Since my young years I was attracted by Ireland (basically thanks to its music), but I never went, until now… and for a much too short visit. A few days experience told me that I must go back.
As we know, the island is split into the Republic of Ireland with Dublin as a capital and Northern Island, part of the United Kingdom, with Belfast as a capital. My trip included only Dublin with an extension to the western region of Connemara.
I’m not intending to give the whole history of the island here, but just a few words: People have lived on the island for some 10.000 years. A Celtic culture and language developed during the Stone Age. Christianity arrived during the 5th century (Saint Patrick…). Viking and Anglo-Norman invasions followed. There were many Kings, but also a High King… and a lot fighting. The title of King of Ireland was created by the Tudor dynasty. Wars and religious struggles continued. Ireland became part of the United Kingdom in 1801. The Easter Rising in 1916 was followed by elections in 1918, when the pro-independents (Sinn Fein) won largely and proclaimed an Irish Republic in 1919, confirmed in 1922 based on an Anglo-Irish Treaty, allowing Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. Both the Republic and Northern Ireland are members of the European Union since 1973 and in the Republic you pay by Euros.
There have been a number of hunger crises on the island. The most serious one was probably during the 1840’s, accentuated by misruling British landlords. The population of 8 million people was over the following century reduced by over half. Today some 4.6 million people live in the Republic … but there are some 14 million Irish descendants in North America.
The mailboxes are green (as a large part of the country). The Gaelic language, Irish, is still spoken by a fairly large part of the population and street and other signs are usually in double language. The metric system is adopted.
Ireland, as most European countries, suffered severely from the economic crisis as from 2008, but is recovering, the economy being transformed from agriculture to modern technologies. Forbes classifies it as “the best country for business”, attracting a number of multinational companies, like Microsoft, Google… thanks to qualified work forces, but also to low corporate tax rates - international benefits are transferred to Irish accounts.
Well, now back to my trip. I arrived in Dublin quite early in the morning and spent a large part of the day looking for pubs and Irish music. Pubs are all over, but a certain concentration is in the Temple Bar district. (Actually “Temple” has its origin in a 17th century family name and “Bar” originally referred to a barrier which protected the area from the central River Liffey.)
One of the Temple Bar bars has the name of “Temple Bar” and that’s where I went at the opening hour for a first “compulsory” stout. The place was still relatively empty (see also top picture).
After a walk I came back for a lunch (oysters and Irish cheese), served by smiling waitresses and enjoying local music, under “supervision’ by one of Ireland’s many great writers and poets, James Joyce (1882-1941, “Ulysses”, “Dubliners”, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, “Finnegan’s Wake”).
Later, especially in the evening, this pub is, as most other ones, more than full, noisy…. Music all over. (I wonder how the waiters and waitresses after hours of work manage to keep smiling.)