From the moment we arrived in Dublin last week, I was struggling to like it. The first aspect of my struggle was that, as always, I was unwilling to leave London. The second aspect was that I had been given a rather dull picture of Ireland and warned that I should brace myself for a week of blah-ness.
It was late evening when we landed but the sun shone bright and I could not help but notice rows of dismal looking brown bricked houses with spartan facades along the streets, as we were being driven to our hotel.
The scene changed, albeit only momentarily, as majestic Medieval churches rose over the nondescript buildings every now and then. Closer to the city centre, the shades of brown and gray had not gotten any better but the sight of people in grunge clothing enjoying their beers outside the ubiquitous Irish pubs lifted my spirits.
It was only when we entered the city centre that the most dramatic visual comprising mostly of Gothic and Medieval structures unfolded in front of our eyes. There wasn’t much life on the roads and one could easily be led to believe that one had time traveled into the 12th Century BC or some such. Europe is full of Gothic and Medieval architecture but nowhere does it come together in as compelling a fashion as it does in Dublin. But that said, the rest of the city is lackluster and unlike any European capital that I have been to in its abjectness.
Everything in Dublin seems basic and functional: the shops, the restaurants, and the vehicles. There are no elaborate window displays outside stores, neither fashionable shops nor any luxury brands in sight and most people dress up like they pick up their clothes at a thrift shop.
However, the few people one interacted with in the three days that we were there, one could not help but notice was the people seemed happy even though they did not possess any obvious labels of success or wealth.
We took our children for a walk through at the Vikings museum that took us back into the Viking times in Ireland from c 800 AD to c 1150 AD. The exhibition was brought to life with the help of detailed sets made to look like Viking streets, their homes, their slave markets, their arms and armours, their runes and most interestingly their costumes that both my kids tried out enthusiastically.
I digress when I say this but I am certain that my father, if he reads this post, will surely lament about the fact that I have not given my kids an insight into the ancient Indian civilizations. The problem with India is that it makes it difficult for children to revisit history. We all know about the state of our museums but that is a topic for another post.
As far as I was concerned, our visit to Europe’s largest zoo, also in Dublin, was insufferable for the most part. After going through so many zoos courtesy my children, I have lost my appetite for wild life and done with my quota for zoos for this lifetime in the very least. The gorillas however, were a delight to watch and we spent a long time simply observing their human like behaviour.
The famous Temple Bar was buzzing with tourists like us who had also brought their children along. I must mention here that the Irish take their children to pubs, which are not considered to be merely watering holes, as in India, but are more like large family rooms where people chat loudly, drink and get merry (not drunk) while their children are served soft drinks and root beer with fish and chips.
We saw the Dublin castle and churches too but I don’t think I should spend more time writing out stuff that the Lonely Planet does a better job of than me.
I do, however, want to write about my visit to the Writer’s museum in Dublin. The writers featured in the Museum are those who have made an important contribution to Irish or international literature or, on a local level, to the literature of Dublin. Needless to say, the museum is home to portraits, manuscripts, personal memorabilia and photographs and lesser known details from the lives of writers like Jonathon Swift, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett to name a few. This had to be the most rewarding part of my trip to Ireland and being in that environment, surrounded by portraits and busts of these literary greats made me suddenly feel enormously grateful to country. Among other things, I was surprised to learn that most of these writers featured at the museum had graduated from the Trinity College, Dublin. The quiet café’ housed inside the museum was, for want of a better phrase and just because I do not want to let go of the obvious pun, the icing on the cake. I ended my visit there over ‘breakfast tea’ (as opposed to English breakfast tea) and a fantastic coffee cake.
The sublime, as expected, was followed by the ridiculous when I joined the husband for a walk around the iconic Guinness Storehouse.
The view from the topmost floor, the highest in Dublin, was amazing, but my first pint ever of the dark and creamy beer, fresh from the source, was amazing by notches. From that height Dublin continued to seem gray and industrial, in spite of the bright sun that shone generously over it. Perhaps another pint or two of Guinness would have made a difference to the eyes of the beholder.
But two drunken parents around a good nine-year-old kid and a frisky four-year-old toddler do not a good example make. Dublin could wait.
P.S: My next post is about Galway and talks about how I fell in love with Ireland.