Visiting vast and lush green meadows of Ireland is probably on the list of every adventurer. Cliffs of Moher alone will be able to captivate your imagination. If you add Celtic mystery, Guiness goodness and Irish music culture into the mix, I am certain your bags will be packing themselves in anticipation of Irish adventure.
Ireland is the third biggest island in Europe, after Great Britain and Iceland. Interestingly, the island of Ireland is divided into two distinct jurisdictions: Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state which covers five – sixth of the island territory. Northern Ireland forms part of the United Kingdom together with England, Scotland and Wales. The history and the process of partition of Ireland are rather complex. Having very limited knowledge on this matter at the moment, I prefer to sway my story in the direction of tourist experience. What does partition of Ireland mean to tourists? Euros are the currency of Republic of Ireland as it is a member state of European Union. Pounds are being used in Northern Ireland since that is the currency of United Kingdom. Also, with approaching of the Brexit, there is continuous debate about border regulation between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
For most of its recorded history, the culture of Ireland has been primarily Gaelic. It was later influenced by Anglo – Norman, English and Scottish cultures. The mix of traditions and belief systems attribute to cultural diversity of Ireland which makes every turn of the winding road so interesting for the tourist to take while also keeping the correct left driving line.
On our way to Europe, my partner and I decided to visit Republic of Ireland in order to get a quick taste of it … The renowned taste of Ireland is the taste of Guiness so you are correct to assume that Dublin will take the center stage of this post.
Dublin Castle is a former seat of the British government’s administration in Ireland and a major government complex of Republic of Ireland.
It was originally built as a defensive fortification. Later it became an official residence of Viceroy during Irish social season (period of aristocratic entertainment and social functions that would typically start in January and finish with St. Patrick’s Day celebration). Despite the fact that Dublin Castle attracts large crowds of tourists, it felt rather lonely to me so I greatly appreciated having a tour guide to narrate the engaging story to our group.
Trinity College was established by Queen Elizabeth in 1592 which makes it Ireland’s oldest serving university as well as one of the seven most ancient universities in Britain and Ireland. Trinity College is also famous due to the fact that it was the first college in Ireland to accept female students. In 1904, Trinity College Dublin had the first female student, Isabel Marion Weir Johnson, to enter the undergraduate program. Interestingly enough, Isabel did not complete her degree since she married a young Fellow of TCD who lectured in Classics. They later settled down in England. That being said, this story’s focus is on George Salmon’s eventual and rather unwilling decision to lift veto from female ban in Trinity College. As a token of appreciation for George Salmon, female student of Trinity College have a tradition of climbing on his monumental lap and giving his a zesty smooth on the day of their graduation. However, Mr. Salmon’s original proclamation of women being “a danger to men” earns him a much less kind reaction from some female graduates as well.
With all that being said, the real reason people visit Trinity College in Dublin is famous Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin that is believed to have been created in 800 AD. The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells surpass that of the other Gospel books in extravagance and complexity which is why it is regarded as the finest national treasure of Republic of Ireland. The Book of Kells exhibition was great at providing the visual presentation of manuscripts; however, the footnotes provided a very limited story which is why I left without really understanding the significance of the book.
St Patrick Church
St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland along with St Brigid and St Columba.
Maewyn Succat was born into the family of Romans living in Britain. As a teen, he was kidnapped by pirates and taken as a slave to Gaelic Island. During the six years in captivity, he became fluent in Irish language and “found God”. He escaped following the time he received a dream from God prompting him to leave Ireland. Following his escape to France, Maewyn Succat took the name Patrick upon becoming a priest. Later, St Patrick received another dream urging him to come to Ireland once more and teach Christianity to the Irish. St Patrick travelled throughout Ireland preaching the Gospel. The Irish people were receptive to his teachings in part because he was able to take several Celtic symbols and Christianized” them. As a result, St Patrick converted thousands of pagan Irish to Christianity. St Patrick is believed to have died on March 17 which is now an official Christian feast day celebrating the arrival of Christianity to Ireland. That being said, what started as a religious holiday celebrated in the St Patricks Church has now become a secular celebration of all things Irish celebrated in the pubs of the Temple Bar area.
