I feel like most places I go, I have a pretty good idea of what the destination has to offer. Between reading travel books and just generally browsing the internet about my next adventure, I’ve usually had a decent impression of where I am going. To my happy surprise, this was not the case with Dublin, Ireland.
The feel of Dublin was not at all like other European cities I have been to – it didn’t really seem like the major touristy city one might expect. You could go from residential areas to historic district to college campus to tourist hotspot in a 5 minute walk. There aren’t obnoxious retailers everywhere in the streets trying to sell you anything they can with the words “Dublin” or “Ireland” plastered across it (although there definitely are a few shops around the city to quell your souvenir-buying urges). And in general, I have felt less like a tourist and more like a member of the city than anywhere else I’ve gone. Not to say that Dublin doesn’t have its great attractions: visiting the Temple Bar area is a must and the city has numerous museums and monuments to check out.
Dublin is also a city that is very proud of its rich heritage of great literature, and there are dedications to authors such as Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, and others everywhere. Nearly every city street has a statue commemorating a famous cultural or literary figure. And nearly every statue has an alternate (slightly offensive) nickname, that for some reason always rhymes.
Dublin was surprising in more ways than just its unique city layout and feel, because I thought it would be more of a major metropolitan city than it seemed. However it was only about a half an hour bus ride from pure countryside, complete with sheep as far as the eye can see.
Before going to Dublin, even after doing all my research, I didn’t know that there was a 400ft spike called the “Spire of Light” built on top of the old Nelson Pillar. I knew about the Pillar because it was bombed by the IRA in 1966 and is the subject of quite a few Irish songs. As it turns out, the Spire is almost as unpopular as the Pillar was (probably why its not well known) and I didn’t meet a single resident of Dublin who seemed to like it. The fiery old Irishman named Seamus who ran our hostel said that the only thing he disliked more than the Spire was when people added blackcurrant flavoring to Guinness, which apparently ought to be considered the 8th deadly sin.
Seamus also told us not to miss out on getting as much Guinness as we could while we were in Dublin, and that it goes great with any meal! He needn’t have worried, because the one thing we knew we were absolutely going to do in Dublin was tour the Guinness Storehouse. It was my favorite experience of Dublin – not just because I like Guinness Stout (a lot), but because it was like an alcohol-filled, adult version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory, complete with winding walkways, waterfalls, and even a glass elevator that takes you to be served free beer.
While Dublin wasn’t what I was expecting, it is still a city with a lot to offer and 4 days wasn’t nearly enough time to do half the things we wanted to, which is okay I guess because that’s a pretty good reason to go back someday soon.
P.S. Sláinte is a drinking toast in Ireland, and literally means “health”.