Day fifteen: Dublin ramble

We crossed Ireland from west to east yesterday, a trip of a little over two hours. It used to take at least three hours, meandering through little villages on narrow roads, but the wonders of modern highway design have made it a lot quicker–albeit much blander.

This morning we took the local bus into town from Dublin City University, where we’re staying– about a 15-minute ride. We hopped out right in front of the General Post Office (GPO), which was the principal battleground in the Easter Rising of 1916, when members of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizens’ Army took and held it (and the City Hall, shown below) until the British got their Artillery in place, and a gunboat up the River Liffey, and shelled them into submission. If you’ve seen Michael Collins, starring Liam Neeson, you may recognize this as the setting of the opening scene.

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There used to be a statue of Admiral Nelson, the British naval hero, atop a towering granite pillar, right in front of it, but some Irishmen lads, resenting this thumb in the eye, managed to blow it sky-high on March 8, 1966. It was eventually replaced by this abstract, much-more-towering sculpture, which is called “The Spire.” It’s “a spire,” get it? No? Say it faster, while thinking hopeful thoughts.

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The River Liffey transects the city. “Dublin” means “black pool,” which refers to the boggy marsh next to which Vikings established it in 841. Every major city in Ireland, except for Galway, has Viking origins. “Location, location, location” to them translated as “on an estuary,” and they found several of them along the coast of Ireland.

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We wandered trough Temple Bar, which is where a lot of the night life here happens. Mike knew exactly why I was taking this picture.

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In a shaded, grassy spot next to Christchurch Cathedral, with a view of the Four Courts, Mike ran through about twelve centuries of Dublin’s history, from the Vikings to the Civil War (1922-23). Have I mentioned that the weather on this trip has been impeccable–or, at least, barely peccable?

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A few blocks from there we went through St. Audoen’s Gate in the original city wall, dating to the 13th century.

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Next up on the walking historical tour was Dublin Castle, which was the locus of British forces in Ireland, housing, among other things, all of the intelligence files related to insurgent activities.

In the background you can see the gate at The Castle. It’s topped by the figure of Justice, and the irony of the fact that she is facing toward the Castle courtyard, with her derriere turned to the Irish outside, has not been lost on the locals, who coined an apt couplet in her honor:

“The Statue of Justice, mark well her station:

Her face to the castle and her arse to the nation!”

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Last stop, right next to the Castle, was Dublin City Hall, which is now primarily a tourist attraction. During the Easter Rising, the rebels (who were not soldiers by a long stretch) overcame the British forces here, but stopped short of attacking the adjacent Castle: They thought it would be too well-manned to yield, not realizing that only a handful of British troops were there–the majority were out at the Horse Races that day.

That’s Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator,” looking Roman and waving to our charming group.

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It’s a lovely building, and I take this picture of a stairwell every time I go there.

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Then, without fail, I make my pilgrimage to the back side of St. Stephen’s Green.

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