Dublin, Ireland’s actual name in Gaelic is Baile Atha Cliath, Éire pronounced Bal-ya-Awha-Clee-ah, Ay-ra.
We love learning bits of different languages as we travel. Wouldn’t it be great to be fluent in each? Although English was commonly spoken in Dublin, we were surprised that Gaelic is just as prevalent. Maybe we shouldn’t have been, but every person we have ever met from “The Emerald Isle” speaks English so well we naively thought the Irish language, Gaelic, was not used as much. Happy to say that is not the case. Regardless of the language however, Dublin is a warm and welcoming city, and we were recipients of their spontaneous humor and friendliness. It felt like home.
Two names, two meanings.
The name Dublin comes from the Irish word Dubhlinn, from dubh meaning “black, dark”, and linn meaning “pool”, referring to a dark tidal pool in the center of the city where the River Poddle entered the River Liffey.
However, as mentioned above, the official Irish name for the city is, Baile Atha Cliath which means “Town of the Ford of the Reed Hurdles”. Before bridges, the first crossing of the River Liffey was done via reed mats. The mats were laid on the river bed enabling travellers to cross safely at low tide.
Next to this original river crossing is the oldest pub in Dublin and the 2nd oldest in all of Ireland, The Brazen Head, originally built in 1198.
(The oldest pub in Ireland and the oldest pub in Europe, according to Guinness World Records, is Sean’s Bar, built in 900 CE located 75 miles (122 km) west of Dublin.)
Naturally we had to pop in to the Brazen Head and like all pubs it was welcoming, cheerful and very busy serving up fresh appetizing lunches during our visit.
Temple Bar is both a bar and an entire area of bars known for its lively afternoon and nightlife. There are a number of great pubs in Temple Bar worth checking out. However, The Temple Bar, fully decked out in flowers and flags, we think, is a must stop. (See last week’s blog) It is quite large inside and was extremely busy every time we went inside. There are multiple rooms, nooks and crannies to hang out it and perhaps one of the few pubs playing live music throughout the day and evening. Temple Bar also boasts having Ireland’s largest collection of whiskey. It has 450 bottles of rare and interesting whiskeys they have been collecting for decades from around the world.
This statue of James Joyce is at his permanent table in Temple Bar and he is always willing to share his tiny table with a new friend or two. One of Joyce’s quotes was: “When I die Dublin will be written in my heart.”
One of the oldest landmarks in the city is Dublin Castle. Following the Norman invasion, England’s King John, the first Lord of Ireland, in 1204 ordered a castle be built with strong walls and deep ditches for the defence of the city and the protection of the King’s treasure. Completed by 1230, the castle had tall defensive walls around a large square with circular towers at each corner.
Dublin Castle would remain the fortified seat of British rule in Ireland from the time the Castle was built until the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, when the Castle was handed over to the newly formed Irish Government.
The Easter Rising of 1916 was when Irish republicans attempted to end British rule and establish an Irish Republic. Although unsuccessful it was soon followed by the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921). By the beginning of 1922, Ireland had finally regained Dublin Castle and her long awaited Independence.
Doors of Dublin
Living in a city where cloud coverage and grey days are common, you may want to infuse a little color around you. Dubliners have done that brilliantly by painting their doors in cheerful splashes of color.
A taxi driver relayed to us a story of how Dublin’s doors came to be. He said back when an English King ruled over Ireland, at the King’s passing, the Irish were ordered to paint their doors black as a sign of respect. Being the strongly independent souls they were, they instead painted their doors in the brightest and boldest colors they could find.🎨
There is a second story that circulates as well. It is said that women began painting their doors so their inebriated husbands wouldn’t end up in someone else’s home, mistaking another’s bed as their own. 🤷
Gailearaí Náisiúnta na hÉireann – National Gallery of Ireland
The National Gallery opened in 1864 and shows a wonderful collection of Irish and European art. In addition to paintings by the french masters, we particularly liked artworks by two Irish artists, Patrick Swift (1927-1983) and Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957).
When the Gallery opened it had 112 paintings and today, through purchases and local donations the collection has more than 14,000 pieces, including 2,500 oil paintings, 5,000 drawings, 5,000 prints, sculptures, furniture and other works of art.
The National Gallery also houses more than 100 thousand art related books in its library and archives. The library is open to the public, and has a large portfolio of material relating to the history of western European art from the Middle Ages forward as well as an extensive collection relating to Ireland’s history of art.
Flavors of Ireland
Neither of us are beer drinkers, but when in Dublin, one must at least try a Guinness. We will admit the ice cold beverage was quite enjoyable.
