People who made my travels more enjoyable: Nikki (USA)
As if our holiday hadn't been busy enough, we decided to try and see most of Dublin in a day. Nikki had settled on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which was run by the city bus system. The bus would shuttle us around the city, and we could choose to get off at the sites we were most interested in. However, before we boarded the bus we decided to visit the Book of Kells at Trinity College.
Trinity College, Ireland's oldest university, is one of the more beautiful sites in Dublin.
Outside the Book of Kells exhibit, Trinity College
After we entered through the main gates we headed for the entrance to the Book of Kells exhibit. Admission prices were pretty steep, but I had my old Dartmouth ID handy and was able to get a pretty good discount! The exhibit itself was fascinating. It contained a number of relics and gave detailed explanations on how the book itself was created. Everything was covered, including which dyes were used and how the book was bound. Scholars believe that three monks wrote the book, each adding their own style to the artwork. Within each page, the monks would add a creative design to many of the Latin characters. A good example of the artwork and creativity can be seen here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KellsFol309r.jpg).
After spending about half an hour learning all about the creation of the book, we proceeded to the main exhibit.
Trinity College Old Library (Taken from Scout Magazine)
Several portions of the book are on display at one time. After a few days, or weeks, new sections of the book are rotated into the exhibit. While the book itself is exquisite, the layout of the exhibit makes viewing very difficult. The book is displayed in a glass container in the center of the room. This means that people are crowding around trying to look inside the container. After elbowing my way in (not literally) I managed to get a decent viewing. I'm no museum curator, but I can't understand why the book wasn't displayed on the wall. It would make for much better viewing. After spending about 10 minutes admiring the craftsmanship, we left the exhibit and entered the Old Library.
The Old Library was really beautiful! It contained rows and rows of old books that went on for nearly 100 yards.
Translation: Be quiet, the grass is sleeping...
I wanted to snap a few pictures, but sadly photography wasn't allowed. One of the curators told me that the original library had to be expanded vertically to accommodate all of the books. The only shame was that students couldn't use the room to study, it was purely used as a museum. After a few minutes Nikki left for the gift shop and I decided to see some more of the campus.
The campus reminded me a lot of Harvard. The gates and walls gave it a secluded feeling, kind of a nice break from the city! Soon after we left Trinity and got on the bus. We toured around the city while the bus driver explained the history and architecture of various buildings. After about half an hour on the bus we hopped off at the Guinness storehouse. Guinness is Irelands most recognizable brand, and the storehouse was a must see for us.
So excited to be at the Guinness storehouse!
Again I used my student ID and got a discount on the admission. Yay Europe!
Guinness along with other brewing giants and distilleries is owned by Diageo. This makes Guinness available all over the world, but takes away some of the character. This was more than apparent once we entered the first level of the storehouse. There was a large gift shop that dominated the floor and advertisements were everywhere. We decided to skip the guided tour and just walk around on our own. Each level had its own theme: advertising, how the beer is brewed, where the ingredients come from, how the original Guinness product was shipped around the world, etc.
The top of the storehouse offers a wonderful panoramic view of the city. In addition, each of us got a complimentary pint. Nikki didn't want hers so I ended up with two! We spent a few minutes admiring the views while I finished my beers.
Two for me, none for you
Afterward we went down to the cafe, which was one floor below. The food was very tasty, the best purely Irish fare I'd had since I arrived. After our meal we went down to the souvenir shop and bought a few items for friends and family back home. My personal favorite was a Guinness shirt, which I bought for my brother, that commemorated the 1994 Fifa World Cup.
After we left the storehouse we hopped back on the tour bus. Our next destination was Kilmainham Jail. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical of the tour that Nikki had signed us up for. The last jail tour I had participated on was during my childhood. My family and I had toured Alcatraz prison, the infamous maximum security penitentiary near San Francisco. The tour had been boring and quite impersonal. However, all of my preconceptions, or misconceptions, would be shattered on this tour of Kilmainham Jail.
Our well-informed tour guide
Our guide turned out to be an Irish revolutionary historian and a passionate public speaker. After a short film, he led us through the jail. He highlighted the miserable conditions that inmates were forced to endure and explained the role the jail played in Irish independence. Like any good historian, he was able to draw in his audience using anecdotes that painted a vivid picture of the times. After the initial tour I asked some relatively specific questions about Irish participation in the First World War. He was able to answer everything I asked, this guy knew his stuff! When the tour eventually concluded I felt that I had gained a much greater understanding of the events leading up to Irish independence. I was also able to appreciate the passion and admiration that people, like our tour guide, held for the Irish republic.
The timing of our tour was perfect considering tomorrow we would take a train to Belfast, Norther Ireland. Northern Ireland, a country within the UK, holds staunchly different political and religious beliefs compared to their southern neighbors. I was already looking forward to our visit!
The jail was our last stop on the tour. We jumped back on the bus and took it toward downtown Dublin. We made one slight detour that allowed us to view the Prime Minister or Taoiseach's house, which was directly across the street from the US Embassy. Ironically the embassy was the exact same size as the Taoiseach's residence!
We were dropped of near our hotel and made the rest of the journey on foot. It had been a wonderful day, but we were both completely exhausted. We picked up some dinner and spent the rest of the evening in our hotel room. Tomorrow we would leave bright and early for Belfast!