The Luck of the Irish!

Greetings from the debonair Oscar Wilde

I made it to Dublin! Originally, I had planned on taking the train from Belfast, but I came to find out from my fellow travelers that the bus was actually much cheaper. So, always about the bargain, me and my new French friend Florian (Flor for short) hopped on the 5 o’clock bus and headed for Ireland, the real one. I was ready for the land o’ Leprechaun!

Sunny St. Stephen’s Green

It wasn’t all rainbows and pots of gold right away mind you. My first few hours in Dublin were a bit of a discombobulated mess. First, I realized I made a mistake booking my flight to Copenhagen and bought a ticket for the following day, which of course wasn’t going to work. Then, as I tried to navigate the streets to get to my hostel, I blindly stepped in poop. Of what species I cannot be sure, but for peace of mind, I’m going to say it was canine. And through all of this, I was in desperate need of food and drink as the hanger was creeping up on me…

But all was well by the following few hours. While I had saved a bit of money by booking my flight months in advance, I found out that it wasn’t a very expensive flight to begin with because I booked another one with only three days to spare and it only cost an additional $30. As for the hanger, Flor and I quickly located an Irish pub with live music where we could eat bangers and mash and sing wildly out of key. And the poop, well thanks to bi-polar Irish weather, it was quickly washed away with the rest of my troubles.

Inside the first room of the Natural History Museum

With all the bad luck out of the way, it was all smooth sailing from here! The next day, I left my hostel early in the morning to be sure to fit in all of the day’s activities. I started my little Irish holiday at the National History Museum of Archaeology. Great museum to spend a few hours, or even one of you’re short on time. Admission is free so it’s at least worth a quick peak.

Long digout canoe used by the early Irish, and the longest one to be found!

I might not have spent so much time there myself if I hadn’t met Fergal. Unfortunately, Fergal is not the name of a young, attractive Irishman that swept me off my feet in the midst of Bronze Age artifacts and medieval armory. Fergal is security guard turned impromptu tour guide who swept a group of us lost foreign tourists up and offered to show us around. Now this was the first time that I had ever had a security guard do more than just guard, so I was thrilled that I was getting such great information just by happenstance (though the museum does do tours, just in case you aren’t one of the  chosen).

We began straight away with the following artifact:

It’s a natural inclination to believe that the things you see in a museum were dug up by scientists, historians, archaeologists, and the like and then handed over the the museum because that’s just what you do with old stuff. But this gold collar is an example to the contrary. As Fergal explained, this piece was actually found on accident by a boy and his dog. When the dog got stuck chasing a rabbit down a hole, the boy had to dig him out. That’s when he came across this lil’ beauty. He took the collar back to his farmhouse to show his parents but luckily for him they weren’t home. Although his grandparents were, but they told him that the collar belonged to the “fairy people” and he was to put it back immediately (how’s that for a look into Irish folklore?). But, as we all know, boys will be boys. Instead of following orders, the boy hid the collar in the barn where it remained undiscovered until his death when his children found it and gave it to the museum. Interesting story though, don’t ya think?

The Tara Brooch, which Fergal suspects isn’t really a brooch…

My tour with Fergal continued as such for about 20-30 minutes, in which he told us all about St. Patrick, Brian Boru, and the history of the shamrock as a symbol of Ireland, which is too interesting not to share. The reason that the shamrock became such an important part of Irish culture was because it was how St. Patrick explained the Trinity of Chritianity. At the time, the pagan people had many gods and they didn’t understand how one god could be more powerful than their gods. So, St. Patrick plucked a shamrock from the ground and used it to illustrate the power of God and the Holy Trinity, and the importance of converting to Chritianity. And of course he succeeded.

The Ardagh Chalis

The most interesting of the exhibitions was “Kingship & Sacrifice“. Ominous, yes. But don’t let the name scare you. It is fascinating! Complete with 4 “bog bodies”, this exhibit explains much of what life was like during the early time of civilization; when kings could be sacrificed for something as small as bad weather.

