with 30 foot walls and guard towers when the bus driver called the stop for the cemetery. Turns out behind those walls were tombstones not convicts. When the cemetery was built in the 1850’s, body snatching was very common because bodies were needed for medical students to dissect. As a result they built the walls and manned them with guards and, to the best of their knowledge, never had a body stolen.
Glasnevin Cemetery was founded by the Irish Statesman Daniel O’Connell in the 1850’s to bury “people of all religions and people of no religion.” It has grown to hold the remains of over 1.5 million some of them very famous in Ireland’s struggle for Independence. Of the 1.5 million, over half are in unmarked graves either because they were too poor to afford a burial or they died from an epidemic such as cholera and were placed in mass graves to prevent the further
Cemetery at Glasnevin
spread of the disease. But the name, age, cause of death and location of burial is recorded for each one making this a treasure trove for researchers. Famous Irishmen and –women are buried here such as Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera and Elizabeth O'Farrell. The largest monument, by far, is where Daniel O’Connell is buried. Daniel O’Connell was born in 1775 and is called “The Liberator.” He worked to get Irish Catholics the same rights as Irish Protestants through non-violent and legal means. He was also an abolitionist and a human rights activist and the founder of the cemetery. His “tombstone” is a 150 foot high round tower under which his remains are interred.
Next up was the National Museum of Archeology. It is a well-done museum and, better yet, it is free. In the morning we saw the exhibit on the pre-Viking era including the many tombs. They also had a large display of the gold items found. Many, many items have been found in stashes called hoards. They suspect that they were offerings to the gods because they are almost always found in bogs and bogs are difficult to retrieve things from. One major hoard was found
Dublin Castle is an aggregation of many different architectural styles ranging from the Norman Tower to the Neo-Gothic Church.
in the 1800’s but the history has been lost because the finders melted down the golden objects. We also saw a display on bog bodies. These were people, often wealthy, who were brutally murdered then buried in bogs on the borders between kingdoms. They suspect it was something to do with coronation rites for the kings. The bodies are well-preserved even after 1500 years in the bog.
No visit is complete without seeing Dublin Castle. Dublin Castle has been the seat of power in Dublin for over 1000 years. This was where the Vikings first founded Dublin in the 10th century and where the Normans and later the English built and extended the castle from which they ruled Dublin and as much of Ireland as they could. Since it has been renovated and remodeled many times over the centuries it is an aggregation of styles ranging from Norman to Neo-gothic. It is still in use today for formal state functions such as the inauguration of the Irish President.
On our last day we took a Historical Walking Tour. Our guide had a passion for history and over 2.5 hours took us from man first arriving in Ireland 9000
The Spire is a piece of art 398 feet tall made of stainless steel. The vagrant in the foreground is John.
years ago to the Northern Ireland peace process. It is thought the original settlers were from the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal). I am not going to relate the entire history here but it is a fascinating and underrated story.
Our last stop was Killmainham Gaol. It was a depressing but educational walk through history from 1800 – 1924. Especially sobering were the descriptions of the children incarcerated for petty crimes. Children as young as 5 were put in gaol for stealing food, especially during The Irish Potato Famine in the 1840’s.
Thus ended our journey in Ireland. It is a beautiful country with friendly, welcoming people and a captivating history ranging from glorious to tragic.
There are more photos below