So there we were, stylishly crossing the Irish Sea on the great MV Ulysses… I couldn’t wait to set foot on Irish soil again, but somehow I had mixed feelings about seeing Dublin again after 25 years; I’d seen many photos of modern glass buildings and steel bridges – was ‘my’ Dublin still the same, or would I be singing wistfully “I remember Dublin City in the rare old times”??
But no, of course not – Dublin IS still the same. Lower Gardiner Street, where me and my school friend had stayed back then, and where we’d booked a room at a nice little hotel called Avondale, still is exactly the same, and so of course is the city centre – Grafton Street, Stephen’s Green, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College. Three days of sightseeing in the most beautiful city in the world were waiting for us!
The next morning, after a hearty Irish breakfast in the basement of our hotel, we set out to cross Anna Liffey and to explore Dublin again. First, we passed the statue of one of Ireland’s greatest heroes: James Connolly, socialist and patriot, who dreamed of a free and socialist Ireland and was shot by the British after the unsuccessful Easter Rising in 1916.
South of the river, the first museum we happened to come across was the – Irish Whiskey Museum! Then on to Grafton Street, the heart of Dublin; full of shops, pubs and tea houses. I started buying an enormous amount of souvenirs there, and then we had a drink in a cosy old pub…
Further south, Stephen’s Green – which, of course, has also remained exactly the same! A huge park with lakes where ducks, seagulls and swans live together peacefully, big old trees and lawns for people to sit down and enjoy the sun. (And yes, believe it or not, we had sunny weather throughout our stay in Ireland!) And there also is a trail in Stephen’s Green following the events of 1916, parts of which took place in the park.
Going back north that evening, we crossed the river at O’Connell Bridge, past the statue of the great Irish politician, and on to the GPO, the General Post Office, that was the main site of the Easter Rising of 1916. Here, James Connolly and his comrades, Patrick Pearse, Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett and others, proclaimed an independent Irish Republic in April 1916 and then fought with their Irish Volunteers against a huge British army contingent for almost a week before being forced to surrender; most of the rebels were executed. It really sends a shiver down your spine to stand on such historical ground!
The next morning, we went south-east to St Patrick’s Cathedral, one of Dublin’s oldest and most famous buildings. An impressive Gothic structure with a beautiful adjacent park – another great place for both Dubliners and tourists to sit down and relax! And not far from there, Dublin Castle – a really unique sight… Built by Norman English in the 13th century, it used to be the symbol of British rule in Ireland, and later on was used for state ceremonies by the Irish government. And, unlike all other medieval castles I’ve ever seen, parts of it are painted in bright yellow, red and blue!
We headed back west to Trinity College, Dublin’s famous old university where people like Wolfe Tone, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett studied; in the library, the old Celtic Book of Kells (9th century) is displayed, and on the college green many athletic events take place – on the day we visited, a charity race was going on! And after all this excitement, we went into O’Neill’s Pub almost right next door for a drink…
That night, we had dinner again at O’Shea’s Hotel in Lower Gardiner Street; and there was live music, too – a very talented young duo performing old Irish favourites! And the next morning, it was time to get to Heuston Station and move on, out of town, southwest towards Cork…
Next: More about our wonderful honeymoon hotel, the Driftwood House, Skibbereen!