Temple Bar area is promoted as Dublin’s cultural quarter. By the same token, Temple Bar Street is filled with tourists as it is the best spot for drinks and nightlife. Irish most certainly have a great pub drinking culture which entails far more then drinking Guiness. Some bars work at full capacity at 7 pm with people being primarily on the dance floor moving and singing along with the band. There are no lines up to get into the pubs, there is not pressure to keep on getting the drinks, there is no judgement on your river dance performance … just good old fun and responsible drinking (from what I have observed).
It is worth saying that Temple Bar Street pubs and hotels charge substantially higher prices compared to further located establishments. However, having spent few hours walking outside of Temple Bar area, I qualified surcharge as safety insurance.
Since opening of Guinness Storehouse in November 2000, it is impossible to imagine visit to Dublin without having a pint of Guinness goodness directly from the source. I would suggest getting tickets online as are able to avail the discount and skip the lineup.
Guinness Storehouse is a 7 floor building where visitors are educated about Arthur’s vision, brewing process and drinking technique as they make their way to Guinness Observatory bar. Not being beer enthusiast myself, I took little interest in the brewing process and quality control which Guiness has certainly mastered over its 259 year history. Guinness advertising campaigns, however, got my attention with its “Guinness is good for you” campaign. Interestingly enough this quirky slogan was plausible since some physicians ordered new mothers and blood donors a pint of Guinness citing the iron content of the ale as beneficial to recovery. “Guinness is good for you” was a staple of corporate advertising for 40 years until tighter advertising regulations forced it into retirement. In the late 1970’s and 80’s, “Guinness isn’t good for you” slogan along with an empty mug became popular. The tongue – in – cheek slogan upheld the stricter advertising regulations of the time while implying that everyone should have a Guinness. The story of Guinness being “good for you” was very unexpected and quirky. The “Surfer” campaign was the most artistic and could be traced throughout the museum. Next two floors give hands on Guinness experience as you get to attend Guinness degustation and pouring workshops. You might have to line up; however, the lines move rather quickly and the experience is worth the ten minute wait.
Jameson Whiskey literally offers another taste of Ireland. Visiting Jameson Distillery was a last minute decision so the only tour option available to us was “Distillery Tour”. In terms of visual effects it was super cool and up to date but given a chance I would have preferred “Whiskey Blending Class” or “Whiskey Cocktail Making Class” options. That being said, my partner and I got personalized whiskey that we will be entertaining our friends with very soon.
Oscar Wilde Home and Memorial
Oscar Wilde is probably one of the wittiest writers I have come across so far. I have never read his poems; however, his plays and novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” made a great impression on me as a teenager.
Oscar Wilde was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin. Wilde was given the advantage of superior education which in many ways crystalized his talent and worldview. He studied history and arts in Trinity College (Dublin) where he was first introduced to the aestheticism (an artistic movement of the late 19th century committed to one idea: “art for art’s sake”). In 1874 Oscar Wilde received a grant and transferred to Magdalen College (Oxford) where he also became actively involved with aestheticism movement. Wilde did not invent Aestheticism; however, he essentially lived the aesthetic ideals which assumed life to be the greatest of all works of art and the encouraged people to savor the experience of beauty, sensation and pleasure in order to become such an experience oneself, to make one’s life a spectacle and image to wonder. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant clothes and sharp presence, Oscar Wilde was one of the best known personalities of the day. His downfall came as a result of an affair with a younger man, Lord Alfred Douglas. Divorced from his wife, abandoned by his friends, convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years of hard labor, Oscar Wilde left to France upon his release from the prison where he died shortly after.
Oscar Wilde lived rather controversial life and possessed an amazing literary talent. At the time of our visit, there were people shooting a documentary movie about Oscar Wilde which only goes to prove Wilde’s entangled life is still relevant to the modern world.
Having completed my Dublin adventure, I take home the prominent sound of seagull’s cry over the city’s open plazas, the cheerful beat of Irish songs along the Temple Bar Street and the though provoking life story of Oscar Wilde.
Thanks for reading,