It was an 18,985 step day for me today as we spent it exploring all over Dublin. First we had a walking tour that took us from our hotel, down the main street of O’Connell, to Trinity College, through the Temple Bar district, over to City Hall, to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and finally to Dublin Castle. And that was just the morning.
I really enjoyed our local tour guide and several of the stories he had to tell about the history of the city and its people, but my favorite stop was most definitely the Trinity Library. The Book of Kells was cool, but the Long Room upstairs…wow. It reminded me a lot of the Library of Congress, one of my favorite places in DC, but even more rich with history.
Next we took a taxi over to Kilmainham Gaol, a historic prison on the outskirts of the city. It was built in 1796 and designed to be a new sort of prison, where prisoners were no longer held in large rooms with little to no supervision. Still, the conditions were designed to make the prisoners want to reform their ways so they would never have to come back. That meant being locked in a room by yourself in complete silence with nothing besides a candle, a blanket, and a bucket. Those times were interspersed with hard labor. They had no special allowances for children during this time period – a 5-year-old boy served several months in the prison for theft.
These deterrents became less effective during the potato famine in the 1840s, when people would commit a crime just so they could get sent to prison and have the promise of two meals a day. Later on they built this more modern addition:
Then after the Easter Rising in 1916, 14 of the Irish rebel leaders were taken to the prison and executed, including James Connolly who was already dying of gangrene from a bullet wound in the leg and had to be tied to a chair before he was shot by the firing squad. Before this the Irish people had generally not supported the rebellion, but after this brutal response by the British, that changed. Many people have told us that this was one of the key moments in recent Irish history and it was what ultimately lead to Irish independence. Our tour guide for the prison was so good – full of gravitas and always pausing for reflection.
On a completely unrelated side note, I wanted to give all of you a demonstration of Irish water conservation efforts. Everywhere we go, in one form or another, there are two options for how to flush the toilet. This is an example from Kilmainham Gaol:
After the prison tour, we took the bus back downtown and Mom elected to take a break at the hotel. I decided to venture over to a few museums, including the National Museum – Archeology, the National Library, and the National Gallery. The highlights for me were an exhibit on the Irish poet W.B. Yeats and a Monet painting I hadn’t seen before.
I also walked by this random piece of street art. I have no idea what it represents or signifies, but I thought it was pretty cool.
I may actually go to bed early tonight!