A few days after we returned from our southwest trip, we packed up again and drove cross-country to the capital city of Dublin. Across the country sounds a little dramatic. Since Ireland is about the size of Indiana, it’s just a three-hour drive from Fanore on the west coast to Dublin on the east coast.
We took this trek because our good college buddy, Doug, happened to be in Dublin for a week as part of a grad school class. Pretty sweet timing, right? It was great to chat it up with Doug since we don’t get to see him nearly often enough!
Boy was Dublin a change from Fanore! Calm to busy. Open space to city streets. Are we alone on this earth to pedestrian takeover. The main drag in Dublin is all brick and not for vehicles like the ped mall in Iowa City or Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
It was not only filled with wandering people like us, but also statues that turned to life when you dropped a coin into their open hat, bands, dancers, singers, rappers and magicians all doing what they could to entertain and make a euro.
I saved my euros for some good eating at a few of the hundreds of restaurant possibilities in town. We had Thai, Indian and even found the Kingfisher Restaurant recommended by Jane! We ordered right from the little window and enjoyed our delicious cod, halibut and chips at one of their outside tables. The cook was flattered the place was recommended to us and told us they’ve been right there on the corner for over 35 years!
There was more to Dublin than just good food. We toured the Old Jameson Distillery where Scottish migrant John Jameson started producing whiskey back in 1780. Smithy the cat was a super sleuth in those days, catching over 20 mice per day around the distillery and earning the title Chief Mouse Catcher. To honor his service he is lovingly stuffed and on display along the tour.
The beautiful Trinity College had much to offer in terms of fabulous architecture and lovely grounds. We couldn’t help but wonder how the college students put up with all the people constantly streaming in and out of their beautiful archways. Our tour guide, a current Trinity College history major, said they’re all used to it and noted that the busiest tourist time is the summer when classes aren’t in session.
He was a top-notch tour guide entertaining us with history (that takes skill in my book) and tales of the college such as the man, now remembered by a statue in the college center, who signed “with his hand but not his heart” the right for women to study at Trinity College in 1904. Today about 60% of the college’s 16,000 students are women.
He also set the scene of a particularly stringent member of the faculty who lived in the red brick building straight ahead from the main public entrance who wasn’t well appreciated by the students. One night a group of inebriated young men decided to play a prank on him by throwing rocks at his window. Classic. But the faculty member clearly didn’t like being disturbed in this manner so (naturally?) got his loaded shotgun and fired out of his window at the rascally students.
The students weren’t backing off that easily so instead of retreating to their rooms to sleep off their too-many drinks, they gathered their own guns and fired back at the grumpy old man. Their shots killed him. And although the young men were expelled from Trinity College they were merely slapped on the wrist by the government since their intentions weren’t to kill and the faculty member did fire first, after all. Our tour guide remarked sarcastically that he’s sure the light ruling had nothing to do with many of those young men having fathers in high places in the court system.
We weren’t the first group our tour guide recounted that story for. He came down hard on the ironic justice of the situation to a group that, unknown to him until later, included Chief Justice John Roberts, the chief judge of the U.S. Supreme Court. He says he’s since softened his blow of the courts.
The walking tour ended with admission to the famous Book of Kells, located in Trinity College’s library. (The 30-minute tour really is a necessity at only 1 euro more than the price to see the Book of Kells without it.)
The Book of Kells is the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – written by hand in Latin and illuminated with decoration in the margins, within the text and sometimes on whole pages. Ornate, detailed, intricate, sometimes humorous decoration. It was created by Celtic monks around 800 A.D. and is considered one of the most extravagant and complex books of its type.
Isaiah and I listened to this podcast from one of his favorite podcast channels, Stuff You Missed in History Class. It painted the picture of how this most-treasured illuminated manuscript survived the centuries despite being stolen in the 1000s and later found but without its jewel-encrusted cover. Or the cringe-worthy bookbinder who in 1821 cut half an inch off the margins (margins surely containing text and ornate graphics) when he rebound the book. Who hired that guy, is what I’d like to know!
Everything from making the paper out of calfskin, the expensive colored inks from plants and bugs across the world to the actual writing of the book sounds tedious, tedious, tedious. Isaiah and I agreed I wouldn’t have made a good scribe, even though it was one of the most honorable jobs among the monks. I guess I’m just a little too wiggly and used to the delete key on my laptop for that. But it was work of sacrifice and devotion to God and the outcome is stunning to this day.
Once we had leaned over the open Book of Kells long enough, we climbed some stairs and lost our breath in the Long Room, a library stacked floor to high arching ceiling with old books. The length (hence its name) and height of the room was striking but more than that I could imagine studious men and women of days past climbing the slideable wooden ladders to search for the book they needed to complete their research.
Unfortunately photographs weren’t allowed in the Book of Kells exhibit nor the Long Room so I pulled the above 4 images from the web. And even if for a moment we considered sneaking a photo, sans flash of course, our plans were quickly thwarted when seconds after a woman near us snapped a shot one of the workers scurried over and asked her to read the multiple signs clearly stating “No Photography Allowed.” I mean it even had a camera with a line through it to lay a bridge across the language barrier. He stayed in her face until she deleted the photo – a task she at first claimed beyond her knowledge. But she figured it out.
And we figured out that the images we save in our minds – of the beautifully organized bookshelves, the detailed doodles in the Book, the proud satisfaction of little Smithy – can be just as sweet as one captured by a lens.