As the days, ports, and countries go by, the tiny speck of me in the vast tapestry of time and place is growing ever smaller and more humble. Here is a country and a day, or two. Go, learn its history and art, tastes and people, songs and and land. Choose one experience and you surrender another that would no doubt be just as wonderful.
Both sides of my family have Irish roots, so in a sense we were coming home, Mom and Dad and I. For more than a year we’d been talking of exploring Dublin’s fair city and had carefully planned our day. A taxi proved smart in delivering us to our first stop ahead of the crowds.
The Old Library of Trinity College was best known to me from the filming of the Harry Potter movies. It also houses the Book of Kells and a well-done and manageable exhibit about illuminated manuscripts. The science of the colorful dyes intrigued me. Created from plant galls and lichens, minerals and chemicals, some highly toxic, they were used by gifted monks to decorate the four gospels that comprise the ancient Book of Kells.
Photographs were not allowed in the inner sanctum, kept dim to preserve the precious vellum pages, which have already lived through being stolen, stripped of their gold, and hidden under a sod! Having stood there, with just a few others, gazing at the open pages, I would not have wanted to bring out my camera. The colors are earthy and subtle and much more appealing, ancient and mysterious, than any photo can capture. (The one above is the best I could find in the public domain)
On the other hand, the library was like being dropped into an 18th or 19th century story and we wandered around gazing up and around in wonder. Since 1801, the college has had the right to claim a free copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland and it seemed they all were there, along with a 14th century harp, rich with the patina of age.
The National Museum of Ireland’s archaeology building held the extensive collection of Viking relics, many from graves excavated in the city. The Vikings began raiding Ireland in 795 AD and later were the first to settle in Dublin. Swords, brooches, fine-toothed red deer antler combs, coins, leather shoes, and much more filled the displays. A bonus was my last-minute look around another exhibit about the Iron Age (older than the Vikings) “bog men” that have been unearthed during peat harvesting. These young, fit, and lordly individuals had all met cruel and gruesome ends before disappearing into the depths of the bogs.