My last day in the British Isles this summer was spent in Dublin, the colourful capital of Ireland. I had never been there before, but it had been on my list for a long time, and how I’d love to go back!
I walked through the streets of Dublin early in the morning, inhaling the crisp morning air (and exhaust gases, inevitably), and I was struck with how clean and colourful it looked. Like Edinburgh, Dublin has a Georgian charm: plenty of old buildings draped with flowers, authentic-looking taverns with freshly painted signs and windowsills. Newer buildings didn’t stand out like sore thumbs, but accommodated themselves to the atmosphere of the city, such as the hotel in the pictures below that sported some magnificent art nouveau-style illustrations of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I would have loved to join the literary pub walk in the evening, which takes you past the old haunts of Joyce, Beckett, Yeats and others, but sadly I did not have time.
What I did have time for was visiting the Trinity College Library, one of the most famous libraries in the world, with its famous wooden vaulted ceiling and stacks upon stacks of books along the sides. I also got to see the Book of Kells, Ireland’s national treasure and one of the most famous and most lavishly decorated manuscripts in the world. It is a manuscript in what they call insular style, referring to the hand (insular majuscule) and the ornamentation, which combines Christian iconography with Celtic knots, swirling, brightly coloured patterns and drawings of animals, humans and mythical beasts. It is thought to have been made around 800 A.D. and it contains the four gospels of the New Testament, as well as prefaces and commentaries. Some pages are devoted entirely to decorations. Photographs were of course verboten, but scroll down for some pictures of the manuscript I snagged off the internet (source). They only have two folios of the manuscripts on display at a time, and jostling for a chance to peek at the illuminations up close takes away some of the charm. Luckily, a facsimile of the manuscript can be viewed in its entirety in the Trinity College Library’s digital repository.
After visiting the Library I paid the National Gallery a visit, and I ended my day by visiting the house where Oscar Wilde (one of my all-time favourite writers) grew up. In the park in Merrion Square, across from his childhood home, is a suitably dramatic statue of him reclining on a rock. In front of his statue are two pedestals with quotes from Wilde’s writing engraved on them. It was a rather special moment for me, so I joined Oscar on a nearby bench for a half hour, sipping my take-away coffee and enjoying the late rays of the sun, before stepping onto the bus to the airport.