I've been in Ireland for 3 days now and i FINALLY get to write in my travelblog. I'm going to try to address topics here rather than go in chronological order, so if the 'museums' topics bores you, just skip to the 'pub' section.
Being a history nerd, i had to check as many museums as possible (esp b/c they are usually FREE) and one thing that I have noticed is that while Dublin Museums are smaller than most in NYC and DC, they more than make up for lack of grandeur with a fusion of content and style. The State of Ireland and the EU sponsor the National Museum of Ireland, which is actually 4 seperate buildings spread throughout the city, all within in wlaking distance of my hostel. I got a chance to visit the Museum of Natural History which had a great if somewhat morbid display of Irish wildlife throughout history. Many of the animals had been stuffed in the 19th century and are still on display. Did you know that Ireland has seals? i didn't but now i know. Then i explored the upper three floors which showed animals from across the globe (although North America had some short comings like no white-tailed deer, we'll have to send them the next one that my family hits)
Next was the Museum of Archeology which i was really exited to see! but it was closed because of some reception party for the royal family of Norway or something...
So i went nextdoor to the National Library where i saw a tour of an exhibition on W.B. Yeats and despite the fact that i barely knew any of his poetry, the exhibition was facinating! It incorporated artifacts such as his journal writings (which were illegible) with touchscreen technology that allowed you to read scanned documents, use a virtual magnifying glass and pull up a transcription of the text so normal people could read it. They also used small video rooms that were decorated to display a particular theme of his life, such as the subject of his creation of the Abbey Theatre which you could view from a 'backstage' location. Yeats was extremely influential in the Irish independence movement, was heavily involved with the occult, and towards the end of his life exlpored eugenics. Fascinating.
Earlier in the day I visited Trinity College. Instead of paying for a 10 euro tour plus admission to the book of kells, i hopped on the back of an exsisting tour and then paid 7 to view the book of kells. for those of you that don't know, the book of kells is one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts, written in c.805 and contains the four gospels of christ. I thought it would be tough to justify 7 euro just to see it, but fortunatly the college created an amazing display that took you through the creation of the manuscript, the monks daily lives, the materials that were used (ex. lapis lazuli from afghanistan, red dye from pregnant african beetles, and all the other normal crayola colors) and then showed the histor of the book itself. Written by scripes (who really needed spellcheck) illustrated by 3-4 artists, never completed, moved to aviod viking pillaging and finally given to the Protestant Trinity College where it would be protected during the Cromwellian Wars. Again, the way in which this exhibit was displayed made great use of limited space by using large curved wall screens to display text and enlargements of the illustrations. In doing so a space was created that was never crowded and allowed you to feel a personal connection to the artifacts on display. I must have spent an hour in there, reading all the details and finally viewing the Book of Kells and the Book of Armaugh. Good thing i am traveling alone otherwise my companions would get annoyed...
Another excellent tour was of the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). This was a great artifact because you found yourself physically immersed in this limestone building of despair and disease. The tour also showed the historical relevance of the prison by discussing the role it played in the War for Independence. Since this war occured in 1916, there is still a very strong awareness of these events, and still some ill-feelings from a few of the brits that were on the tour with me.
Also went to the Collins Barracks (National Museum of Decrotaive art and history) but only because i missed the first train from dublin to galway. glad i went for an hour, but also lacking american artifacts...hmmm
Overall, the museums were great, i love learning for the sake of learning, it reminded me of when i was a kid going with dad to see the museum of natural history in NYC. Maybe i'll be a curator when i grow up???
When i sat down to write my first email, there were two girls sitting next to me discussing whether or not they should go to galway. having second knowledge via Kevin Baily, i told them they should def go. They enjoyed the suggestions and we parted ways. later on i was moving into my bunk aka putting my bag in the under bed storage, when i noticed that some girl had completely taken over the unit. slightly peeved i just adjusted her stuff and was about to lock it with my lock and leave a note for her, when she and her friend came back in the room. and wouldn't ya know it, it was the same two girls as before! So we chatted for a bit and i learned that they were both from Minnesota, just graduated from Denver U, and had no glue what they wanted to do. I took a nap and quickyl forgot their names but i managed to pull through and relearn them (lindsay and Greta) and then we all went to dinner at the Brazenhead pub (more to follow) and the next day they accompanied me to see the book of kells (i think they were a lil annoyed with how long i was in there :-) We parted ways, they to the Guinness brewery (which i had attended the day before) and me to my museums. We met back at the 4 courts hostel and met another girl (Robin) who amazingly enough was also from Minnesota. We went in search of dinner and came upon Farrington's. We parted ways again on Wed morning, but we are supposed to meet up again in Galway sometime today.
The hostel was great for meeting people, some of which that didn't come from Minnesota. Carlos is from Spain, trying to improve his English (which is way better than my french) so he can be an engineer, Kim is from Belgium studying Germanic Languages at Trinity (we watched lost togther, less commercial time, or just less breaks but longer) in Europe), and i met a guy from sweden but can't pronounce his name.
Guinness could really be marketed as a meal replacement diet drink. Since i am trying to save money, but also sample representative cuisine, this was my lunch for two days. My first pint of true guinness (the stuff we drink in NJ, not brewed in Ireland) came after a 7 story tour of the storehouse, a period in which i slept 2 hours in 36 hours, and miles and miles of walking (some of which because i was lost in dublin where the streets might as well have no names) needless to say this was probably the most rewarding beer i have ever had. The Yeungling brewery came close, but i was far more in need of sustenance at this point.
Had another pint at dinner at the Brazenhead pub (est.1198) along with traditional irish lamb stew. so good. Had another pint when the family of siblings next to us started chatting with us and bought us more beer so we wouldn't leave. they could affor it believe me, Paul owned an ad agency that worls with coors and nike, rob sold a chemical compound to nutrogena for 65 mil, and the sisters "married well." We had a great time even before the traditional irish folk band started playing, and things really got awesome. This pub was a real winner. i could have left dublin happy after that day.
Luckily i still had another day, and another day means another pub. This time i went to O'Donaghue's at about 1pm. I didn't plan on stopping but Tim Dunnigan had suggested I go so I really had no choice. Had a pint and a great conversation with a 50-something carpenter who also loved to travel. I asked him why all the signs and closed captioning on the news was in gaelic and he told me that gaelic is mainly spoken in the west and south west of the country, but that since the late 19th cent and more so today, there has been a vocal minority that has pushed for more language visibility as a matter of national irish pride. He didn't seem to care so much as long as everyone spoke english too.
That night me and the girls found farringtons, a more modern bar in the temple bar district. it served a greater variety of food (i had beef lasagna and soda bread which is nothing like what dad makes) and the live music was a guy with an electric guitar. also, despite the fact that it was fairly large, no waiters meant that you had to order at the bar. Not as cool as Brazenhead.
More to come later, fortunatly my current hostel has FREE net access, as opposed to the 2 euro per hour at the other place.
Hope you all are doing well and that no one has driven my car yet (mom and dad this means you)
-Brian (in Galway)
ps. photos to follow