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Monday, March 26, 2007

DUBLIN: Pubs, history, music and football

Just got back from five days in Dublin, possibly the friendliest city I have ever visited. It was a Cardiff City RAMs tour with 50 of us on the trip to watch Wales play Ireland in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, but to be honest football did not play a big part in the trip.

Apart from the first night when we all got together, we did not really see much of the rest of the motley RAMs crew, it was mainly me, The Artist Formerly Known As Ginger and Secret Squirrel. While the RAMs were off like a stag party without a wedding and drinking large quantities of alcohol, we were seeking out the local culture… and drinking large quantities of alcohol. They went to the races, we went to the castle; they went to burger king, we went to Cornucopia vegetarian restaurant; they went to lap dancing nights, we went to reggae dance hall nights; they went to the pub and we went to… the pub; they went to the football, we went to… the football….. actually, there were a lot of similarities!

Dublin is a well established city, set up by the Vikings and its history has been of resistance for hundreds of years. 800 years ago Ireland was invaded by Anglo Norman forces and the island has was pretty much under ‘British’ rule right up until the early 20th century.

The GPO , site of the siege of the 1916 Easter Uprising

The 'Four Courts'

The most interesting story of Dublin (for us) centres around the ‘Easter Rising’ of 1916. There are lots of sites to visit, locations of battles during the rising, but they are not quite as exciting as one might think. The GPO for instance, site of a major siege during the rising is, as the name suggests, a post office. A pretty impressive post office, but a post office none the less. The ‘Four Courts’ was another building where there was a siege, but to look at it today, unless you know about the history, looks just like a court… which it is.

The castle courtyard, with Liberty appropriately showing her back to the court on the other side of the river with the scales of justice.

The castle is pretty remarkable only in that it is probably the most unremarkable castle we have seen. It does not dominate the sky line as most castles do and you will only find it if you are specifically looking for it. When you find it, from the outside at least, there is not an awful lot to see. Although we suspect the guided tour of the interior is probably more interesting.

The Stilleto in the Ghetto

In 1966 the IRA blew up a huge statue of Nelson, very similar to Nelson’s Column in London, because it was a symbol of British Imperialism. It has recently been replace by a huge metal spike 120m tall built a ta cost of 4.4 million euro. It has had a mixed reaction with some commenting on the idea of having a giant needle in the middle of a city with a growing heroin problem. It is often referred to as the stiletto in the ghetto. It dominates O’Connel Street, which was renamed in honour of the ‘Liberator’ Daniel O’Connel in 1924.

The Artist Formerly Known As Ginger takes time put for a pint of the black stuff in between record shops.

One thing that stands out about Dublin is the fact that almost every third building is a pub (well almost). The pubs are friendly and even when there are big crowds at the bar, a small number of professional bar staff seem able to serve you in a matter of minutes. And they seem to have incredible memories, remembering what your round was amongst the all the customers they are serving and sometimes you find new drinks arriving before you had even decided you wanted another one. The locals a re friendly and even when completely wrecked they are jolly drunks rather than brawlers. This is even true in the Temple Bar, which is wall to wall pubs and restaurants. Temple bar can get VERY busy on times and it is very touristy. It can be something of a draw for those that like international hen and stag parties, but the price of the town does not make it competitive, compared with the likes of Prague and Tallinn.

The Hill 16 is allive to the sound of music

"Your'e supposed to be at home"

We suppose we should mention the football, as that was the purpose of the trip. Ireland were crap and Wales were crapper. It was like a Sunday league game. The stadium however was a bit special. Croke Park is the home of Gaelic sport and until earlier this month it had not hosted a game of non Gaelic origin. It was site of a massacre during ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1920 when the Black and Tans opened fire on the crowd. Following the closure of Landsdowne Road for refurbishment this year the GAA finally changed the rules to allow rugby to be played there and this was the first ever football match in the stadium. The current stadium is the fourth largest in Europe, holding 82,500 fans. The Wales fans were housed on Hill 16, which gets it name from the fact that it was originally built from the rubble of the stadium that was left after the Easter rising of 1916. the atmosphere was great, the sun was out, the stadium was brilliant, the game was crap.

The Ghost of Rory Gallagher haunts the streets, even at 4am

Dublin has had its fair share of poets, authors, and musicians over the years, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, U2, Thin Lizzy and of course The Dubliners to merely scrape the top. Today the city has dozens of independent record shops and live music venues scattered around the centre and there appears to be buskers on every street almost 24 hours.

On the last night we found our selves in a little club hosting a reggae ‘dance hall’ night which most of the gang enjoyed but it was starting to annoy me towards the end of the night that they never play a record right to the end… it reminded me of Zoë Iguana skipping tracks on the car CD player.

Anyway, we headed home on the Monday knackered and skint. I did think to myself that I would not rush back, but they have started holding an annual anarchist book fair and the word is there is a thriving anti capitalist scene in the shape of the Workers Solidarity Movement. They were pretty orgainsed when we went over for May Day in 2004 and it seems they have grown from stregnth to stregnth ever since. We tried to meet up with them on the Friday afternoon in their social centre, but they were out! Who knows, we might end up at the bookfair in the future.




At 10:59 pm , Blogger dready warrior said...

sounds good, i hope to get out to eire later this year :-)


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