“I wanted real adventures to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.” – James Joyce, Dubliners
You’re my kind of town and you’re full of contradictions. You’re immensely walkable and compact yet your streets make no sense (at least to Americans bred on city grids) as they meander like tangled spider webs from the city center, and you’re lucky if you find any signage on the building edifices at round corners. Thank god for the River Liffey, dividing the North and South sides and giving pilgrims their bearings for centuries. You have no skyscrapers, the outline of your cityscape stooping to great visitors while spiked spires of churches and monuments point to the heavens. You’re grimy and gritty and often overcast, yet when the sun makes an appearance it casts a lovely sheen on your hidden beauty. Overall I wouldn’t cast you as a beautiful city (you wouldn’t want to be called that either), yet there are breathtaking medieval churches around every corner (topped in population only by your orgy of pubs) and heading out towards the suburbs and heather-strewn mountains of Wicklow you boast Georgian-era streets whose artfulness put Philadelphia’s Society Hill to shame. You seem to want to jam in as many shops, pubs and whatnots into as tightly packed tenement-style spaces as possible (with only Jervis and Grafton Street shopping districts gentrified with wide boulevards), yet you luxuriate in the tranquility of St. Stephen’s Green. Never have I seen more buses (both touring and commuter), your car traffic is thick and wicked (rivaling the “get the f*** out of my way” rudeness of NYC and where bikers dart to a fro at their own risk unlike in Amsterdam where bike lanes are the norm), and your pedestrian throngs would indicate a city three times your size, yet you claim to be a small city with a laid-back, friendly vibe (which is also true). You have monuments and markers for everything and everyone of note spanning your over thousand-year history…for saints and writers, patriots and politicians, Vikings and Celts and Brits, beheadings and crownings, history and myth. You love your bloody history as much as you love your sweet elixirs of whiskey and beer brewed in waters from that “black pool” from which the Vikings gave you your name.
Dublin…you’re a city so bursting with inspiration and things to do, one could never do you justice in just one trip. I was with you long enough just to get to know you a bit, to see the hints of your charms amongst the slivers of your faults, and I saw enough to know that one day I would want to see more, more that I could never fully have because you belong to everyone and no one, to Joyce alone and to all the world. Is it any wonder that James Joyce said, “When I die Dublin will be written in my heart”? For was it not you that made him immortal? Once touched by you, we all become Dubliners. I’ll be back, my dear. I consider myself warned.
Dave about town:
- Dublin Writers Museum – a nice place to start for literary pilgrims.
- James Joyce Center – a must for any fan of Joyce.
- National Museum of Ireland – it’s free, it’s huge, it’s full of history…and oh, yeah, they have the Bog Men, whose unearthly remains must be seen to be believed.
- St. Stephen’s Green – Dublin’s most famous park boasts picturesque trees, paths, a lake and swans.
- Dublin Castle – part castle ruins/mostly 18th century palace and statehouse, don’t miss out on the guided tour which will take you down into their current archaeological dig that has unearthed some of the original castle walls.
- Christ Church Cathedral – breathtaking inside and out, though their crypt was a bit disappointing.
- St. Augustine’s – one of many great churchly photo-ops.
- St. Michan’s – another photo-op, though more infamously known for the mummified remains in their crypt. Blasted, I missed one of the only two daily tours by about an hour due to my wandering!
- Old Jameson Distillery – do I really need to explain the value of this stop?
- O’Connell Street Spire – it’s just kinda cool, very modern, out-of-place yet oh so perfect for Dublin.
- Temple Bar Neighborhood – advised by all the locals to avoid as it’s so overpriced and touristy, but one must walk through at least once to experience the fabled cobbled streets and drunk and disorderlies. Pass on through then head to the better pubs on Grafton or across the river on Jervis or O’Connell.
Things Dave missed most erroneously:
- Kilmainham Gaol – was just out of reach of my walking and other spots…had I another day I would’ve made the trek.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral – somehow I kept finding every other church but this one.
- The Mummies of St. Michan’s – blasted wandering kept me from the mummies though I still saw the church and graveyard.
- Guinness Storehouse – at the risk of being murdered the next time I’m in Dublin…I have to admit, I’m just not a fan (but I like the stew!), and I loved the other local brews of Smithwick’s, Bulmer’s, O’Hara’s, and Galway Hooker.
Some interesting things about being there at this time of year:
- The sun doesn’t set until about 10pm
- It’s election season, and campaign posters littered the city and coverage on the television was quite entertaining to watch. Personally, based on their posters, I’m rooting for Mary Fitzpatrick and Mannix Flynn!
And now for Dave’s Dublin photographs:
Written and Photographed by David H. Schleicher