How is beer and the most famous Irish author James Joyce connected? The following quote is from his masterpiece “Ulysses”:
“A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub.”
And he’s right. We didn’t succeed. What a shame…
The book “Ulysses” by Joyce is mostly known for being unreadable, but it’s so tightly connected with Dublin and so important an artwork, that this alone attracts many travellers to the city. But even if you haven’t read or know anything about Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Yeats and the others, trailing a city through it’s famous writers will tell you a lot about the identity of a country. If you don’t care about writers this is where Colin Farell was born…
Here’s my guide to Dublin for the cultural traveller:
And let’s start with the beer, since beer and books go well together (also Whiskey). There are more than a 1000 pubs in Dublin. But follow the author James Joyce and the James Joyce Pub Award given in 2000 to the “authentic Irish pubs”. If Joyce say it’s good…
We went through the (in)famous Temple Bar area, but it was a little too crowded for us. I recommend the old Stag’s Head looking like 1895 with a beautiful ceiling in the snug room and Victorian interior. A pub probably existed here in 1770!
One cider is named after Richard de Clare – known as Strongbow- who (surprisingly?) wasn’t a writer, but an Anglo-Norman nobleman – although the nickname might be a mistranslation. You’ll find him buried in the Christ Church Cathedral.
Another – not so obvious – connection to the writers are the new harbour area Docklands. On a sunny Sunday, this a fine walking tour and nice to see something different architecture than the rest of Dublin. You’ll also find EPIC the immigrant museum here.
The bridge looking a like a harp (the national symbol of Ireland found on Ryanair, Guiness and in Trinity College) is called Samuel Beckett Bridge. Samuel Beckett was an Irish writer in the absurd tradition. He went to France… The bridge is built by the architect Calatrava, who also build World Trade Center and the Olympic Stadion in Athens.
But the most important attraction for me was The Book of Kells and the library in Trinity College. So before you start drinking too much, head for Trinity College built in 1592. This is one of the top sights, but also a key institution for the literary legacy of Ireland. You can book a guided tour, or just go yourself for 14 euro either way. I like to do things on my own, even though I know I missed out on a lot of info.
Book of Kells is an Irish treasure: it’s a 1200 year old book and the most famous illuminated Bible. It was written in an abbey in Scotland, but after a Viking attack the abbey moved to Kells near Dublin. That means it’s one of the oldest books in the world! It is intricately written and decorated by hand.
The long room has 200.000 of the oldet books in a 65 m long beautiful old-book-smelling room. I love it. It reminds me of when I worked in the Royal Cast Collection in Copenhagen… Built early 1700’s, this is one of the coolest and most instagrammable libraries in the world!
Besides seeing the Book of Kells and the beautiful beautiful long room with the 18th century library, many of the famous Irish writers were students here. James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker (ht eguy with Dracula and Courtney Love (kind of a writer). As Samuel Beckett wrote (the guy with the bridge): “Dublin university contains the cream of Ireland: Rich and thick.” Hmm…
In the library, busts are placed on both sides and you’ll find Homer, Plato, Milton, Isaac Newton, Shakespeare and so on. You also find Jonathan Swift of course. And no: no women (except me in the picture above).
LITTLE MUSEUM OF DUBLIN
‘How many have read “Ulysses”?’, the guide in the Little Musum of Dublin asks. Only 1 says yes. ‘How many have attempted?’; 2 says yes. There’s good reason for asking this question on a guided tour through the history of Dublin. Oh, and by the way: The 1 person was me!
The Little museum of Dublin is a museum for the modern story of Dublin; rated Dublin’s best museum experience by irirsh Times and #1 museum in Ireland on TripAdvisor. So we opted for this instead of the National Museum. Take a guided tour. Our guide gave us a tour of women history in Dublin.
Of course, the literary giants are present here as well. The most important item (if you ask me) is a copy of the first English edition of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” opened on last page, so you can say you have read the end.
As you can see above, Ireland wasn’t the land of opportunity. Almost all the writers left Dublin. Except for Swift. Maybe that’s why he is so more exposed than his more famous colleagues… But I do think, he’s underestimated: “Gullivers’ Travels” is not just a fun story, but a serious critique of society and values of his time.
Close to the museum is St. Stephens Green. As you can see, once again I bumped into James Joyce, but Yeats is also there alongside the . The park is not that big, but nice – probably a great spot in summer.
Around the park are beautiful Georgian houses.
DUBLIN DOORS & GEORGIAN HOUSES
Instagram is overflowing with the beautiful Dublin doors in red, greean and blue adn with good reason. Dublin was the most beaituful Georgian in the 18th century British Empire. You’ll also see later architecture in the same style, but then it’s technically not Georgian. It’s wannabe…
One of the original Georgian houses, that were saved belonged to a dance academy, whos owner is depicted in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. So when it was up for sale, it was bought and turned in to James Joyce Centre. They have great souvenirs – if you like Joyce… If you can visit Dublin on Bloomsday – do it. And take a Ulysses-tour.
The museum is mainly for big fans of James Joyce. It’s not that big a museum, but it tells about Joyce, his works and you can find the actual door from Eccles Street 7. Where Bloom lives in “Ulysses”.
Of course, I bought my souvenirs here: a notebook (for travels) with Joyce made by Irelands’ oldest bindery and a totebag. If you haven’t any of his works, start with “The Dead”.
ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL
You may have heard of St. Patricks Day. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and the day is held on his supposed death day. Although, you might think he wouldn’t be to happy about Ireland, since he was from Britain, but captured by Irish pirates. Later he chased all the snkaes out of ireland, which is why you don’t see any…
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is from 1200 and the largest and tallest church in Ireland. I was really looking forward to this, but was kind of dissapointed. It was not that big, not that much too see, Swift’s tomb was inaccesible, it was quite expensive, but worst of all the beautiful Gothic room was aesthetically destroyed by a big gift shop and some decorations in the ceiling. Not good!
Of course, you also find writers here. The garden next to the Cathedral has a literary hall of fame, and Jonathan Swift is buried inside the Cathedral. He’s buried under the floor, but you can see his epitaph, editions of his works, and if you are a big fan: his deathmask and a cast of his skull!
Okay, time to go back to the beginning: beer! Sláinte!
Bonus info: Dublin means Black Pool (really cool) from a pool in the Castle garden behind me here…
If you like taking the literary road, try visit Venice, Italy with death as a guide!
Do you use books for travel inspiration?