The original man bun from 200 BC

Of course, these bodies were all accidentally mummified, as no one knew the preservative properties of the bog environment until recently when many other bodies have turned up around Europe and Asia. But it’s definitely a must see while you’re in Ireland because it will blow your mind how intact these bodies are, even after being buried for thousands of years.

He still has fingernails! And scientists used them to determine his diet was protein rich. Fascinating!

By now, it had reached 12 o’clock and it was high time for me to meet my Dublin ambassador for City of a Thousand Welcomes. This was a program I stumbled onto during the planning stages of my journey, thanks to TripAdvisor. Basically, City of a Thousand Welcomes is a free service through the Little Museum of Dublin where you can meet a true Dubliner for drinks about town (on behalf of the museum) and ask them questions or other good recommendations for your trip. It seemed like the perfect program when I found out about it a couple months ago and I can say that after my meeting, it still is a great idea and worth doing. I feel that it’s most beneficial to solo travelers as our plans are generally the most flexible, but it could do everyone a bit of good if you have the planning and forethought to make an appointment well in advance and keep it; space does fill quickly.

Hanging out at the Porterhouse, drinking beer and getting ideas!

My ambassador’s name was Caitríona and she was an absolute delight! Born in Ireland and currently an art history student at Trinity College, she was able to advise me on matters of Dublin and beyond. Having just returned from Budapest, she was a wealth of information for my travels down the road. At the end of our meeting, she gave me her information and encouraged any further questions. It was a fantastic orientation to Dublin and the friendliness of the Irish!

Trinity College

After I finished my oyster stout at Porterhouse (thanks again to the Little Museum!) I met my new friend Flor at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.

Trinity College

This is undoubtably one of Ireland’s most precious treasures. Written in 800 AD by the monks in the monasteries of Scotland and Ireland, it has been on display in the Old Library since 1661. It was a steep entry fee (€12) but it’s a once in a lifetime chance. Once you see it, you won’t need to visit it every time you go to Dublin. But, in my opinion, it is worth at least one look. To the credit of Trinity College, they do try to make it more worth your while with a couple added artifacts explaining what life was like for the monks while they were writing the book, how the letters were illustrated, where the colors came from, etc. There were no pictures allowed so unfortunately I can’t share with you what I saw. You’ll just have to see it yourself on your next trip to Ireland.

Before you leave the exhibit, you are lead through the Long Room which houses thousands of books written many many moons ago. Some are out on display in glass cases, but most are guarded by personnel and are inaccessible by anyone not affiliated with the library. This leads me to a quirky little anecdote that is told in almost every Dublin tour that takes you past Trinity College (so pretty much all of them).

Brian Boru’s harp, one of the three oldest surviving Gaelic harps

If you are a Star Wars fan, you may notice that the Trinity Library looks similar to that of the Jedi Library in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Well, that’s because George Lucas saw the library and was inspired to use it as part of the set for his movie. After being denied permission to film in the library by the librarian, George took matters into his own hands and sent a “spy” to take pictures of the library so he could turn it into the proper Jedi library you see in the film. Upon seeing the film and the similarities in the two libraries, Trinity College sued George Lucas but the lawsuit was settled out of court on account of one library being decorated by busts of real people, and one with busts of Jedi’s. Law these days! Nonetheless, people speculate that the library did receive quite the check from Mr. Lucas, as the gift shop was selling star wars souvenirs shorty after the settlement.

Flor and I at the Trinity Library

After my visit to Trinity College, Flor and I met up with David, a Dubliner we had met in Belfast, for dinner and drinks at The Banker’s Bar. I ordered the Celtic burger because when in Ireland, do as the Celtics do! Although it was essentially your standard burger with the addition of Dublinger cheese (delicious!) and some sort of black pudding it was delicious! I only wish I hadn’t wharfed it down so fast, otherwise I might have taken a picture to illustrate.

From there we had a fabulous time dancing the night away and drinking like true Irishmen! Slainte, pronounced like slancha, is the Irish word for cheers, so slainte everybody! Until next time.


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