Ok dear Reader(s). Imma do this a little differently. I have found I am sacrificing much of the interesting research I find for these blog posts to keep them within a manageable length. And then my friend(s) tell me my posts are still too long. So I am going to focus more on the places and history, even if that means I’m splitting a single day over several blog posts. Eventually I will catch up!
Day five in Dublin dawned delightfully sunny. Seriously. In my six days in Dublin, it didn’t rain once. In fact, it reached about 70* F, which is a heat wave for them. They had no idea how to handle it.
On this day, I broke my fast at Starbucks. In America, one of my favorite breakfasts is an everything bagel with cream cheese and a decaf grande flavored latte from Starbucks. However, this particular location did not have a bagel. They had a scone of sadness. It was processed and I could tell it had been frozen, and it wasn’t even fluffy. I suppose they’re catering to their market, but come on, I wanted a bagel.
The goal for this day was Kilmainham Gaol or bust. And so I begin the trek there again on foot.
En route, I passed Dublin Castle again and decided to look. I was too cheap to buy an admission ticket so I wandered around the courtyard and looked at all the things accessible to the public. It didn’t seem as much like a castle as a fortified manor, but it was also nearly at the heart of City Centre. The shops, roads, and modern buildings might have killed the castle feel, because when one hears castle, one has probably a slightly different image.
Ok strike all of that. Reading the history of Dublin Castle, that land has been occupied by some sort of fortification since the Vikings. That’s pretty cool, especially when you consider that it survived the 1919 Rebellion in which much of Dublin was destroyed. This is a link to the “modern” castle of today.
Just about the only parts of the castle accessible to the non-paying public were the chapel and the gardens. So, I saw the chapel and the gardens.
The chapel was ornately carved. I would like to say it was done in the high Gothic style, but I really have no idea what I’m talking about where architecture is concerned. But it reminded me of some of the ornate buildings I saw when I visited Oxford about ten years ago. I am probably making a grave boo-boo when I call it a chapel because it no longer had an altar and looked like it was more of an elaborate concert hall than a place of worship. Still, there were the high ceilings and tall stained glass windows that created a very pleasant atmosphere.
According to the Dublin Castle website:
The Chapel Royal is a gothic revival (Ha! I was right! Gothic!) building designed by Francis Johnston. It is famous for its vaulting, its particularly fine plaster decoration and carved oaks and galleries. Of particular interest are the coats of arms of the Justiciars, Lord Deputies and Lord Lieutenants from the first, Hugh de Lacy (1172), which was two years after the Norman invasion, to the last, FitzAlan (1922), which, remarkably, occupies the last available space. (This being a chapel, I say that’s divine providence.)
Outside the chapel, I walked through the courtyards to read more signs and try to peek in the windows. Much of the courtyard space has actually been devoted to parking, so it lost a little bit of the feel dodging between Toyotas and whatever the popular Irish is. I suppose that’s what happens when something that old is in the middle of a living, growing, modern city.
At one point, a nice man approached me with a camera and asked me if I would take a picture of him and his friends. As we had been doing the proletariat tour of Dublin Castle in the same order, we had been following each other for the past half hour and were basically best friends, as far as tourism goes. So I agreed. Take note of them. They will appear in my next post.
They got their picture taken in front of Bedford Tower, an edifice that dates from the late 18th Century. From what I gather, the Tower itself was built where the original Castle gate – including a portcullis – used to stand. I am not sure when the original gate fell. The Tower also used to be a prison and house the crown jewels, although I’m not sure which crown. This probably gets into the ancient history of Ireland and the king over all the smaller tribal kings, and that is a research project for another day.
We sort of awkwardly went our separate ways in the same direction and met again inside the Dublin Gardens. While reading all the signs about the Garden and its history, we started talking. It turns out this group was in Dublin for a choral festival, and this particular group was from London with one member from Australia. They said one of the groups from Washington, DC – the Rock Creek Something Group – was pretty good. They also liked it when I told them Rock Creek, from which the group gets its name, had a lot of nice nature walks and hikes and was really good for the outdoorsy folks.
At the entrance to the gardens was a sign with a brief history of the gardens. The really super cool part was the part that talked about how Dublin got its name. The city was settled on the River Liffey, and a smaller tributary, the River Poddle, met up with the Liffey and formed a dark pool. In the Irish language, dark = /dubh/ (“Doove”), and pool = /lind/ (“lin”). Thus, Doove-linn, which eventually became Dublin. That means that the entire city, the Shining City on the Hill for the Irish, was named for this little pool made by the River Poddle.
The gardens are a large circular lawn with brick pathways that form a Celtic design. Smaller gardens, fountains, and benches are spread around the perimeter. Just inside the entrance from the main castle is a memorial dedicated to, I think, fallen police officers, or people who have given their lives in the service to the state. This being Ireland, “service to the state” can have a very broad meaning. An Garda Síochána is the Irish police force. It was a nice memorial. I think the Garda (police) museum is located somewhere in the Castle. In another corner was a fountain with a large statue of a snail made out of colored glass and such. On the opposite side of the gardens from the entrance is the carriage house. And on the side is a library dedicated to the works of Chester Beatty, a man who had a massive collection of artifacts from the Orient. Apparently the Chester Beatty Library is the only museum to win a European museum award. I did not actually go in and explore because I wanted to get on to the Gaol (remember, my goal for the day was the Gaol), but I think I missed out on a real opportunity.
But I had tarried o’er long at Dublin Castle. In haste, I rushed out to the street to catch a bus to see the Gaol. But then I got sidetracked by the building next door, the City Hall. Which is a story for another day. Stay tuned!
I hope this format works better, dear Reader(s). I get to show more pictures!