Instead of touring the Guinness Brewery however, we headed over to the Jameson Distillery, founded in 1780. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the entertaining and informative tour followed by a comparative tasting. We learned about the ‘angel’s share’ – a term used to describe a percentage of the liquid, while in the barrels, that would evaporate into the heavens. Jameson produces 25 different types of whiskey and nearly half of them are offered exclusively at the distillery visitor center. At the end of our visit we each received an “Official Jameson Irish Whiskey Taster” certificate.
The Irish cuisine was excellent. We saw a variety of warm and hearty stews, soups and chowders including the national dish, Irish Stew. Most are accompanied with the most delicious brown/black bread. Of course Ireland’s staple, the potato, is mixed, mashed and mingled in a thousand different ways and generally added to every serving. How many of these potato dishes have you tried:
- Boxty-a cross between a potato pancake and a hash brown
- Farl-a type of potato cake
- Colcannon-delicious mashed with kale or cabbage and butter
- Champ-delicious mashed with onions and butter
- Coddle-a combination of potato, sausage and bacon
Mutton, fish+chips and burgers are prevalent as are sweet and savory pies. A 3-day visit is not nearly enough time to try the wonderful variety of traditional flavors.
There is a good chance you have already heard of and possibly tried Irish Coffee. It is a bold chilly-weather drink made with hot coffee, Irish whiskey and topped with a little whipping cream. We also saw Bailey’s Irish Cream Coffee on most menus so decided to should try it. The recipe is the same as Irish Coffee with the additional of Baileys. Mmmmm, very tasty.
EPIC, The Irish Emigration Museum
Winner of Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction for 2019, this private museum only opened in 2016. Via imaginative and interactive displays, it shares the journey of the Irish people throughout their history and their impact on the world.
There are an impressive twenty galleries covering 4 main topics. 1) Migration-beginning in 500 CE. 2) Motivation-the Irish that left their country for reasons voluntarily or not – missionary work, the Irish Famine, persecution, criminal transportation, conflict and war. 3) Influence-shares Irish immigrants who have become leaders around the world in business, education, science, sports, dance, design and the arts, music, political leaders, writers, chefs, even the troublemakers. 4) the final displays showed the global scattering of Irish culture and heritage today through connections and celebrations. Aren’t we all a wee bit Irish on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day?
A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a few hours and you leave with a new respect for this small but influential nation.
Ard-Mhúsaem na hÉireann – Seandálaíocht
The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, founded in 1890, is home to more than two million archaeological artefacts. They have treasures from prehistoric Ireland, following the last ice age, stone implements dating back to 7,000 BCE, artefacts through the Iron age up through the Medieval period.
We saw Celtic art from early medieval church treasures and artefacts from Viking Ireland and Medieval Ireland. One of the most important treasure collections was the striking Bronze Age gold objects dated between 2200 BCE and 500 BCE.
The lovely Tara Brooch from the 7th century CE is one of Ireland’s greatest pieces of jewelry and still today a popular symbol of Ireland’s rich past.
In Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”
This popular song entitled Molly Malone was written and composed in 1884 by James Yorkston, of Edinburgh and has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin.
We found the infamous Molly Malone with her wheelbarrow statue. During the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations, the statue was presented to the city and June 13th was declared Molly Malone Day.
Faiche Stiabhna – St. Stephen’s Green
Our cozy Airbnb was in Dublin’s, Georgian Quarter and that meant we were very close to the lovely 22 acre city park called St. Stephen’s Green. Once a marsh, in 1664 it was enclosed by large homes and a private garden was created for the residents that surrounded it. In 1889 it was redesigned and opened to the public.
We enjoyed shortcutting through it more than once as we explored the city. Full of massive trees, baskets and beds of flowers, winding pathways, fountains and a large lake that is home to waterfowl, St. Stephen’s Green was a lovely break from the busy streets. It was also full of interesting history.
We found the Three Fates statue – a gift from the German people as thanks to the Irish following World War II. 500 German children children found foster homes in Ireland in a project named Operation Shamrock.
We found an unusual Braille garden – a garden for the blind with scented plants labelled in Braille.
We found the Yeats memorial sculpture we described in last weeks blog.
We found a second memorial to the Great Famine of 1845–1850 created by Edward Delaney, a bust of the Irish novelist, James Joyce and a bust of Constance Markievicz (1868-1927) known as Countess Markievicz, an Irish politician, revolutionary, nationalist, suffragist, the first woman elected to the Westminster Parliament and the first female cabinet minister in Europe.
Noticeably more outgoing and cheerful that many residents in other Europeans countries we have traveled to, the good-natured Dubliners were helpful and outgoing, displaying the jaunty Irish nature they are famous for. Rich in history, personality and natural landscapes, Ireland is certainly a country we would like to explore more thoroughly on a return visit.
Farewell from the land of the leprechauns.☘️
Slàinte from these Dubliners,
Ted and Julia