Monday, March 3, 2003 (03/03/03) - Back in Dublin after touring the south, I had a chance to see a few things I'd missed on my first day. One the recommendation of a Dubliner, I visited Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison that is linked to the struggle for Irish independence. The tour covered two aspects of the prison - a jail for criminals and for political prisoners. It was most crowded during the years of the famine, when begging in the streets and stealing food were severely punished. Some would commit crimes intentionally, since they were assured of being fed while jailed. Prisoners were also held here while awaiting transportation to Australia penal colonies. More compelling is its role in Ireland's fight for freedom. Nearly every rebellion saw its leaders jailed in Kilmainham: the rebels of 1798, the Young Irelanders of 1848, the Fenians of 1867, and the Easter Rising of 1916. It was the swift and brutal execution of the Easter Rising leaders in the prison yard that turned the Irish sentiment against the idea of a compromise with Britain and towards independence. My visit to Kilmainham provided some insight into Ireland's political history, but also reinforced just how complex that history is.

Next I toured Christ Church Cathedral, directly across the street from my hotel. It was first built in 1172 under orders from Strongbow, an earl who led the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland and briefly ruled over it until King Henry II of England reclaimed it. The present structure mixes Romanesque and Early English styles, and like St. Patrick's cathedral, is filled with treasures: handsomely inlaid floors, carved pillars, tomb fragments, and even a mummified cat and rat found in the pipe organ. The huge 12th century crypt runs under the entire church. Also like St. Patrick's, it is was formerly Catholic but taken for the Anglicans. Dublin has no official Catholic cathedral, for the church still awaits the return of these two.

Having had my fill of tour, I spent the afternoon wandering the streets of Dublin's fair city. On Grafton Street, the city's quaint shopping street, upscale stores drew crowds while buskers (street musicians) hoped to get their big break,or at least some pocket change. Dubliners loves their statues - several dot the city and have earned nicknames, such as Molly Malone, "the tart with the cart." I searched in vain for the Anna Livia Fountain, "the floozie in the jacuzzi," and I never did figure out where the "hags with the bags" were either. Fortunately, James Joyce hasn't earned a nickname. Yet.

That evening I opted for a change of pace from my regular pub crawl and went to the Abbey Theater, Ireland's National Theater. Founded in 1906, it played an important role in the revival of Irish culture. The performance of "All My Sons" was excellent, very well acted.

Tuesday, March 4, 2003 - After a full Irish breakfast, in which I discovered I like black pudding, I had a few hours before catching my flight to Munich, so I went past the Custom House, built in 1791 along the Liffey. Also on the riverside was the moving Famine Memorial, a group of long, thin figures that, to me, each displayed different harrowing emotion. Desperation, disbelief, longing, hopelessness, each expressed so simply.

I had time to quickly pop into the National Gallery, home to painting by Jack B. Yeats and other Irish artist, as well as a international collection including Caravaggio, Rembrandt and El Greco. Walking back past the pubs of the Temple Bar, I was amazed at what a wonderful time I'd had in Ireland. And I'm sure I'll be back, for the sites, the pints and the great craic.



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