Dublin, I Hardly Knew You.

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
Trip End Jan 09, 2014

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Where I stayed
Kinlay House Dublin
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Ireland  , County Dublin,
Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ever been to Dublin? You should probably go right now. While it's not somewhere I would want to live forever, we had an incredible time in Dublin, a city rife with cultural and historical information. Megan and I stayed in the Temple Bar area at Kinlay Hostel. It was smack dab in the center of the most vibrant part of the city. We encountered tons of tourists and college students from Trinity University. We even found a really nice man at a jewelry shop who told us the best spots in town. After three weeks, I think I’ve seen enough bars and pubs to last me for quite a while. But then again, what else do people do around here?

After checking into our hostel, Megan and I made our way to Oliver St. John Gogarty’s, where our traditional musical pub crawl would begin. Of course, I did the tourist routine and got a garish green mascot of Ireland on the side of my face. Maybe a bit obvious, but I couldn’t resist. Around 7:30pm, a group of us set off for our first pub, the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn. After a large crowd of drunk women left the tour, things got much calmer. There were two musicians, one on fiddle and the other on the guitar. They were both extremely knowledgeable of traditional Irish music, both local and throughout the island. Much of what they spoke about was covered in my Music of Northern Ireland course that I took weeks ago, but it is something special to see it in action.

I was most impressed with how the musicians communicated. Relying largely on vocal cues, "hub!" was a primary indicator that it was time to move on to the next song; often times, chords were shouted out right before they were to happen. These two men could pull out songs they’d never played together, but heard before, and play them at performance quality immediately. Truly, the Irish sense of musicianship is impeccable. As an American musician, I can testify that we are much more notation-based; we always want sheet music and don’t know too many tunes off the top of our heads. Of course, that’s a dramatic generalization but it is safe to say that I need to work on my repertoire knowledge!

A tin whistle, a bodhrain and a few drinks later, we ended up at another pub on the other side of the river. There, our experience was a bit more intimate and I even had the chance to sing “The Parting Glass” with the two musicians. We met a university student who goes to Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, my home state. After establishing a mutual friend, we got to exchange travel tips and find out some good things to check out in Dublin. One thing I’ve noticed: travelers love fellow travelers!

After the pub crawl, we set to meet a friend from Baldwin Wallace (who we stumbled upon in Belfast… long story). He has been studying for a few months in Dublin, so he was the perfect tour guide for the local night life. We checked out a bar in a garage, which was much cooler than it must sound. After spending a few hours in a club (with some new Australian friends in tow!), Megan and I headed back to our hostel to prepare for a long day.

The next day, we woke up at 8:30am (that’s around 6:00am in Europe time – everyone likes to wake up late here). We enjoyed our free breakfast, planned our day and set off for Kilmainham Gaol. If you’re unfamiliar with it (I was), it was the central jail in Dublin, where many of the activists were held prisoner during the Irish struggle for independence. It’s also been used a military headquarters, and today serves as a historical landmark and museum. Our tour guide was incredibly informed and contributed to the powerful visual imagery of the jail. We were able to see cells where some of the prisoners were stored, along with where they worked and “exercised” – walking around in a circle for an hour. Conditions were brutal; it led me to ponder how much I can really comprehend with my limited understanding of suffering, and indeed the hardships that these soldiers dealt with to gain their freedom.

After the jail, we met up with Nick for lunch and I got to check out Dublinia. Just a fair warning, my nerd side is about to show in full colors. Dublinia, a Viking and early history museum was AWESOME. There were three floors and I was able to get through the whole thing in half an hour. The bottom floor was dedicated to the Vikings and their history, where my distaste for Columbus was reinforced with some more grueling historical facts about his lack of navigational skills and general human compassion (but he still gets all the glory…ughhh history). The second floor delved more into medieval history, but the third floor was hands down my favorite. It detailed how archaeological digs were structured and how they were able to glean this information about the Vikings from mounds of dirt. I was floored and the inner kid in me wanted nothing more than to interact with everything. However, my social awareness won out and I abated myself by buying a t-shirt and a few gifts.

We all met up again and set off for the Collins Barracks, one of the largest museums I’ve ever seen. It is an outer border, but it’s probably about the size of a football stadium. SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE. We saw only one exhibit, but we were there for almost two hours. Visiting hours on Sundays are quite limited, so we didn’t get to spend as much time there as we would have liked to. We briefly snuck a peek at the 1918 Easter Rebellion exhibit (the one we were supposed to see), and made our way back to the bus to get home in time.

That night, we met up with Daniel, a friend of mine from back home. We are travelling together in December and January, so it was great to catch up with him and solidify some travel details. I happened to come when they were cooking a traditional Irish breakfast for dinner, so I was a happy kid. I got to meet Dan’s lovely roommates, including a French exchange student who kindly walked me home. All in all, a worthwhile visit to Dublin for sure!

I am really enjoying meeting fellow young people travelling the world. As a restless wanderer, I sometimes feel isolated by my need to be on the go. I’m sure that will become calmer as I get older, but it’s nice to find fellow students circumventing the globe. I’ve made friends from Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Zimbabwe, Germany, Birmingham, Ireland… and the list is only beginning! Talk about some good contacts for my future globetrotting efforts ;)

Of course, the next day left us with early morning travel: an 8:00am bus back to Belfast so we could meet with government officials at Stormont. Now THAT got sticky… More on that in the next entry J

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