The best things about Dublin are not the same things people love about other European cities. After taking in the breathtaking sights, predictable yet comfortable weather, and dynamic cuisines of Paris, Malaga, Ronda, Granada, Gibraltar, and Rome, one could easily find Dublin underwhelming. Dublin weather was characterized by dark and dramatic skies that released rain consistently off and on. In a three day period, we only had half a day of sunshine. We had left Amsterdam’s rainy and cool spring only to find similar weather. Taking a long weekend in Dublin felt like going from NYC to Philly for a long weekend—although the two are very different, on the surface, they seem the same. It didn’t help that our walking tour guide told us the best way to experience Ireland was to travel outside of Dublin.
But there are things to love about Dublin. The city is understated, unpretentious, and full of pride. Unpretentious because it is easy to have fun without having to exert a lot of money or time. It’s a walkable city bursting with a down-to-earth personality. Temple Bar, the city’s well-known clubbing district easily reaches New Orleans levels of fun and debauchery. Understated because Dublin also has a burgeoning art scene. We enjoyed politically conscious street art just by walking around, and barely reached the tip of the iceberg. It’s also a great city for foodies. We had unexpectedly stunning Mexican fusion dishes and hot wings (the best we have had in this part of the world so far), and creative cocktails, while enjoying Irish staples like hearty beef stews, seafood, Jameson Whiskey, and Guinness.
However, the best thing about Dublin is its unique brand of soul. The Irish pride we saw in Dublin transcends far beyond the stereotypes packaged up and sent to the United States delivered right on time for St. Patrick’s Day. The city is bursting with tangible and nuanced manifestations of Ireland’s torturous history of oppression and resilience, almost leading us to believe the Irish are the Black Americans of northern Europe. Bear with us.
The Norman invasion of the late 12th century marked the beginning of more than 800 years of direct English rule and, later, British involvement in Ireland. At some point the British had to believe the Irish were savages in order to justify their treatment of them. This contrived mentality resulted in much destruction, including The Great Famine. Many believe that the British ignored the famine, and carried out other activities to exacerbate famine’s impact. In the 18th century, potatoes were a major food staple for the poor. The British viewed them as a cash crop and exported them in great numbers. When the potato blight happened in 1847, it took out 60% of the potato crop, essentially turning the crop into mush. Those in power did nothing to preempt lost food reserves, and instead adopted a laissez faire outlook on food management thinking that the Irish are the ones that should figure this out. During the famine, approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to fall by20% -25%. The population never recovered to pre-famine levels.
The cityscapes do not rival Paris or London; but the history of Ireland is what mostly endured us to Dublin. Having experienced over 800 years of brutally repressive British rule, extreme famine and disease resulting in forced migration, continued high levels of migration of Ireland’s most talented to other parts of the world, unrelenting revolution, high levels of economic prosperity followed by record-breaking recession lows, to being finally restored, Ireland has a pretty dynamic history.
Enjoy the photos, courtesy of G.