Emerald green paradise under a grey sky. A people rebellious but peaceable, melancholy yet full of fun. Ireland’s capital Dublin is a ‘literary’ city in the true sense of the word.
Aharmony of contradictions: the silence before the storm, or the stillness following a rampage. A mélange that combines all the extremes under a uniform grey sky. On the one hand confrontational and rebellious, on the other measured and peace-loving. All tones and textures in one; silence and tumult juxtaposed. A firm attachment to life, a smiling glance breaking from green eyes hidden behind a cascade of red locks. Back streets where jollity reigns. And, finally, melancholy, clinging to a freckled face, pale from being deprived of sunlight for weeks on end. City that inspired James Joyce’s Ulysses, and motivated Samuel Becket to do absolutely nothing.
DUBLIN WITHOUT ITS PUBS: UNTHINKABLE
Until you get lost in its streets, hang out in its pubs, and keep a rendezvous on one of its bridges, it is impossible to understand how this ‘little metropolis’ has produced so many world-class writers. For Dublin keeps you on the outside looking in, doesn’t reveal itself readily. But when it does finally decide to open up to you, you find yourself willy-nilly ensconced on a park bench scribbling notes—until, that is, a sudden shower catches you unawares. You come to understand too the reason for so many pubs when you strike up a conversation with an Irishman escaping a downpour in one of the many that perform a public service as a refuge from the rain.
Dublin’s pubs occupy a central place in the city’s life. So much so that the average Dubliner goes to one at least once, and usually twice, a week. The pubs that offer a quick soup and sandwich at lunchtime come into their own in the evening when people go home from work. Most people even hold their family gatherings in these venues, while others, like home and workplace, where so much of life is spent, are relegated to secondary status. It’s not for nothing that Joyce said: It was impossible to “cross Dublin without passing a pub on every corner,” that this was the most difficult labyrinth
THE WORLD’S MOST TOURISTIC UNIVERSITY
Trinity College is the spot we could perhaps term the ‘ground zero’ of Dublin, which is divided into north and south by the River Liffey and vertically by O’Connell Avenue. The apple of Dublin’s eye, this institution of higher learning has created its own aura with a history stretching back perhaps for centuries: College Green... Who all do not number among its illustrious alumni?
Thanks to this touristic popularity, which falls to the fate of precious few schools in this world, the university shop, a favorite stop with visitors, does a land office business in gifts and souvenir items. Although the campus itself is well worth seeing, above all don’t miss seeing the Book of Kells,
a spectacular manuscript copy of the Bible illuminated page by page by monks on the Island of Iona off the western coast of Scotland in the early 9th century. Wander as well through the library’s Long Room, where you will see some two hundred thousand rare books, each hundreds of years old, standing mutely and sagely on oaken shelves at least as old as they are.
TIME TO SHOP
Grafton is one avenue in Dublin that absolutely must be walked. A broad thoroughfare, open only to pedestrian traffic, with plenty of shopping. The perfect drawing point for locals and tourists alike with its street musicians, and its scampish youngbloods and fetchingly fair maidens strolling up and down. In its fashionable shops the world’s most expensive brands lie in wait for travelers eager to show off— “I got it on Grafton Street”— to friends back home, or for the Irish, whose income level is now pushing the top of the world league. Don’t let the price tags put you off; check out a neighboring shop window and you’ll find low-cost but quality goods at prices to seduce even a seasoned bargain hunter.
NO SLEEPING IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD!
There might be an excuse for going to Dublin and not visiting certain places. But Temple Bar, just a two minute walk from College Green and five from Grafton Street, isn’t one of them. Newcomers to Dublin may assume Temple Bar is just another bar among bars. But Temple Bar is also the name of a whole neighborhood. Legends on the subject are rife, but one of the most convincing and widespread claims that a philosophy and literature teacher by the name of Sir William Temple chose the sailors on the ships anchored in the harbor as his target clientele and opened a place called ‘Temple Bar’, which in time set its seal on the entire district. Nowadays just about every new place opening up tries to launch itself by adding ‘Temple Bar’ somewhere in its name. Besides the traditional Irish pubs, a welter of entertainment venues addressing diverse tastes and lifestyles bring musical giants like U2 and the Cranberries together with their fans.
CONTINUING OUR TOUR ON THE BRIDGES
When the city grew up along the river of the canal that cuts it in two rather than on the sea coast, it became necessary to build numerous bridges to join the two halves. The busiest of these bridges, most of which are open only to pedestrian traffic, is O’Connell Bridge, open also to vehicle traffic, which links the main thoroughfare of the same name with the South. It’s impossible in any case to come to Dublin and not cross this bridge. If you stop while you’re on it and glance to the west, in other words, against the current of the river, you’ll see Halfpenny Bridge, built exclusively for pedestrians.
SOUTH AND NORTH
The South starts at the Liffey. But its acknowledged beginning is St. Stephen’s Green, an area that includes a park of the same name and a shopping mall. When the sun shows its face ever so slightly, Dubliners, native and visitor alike, bow to its invitation to stretch out on the grass and enjoy a moment’s pleasure with no thought of the downpour will let loose in no time.
Further south, towards Ballsbridge and Blackrock, Dublin’s ‘elite’ face will greet you with its elegant homes, exclusive restaurants and swanky hotels. Due to the preponderance of embassies, this is also the city’s most well-protected area. And even further to the south, you’ll reach the legendary emerald green villages where you can put up at a typical ‘cottage’ and go horseback riding or play golf in the countryside. A more modest but work-oriented and cosmopolitan lifestyle reigns in the northern sector, which also includes the airport. Don’t let the human diversity of this city of just over a million population in total surprise you. The blend of people of Far Eastern, Asian and Middle Eastern origin, as well as new arrivals particularly from EU-member Eastern European countries drawn by Ireland’s attractive working conditions, have turned the city into an international playground in recent years—a phenomenon in which the tolerant and egalitarian attitudes of the Irish people and their government naturally play a big part. Meanwhile Malahide, the ‘pearl’ of the north, is reminiscent of a resort town. With its yacht harbor, fish restaurants and houses overlooking the sea, it makes a popular getaway for some city residents and a place of permanent residence for others. No matter how you look at it,
a beautiful, guintessentially Irish town, and a place definitely worth seeing.
THE SECRET OF THE SHAMROCK
If you ask an ordinary Irishman why the shamrock is the national symbol, he will tell you it symbolizes the Trinity and therefore brings good luck. But you, not satisfied with this, will see that it is also a very apt reflection of the modest Irish way of life that knows how to be content, even happy, with the run-of-the-mill, with whatever happens. To put it another way, you will sense the inner peace of a people who are thrilled when they find a three-leaf clover among the four. And Dublin, now even nearer with Turkish Airlines’ new flights, is going to allow you to experience this inner peace as well through the wry humor of its jolly and unassuming people and its emerald green natural beauty.