Monday, November 12, 2012

Dublin: Part 2: History Day

Bet you never thought there would be a "Part 2" in my series of Dublin posts, did you? If you're interested in reviewing, here is the Preface and Part 1. Now I will tell you about the nerdy, nerdy way I spent St. Patrick's Day this year.

My comrades and I spent a large portion of the day learning about Dublin's history and trying (most unsuccessfully) to avoid crowds. We started off by heading to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a very old illuminated manuscript of the Gospels of the New Testament. It was created c. 800 by Celtic monks, and it was, obviously, all done by hand, which is truly amazing. The exhibit is about the creation of the book, going into detail about how the inks would have been made, who likely worked on it, how long it would have taken, and other things of that ilk. And while that may sound stuffy, it really is incredible and totally worth checking out. In this day and age we take easy, machine-aided work for granted, so it's important to be reminded of a time when painstaking craftsmanship was the only way to do things. It's mind-blowing what they were able to achieve and that those achievements have remained intact to this day.

At the end of the exhibit, you get to see some pages of the Book itself, which they turn every so often, so if you go more than once, you're likely to see different pages. Admission to the Book of Kells usually costs around €8 for students, but for St. Paddy's Day, it was free! And because everyone else in the city was pretty focused on stumbling blindly through the streets, the exhibit was almost empty, so we got plenty of time to press our faces up to the glass and take it in. You are never allowed to photograph the Book of Kells, so here is a picture I got off Wikipedia of one of its more famous pages:

Next we went to the National Museum of Ireland primarily to see the bog bodies! The bog bodies, if you've never heard of them, are the mummified corpses of people from hundreds, even thousands, of years ago who were murdered and then thrown into Irish bogs. The lack of air in the swampy land preserved the bodies so well that, when they were found, they still had skin, hair, and clothing. A few even still had the contents of their stomachs, allowing scientists to analyze their final meal! These things are as creepy as they sound, and just as cool. I saw them a couple of years ago and almost passed out; mostly because of the terrible ways most of these people were murdered. But they are so fascinating to look at. I don't have any pictures of the bodies because a. they are kind of gross and b. I felt like it was sort of disrespectful to photograph the dead, but they're worth a look if you ever get the chance. Or if you want to read this Wikipedia page.

Making our way through Dublin was an ordeal that day. The streets were packed with people who didn't even seem to be going anywhere, just wandering in a (presumably) drunken stupor. If ever I've understood the plight of the salmon, it was trying to walk around Temple Bar.

Despite the difficulty, we made it to the historic district and Christ Church Cathedral. As you can read on Wikipedia, Christ Church is the older of Dublin's two medieval cathedrals. It was founded c. 1030, but it still looks amazing today. In addition to its fabulous architecture and beautiful stained glass, Christ Church has some very cool underground vaults with an exhibition about the history of the church.

On our way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon Dublinia, a super-fun interactive museum about the various stages of Dublin's history, from the Viking era to the present day. Unfortunately, we arrived there about an hour before closing, so we didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked. We were also sharing our experience with a group of very obnoxious Spanish men, who impeded my ability to play dress-up. I still managed a few good costumes, though.

As you can see, Dublinia had all kinds of awesome. It also had this fake man, sitting on a facsimile of a medieval toilet: 

And so, after a lovely day of learning about Dublin's history (and medieval plumbing), we ate dinner and shared a few drinks in honor of St. Patrick. Sláinte!

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