All photos and videos by Linda A. Rapka
A Texan walks into a pub in Temple Bar, Dublin and clears his throat to the crowd of drinkers. He says, “I hear you Dubliners are a bunch of hard drinkers. I’ll give 500 American dollars to anybody in here who can drink 10 pints of Guinness back-to-back.” The room is quiet, and no one takes up the Texan’s offer. One man even leaves. Thirty minutes later the same gentleman who left shows up and taps the Texan on the shoulder. “Is your bet still good?” asks the Dub. The Texan says yes and asks the bartender to line up 10 pints of Guinness. Immediately the Dub tears into all 10 of the pint glasses, drinking them all back-to-back. The other pub patrons cheer as the Texan sits in amazement. The Texan gives the Dub the $500 and says, “If ya don’t mind me askin’, where did you go for that 30 minutes you were gone?” The Dub replies, “Oh… I had to go to the pub down the street to see if I could do it first.”
My five days in Dublin were without a doubt five of the most enjoyable of my life. After experiencing a whirlwind adventure in Stockholm then Barcelona with one, then two, of my dearest friends, we three left Spain to embark on our own solo adventures. Jonathan went to explore Portugal, while Christy ventured on to Paris, then various parts of Italy and Norway. The first stop on my own #soloeurotravels was the Republic of Ireland’s capital city, Dublin.
Prior to my arrival, I naively did not know that Dublin was so… Irish. When I used to think of Ireland, what came to mind was Northern Ireland. I was of course always well aware that N. Ireland is part of the UK and a different country altogether — however, I didn’t know before just how starkly different the two countries are culturally. The national and first official language in the Republic of Ireland is Irish Gaelic, and all the street signs and other official signage in the country includes both Irish and English. They drive on the left-hand side of the road, and have courteously painted handy “LOOK LEFT” and “LOOK RIGHT” instructional markings at each crosswalk that, to be sure, have saved the lives of many inebriated tourists.
There is much to be said about the divide between the two countries, but this is not the place for all that. Here I will only share photos, videos, and fun memories of these two wondrous places in the world.
A few snapshots of the impressive Trinity College campus, founded in 1592:
After getting acclimated my first day with a three-hour guided walking tour with a local–followed by a self-guided tour of the many pubs lining the famous Temple Bar district–I started off Day 2 with a trip to Dublin Castle. Originally built as a defensive fortification for the Norman city of Dublin in 1204, it later evolved into a royal residence. It served as the seat of the United Kingdom government’s administration in Ireland until 1922, and is now a major Irish government complex. Most of the structure itself dates from the 18th century.
We also peaked into the Chapel Royal, a beautiful gothic revival building designed by Francis Johnston. This was the official Church of Ireland chapel of the Household of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1814 until the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.
Next we visited Christ Church Cathedral. Nearly 1,000 years old, this ancient place of worship was founded circa 1048 and remains active today. During the medieval period this was a major pilgrimage site, and still houses an important collection of relics. I splurged and spent an extra 4 Euro to climb into the scenic belfry, which houses a staggering 19 bells that ring full-circle, more than any other cathedral in the world.
The belfry tour was fascinating and made all the better by our knowledgeable and insightful tour guide, David, by whom I was admittedly a bit smitten. (He’s the one on the right in the hyperlinked photo, to be clear 🙂 ) The Irish Times published a wonderful article all about the bells and their rich history, which you can read here.
Up in the belfry I was privileged to ring one of the lighter bells, weighing in at a mere half-ton.
I then made my way down into the bowels of the church’s ancient crypt.
The crypt contains various monuments and historical features, including:
- the oldest known secular carvings in Ireland, two carved statues that until the late 18th century stood outside the Tholsel (Dublin’s medieval city hall, which was demolished in 1806)
- a tabernacle and set of candlesticks which were used when the cathedral last operated (for a very short time) under the “Roman rite”, when the Roman Catholic king, James II, having fled England in 1690, came to Ireland to fight for his throne and attended High Mass in the temporary restoration of Christ Church as a Roman Catholic cathedral.
- the stocks, formerly in Christ Church Place, made in 1670 and used for the punishment of offenders before the Court of the Dean’s Liberty (the small area under the cathedral’s exclusive civic authority), moved here in 1870
- historic books and altar goods of the Cathedral
Also here in the crypt, among the estimated 4,000 entombed human remains, lie a mummified cat and rat, mentioned by James Joyce in Finnegans Wake, fondly referred to by locals as Tom & Jerry.
Another of the cathedral’s more intriguing inhabitants are the mummified remains of a cat and rat. According to church lore, the cat chased the rat into a pipe of an organ and both became stuck. James Joyce used both cat and rat as a simile in Finnegan’s Wake when he described someone as being “…As stuck as that cat to that mouse in that tube of that Christchurch organ…” The cat is chasing the rat in perpetuity behind glass in the crypt of the church.
Much more is to be said of the extraordinary food (yes, really), drink, and nightlife in Dublin, of my trip to ancient Celtic ruins and castles, and of the jaw-dropping beauty in Northern Ireland, which I shall save for another day. Stay tuned!