Arrival in Dublin was easy. We walked off the plane with our backpacks, answered a few questions at immigration, and our bus stop was just outside the airport doors. On the Dublin Express, multi-lingual chatter filled the air. Spanish, French, Russian, and Italian, for starters. When we stepped off the bus near our hotel, the wind nearly toppled me over.
It is cold and wet here in Dublin. The kind of cold that blasts through your coat with the force of the wind. The type of wet that waxes and wanes throughout the day.
We're staying at an "ApartHotel," the kind with a tiny kitchen, washing machine, and fridge. These places are excellent for weeklong stays as they're less hassle than an AirBNB, but you can still throw together a quick meal in your room to keep costs down.
There's more Irish Gaelic spoken than I remember, and every bit of signage is bilingual. Irish stew is the perfect mid-day meal after a long day of sightseeing. Because we've been here before, we get to skip some of the "must see" tourist sights, like Trinity Library, freeing us up for smaller alternatives that are in some ways more satisfying.
Yes, we loved Trinity Library, but this time we visited the much smaller Marsh's Library, and there were no crowds. It's Ireland's oldest public library, opened in 1707, and absolutely beautiful with a curated collection of interesting works to ogle at.
We enjoy strolling through St Stephen's Green, the popular city park, but this time we wandered into the lesser known Iveagh park with its massive waterfall and beautiful labyrinth. We sat there a long while and watched the magpies hunt.
I have emigration on my mind. Perhaps that's because I'm working on a science fiction series that takes place during humanity's early expansion outside our solar system. This type of story is sometimes referred to as a "wagon train to the stars" because it mirrors the expansionist excitement and dangers of settling the wild western frontier. So as we tour around Dublin, I've been considering what might make someone leave the home they loved.
So many reasons! Famine, yes, but also a desire for opportunity, freedom from oppressive laws, or the even the promise of finding romance. Some emigrants were criminals sentenced to exile. Others chased after loved ones, or hoped for a fresh start in another land.
A couple days ago we toured a replica "coffin ship" called the Jeanie Johnston. Coffin ships were named for the many deaths that occurred on board as people emigrated to America and Canada during the potato famine of the mid-1800s. The Jeanie Johnston is an interesting ship because no one ever died aboard her, due to the care and forward-thinking of the crew.
If you make it to Dublin, don't miss the Jeanie Johnston tour.
It's been interesting to compare and contrast the way different speakers describe Irish history. Ireland had sufficient food to feed its population during the potato famine, but wealthy landowners exported that food for profit rather than give it to their starving poor. France, on the other hand, shared their food with the poor, thus their death rate was much lower.
This story of how the "Irish Famine" could have been avoided (or at least minimized) is told loud and proud when the tale is told by historians or local guides, yet at the privately owned, billionaire-funded EPIC museum, that detail seemed to be glossed right over.
Hmm. I say.
Yet truth seems to have a way of working its way to the surface in the fullness of time. The more I learn about Ireland, about her love of history, poetry, music, and education, the more I see this country as a place where people are reclaiming their own stories, their own language, and their own history. And they seem to have genuine love and respect for those who have offered friendship along the way.
"Our president is a poet and a scholar," our tour guide, Liam, told us. "We Irish are very proud to have elected such a learned man as our leader." The independent bookstores overflow with poetry here, and music flows out the doors of the pubs and into your ears as you pass on by.
It's impossible not to admire this country, a place that puts art and music at the center of things. A country that took in so many Ukranian refugees that hotel rooms have become scarce. Home to two female presidents. The first country to welcome gay marriage via popular vote.
The population of Ireland is just five million people, smaller than my home state of Washington. It feels bigger, somehow. Big-hearted, bursting with history, and painted in a thousand beautiful shades of green.
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