Saturday, October 6
Art: New and Old, in Dublin
We got an earlier start today. Of course, part of that earlier start (not that 9:00 is actually early) was offset by the time it took us to eat breakfast here at the Intercontinental. They have a very nice buffet and we had newspapers, and they kept brining us coffee, and it’s funny how time slips away.
We had to go back to the Archaeology Museum because we barely got started in our visit yesterday. Today we spent time looking at the gold and bronze treasures that have been recovered in Ireland. I saw some of it yesterday, but it was new to Patricia. Yesterday I wondered where the gold came from and I discovered that some of it, at least, was found in Ireland. Today I wondered where the craftsmen (craftspeople?) learned their skills. The exhibits were pretty clear about the chronology of the pieces, but not their “evolution.” The reason I want to know is that to my eye many of the designs from 2000 BCE (Before Current Era, or just B.C.) up to 500 BCE seem similar to designs from other parts of Europe to the Middle East at about the same time. Was there much interaction between Ireland and the continent or even further afield?
Next, we went to the Medieval Ireland section. There were exhibits, of course, but there were also a few interactive stations where experts talked about aspects of life in Ireland before and after the Vikings arrived. You will have heard that the bogs in Ireland (and elsewhere) often preserve bodies very well. What you may not know is that they also preserve things like butter, In fact, people used the bogs to preserve butter deliberately. [I’m not sure I would want to try bog-preserved anything.] There were a couple of exhibits of clothes that had been preserved in bogs from just a few hundred years ago. Nothing was said about the fate of the people who might have been wearing the now-preserved clothes.
Then we visited the Vikings in Ireland section of the museum. The Vikings did a lot of raiding along the coast and up the rivers of Ireland before they settled (more or less) and began to build towns—in the places where they didn’t just take over a town. As might be expected, the Vikings had a great influence on the development of Ireland and the exhibits reflect some of the impact. Some areas of Dublin itself have been carefully excavated and there are many artifacts from those areas. Later in the day, we walked in some of the areas that had been excavated—Winetavern Street, for example.
Again, we only saw a few of the rooms of the Museum. The building dates to the 1890s and has many side rooms and narrow, spiral staircases, which means there is often something surprising around the next corner.
We walked from the Archaeology Museum to the National Gallery, which is right around the corner—depending on the route one takes. We went around more that one corner because I headed in the wrong direction when we left the museum.
The National Gallery is another Irish treasure. Admission is free and we saw many families with young children while we were there. The Gallery has grown by accretion over the years and we would have been lost without the help of a docent. We had seen that there was a free tour, which seemed like a good idea to us. What we didn’t realize that it was a “free” tour once you paid your admission to get into the special exhibit—the only part of the gallery that charged a fee. The tour of the exhibit Roderic O Connor and the Moderns: Between Paris and Pont Aven introduced me to an artist about whom I knew nothing. He was a contemporary of Vincent van Gough and Paul Gauguin. O Connor excelled at the use of color. The tour showed how O Connor and other artists influenced each other while living in an artists colony in the Pont Aven area of Brittany in France in the late 1880s and early 1890s. I was so busy that I forgot to take any pictures at all!
Now, for a different kind of art: church art. As an aside, I should mention that Dublin is a walkable city, but that doesn’t mean all the walks are short. We left the Gallery to walk to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and found that the wind (and cold) seemed to make the walk longer than it was in reality.
St. Patrick’s is on the site of a much older church which is thought to have been associated with St. Patrick. I write “much older” but this version of the church dates back to the late 12th century itself. The Cathedral is a popular attraction and it is easy to understand why. There is good signage which helps one know what’s what. There is a lot of stained glass, most of it old. There were (are) many interments in the walls and it is clear that the Cathedral has been not only important in a religious sense but also in a social sense because there are many memorials to soldiers (dating back many years) and local dignitaries. The building was heavily influenced by the Normans and French and while the outside is straightforward, you can see the early Gothic influence.
We wanted to also visit Christ Church Cathedral but when we got there after a short walk from St. Patrick’s it was 5:00 and an attendant gently shooed us off the grounds and closed the gate behind us.
Only one thing to do after being booted from church: find a place to get a drink. One of our drivers yesterday a driver suggested that we visit the Brazen Head Pub—the oldest pub in Dublin. It dates to 1198. After another short walk along the River Liffey, we found it. It seemed more like a coaching inn than just a pub. It has many rooms and at least 2 levels. The courtyard was full of people drinking. Every room inside had its own bar and was full of people drinking—and eating. The protocol seemed to be that you sat at any table where you could find space, and that’s what we did. We did order food—and drink. I had another version of beef and Guinness pie (which wasn’t as good as yesterday’s) and Patricia had a fish chowder she didn’t care for. I suspect they are more focused on the drink part of their operation. We did have a good time, though.
We made our way back to a taxi rank after a walk up the River Liffey and got a ride back to the hotel from another nice taxi driver.
Tomorrow the real fun starts: we will pick up a car at the airport and try to remember how to drive on the left.
Here is a map of our journey today.