Note: Prior to studying abroad in London, I spent 10 days in Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the prequel class “The Pale and Beyond.” We spent five days in Dublin and then five days in Belfast learning about Irish culture and identity.For more about my time in Ireland, check the Ireland category tag on the right.
Today was a very busy day that took us from the busy streets of Dublin to the quaint roads of the Irish seaside. But the day began with another lecture, this one from the director of the Inter-religion Center at Trinity. The lecture took place in the brand-new Ecumenics Center, a building so new that we couldn’t even find the lightswitch. Ecumenics is not, as I first thought, a weird Irish spelling of Economics. It is in fact, as the director explained, “the intersection between religion and politics.” As he talked, I could definitely see why this would be such an important area of study for the Republic of Ireland.
Ireland is 84 percent Catholic and one’s religion is something that affects every area of one’s life, even for people who might not attend mass on Sundays. Nearly all the schools are segregated here by religion, so Catholics and Protestants go to separate schools. The Catholic Church dominates social life as well as it sponsors various sports teams and holds social events. Inter-marriage between Protestants and Catholics is very low and the lack of interaction between the two groups has caused problems (more on this once we get to Northern Ireland).
Next we had another lecture on Irish travellers, similar to gypsies, before leaving campus to explore the seaside outside of Dublin. We got a packed lunch from the campus dining center and then boarded a Dart train (similar to the NJ PATH) for a 20 minute trip to the town of Dun Laoghai. It was a gorgeous day and we ate our lunch while watching the waves lap against the piers and rocks. We then walked down to an ice cream place called “Teddy’s” and got their famous “99” ice cream, which consists of this really creamy vanilla ice cream with a stick of chocolate in it. It was delicious.
From there, it was about a 15-minute walk to some of the swimming areas. I thought the water would be too cold to swim but there were a lot of people swimming and those that went in said the temperature wasn’t too bad. The swimming area was cool because you literally jump right off the side of the stone area into the sea. No steps or gradual decline here.
After that, we walked up the hill to the James Joyce Tower, which houses the James Joyce Museum. Joyce is an Irish writer who has written books such as Ulysses, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man, and the practically unreadable Finnegan’s Wake. The tower is so named because Joyce lived there with two of his writer friends before leaving Ireland at the young age of 22. I had read a few books by Joyce in high school, so it was cool to see the various artifacts they had there.
Finally, we boarded a bus to go to the Guinness Museum in Dublin. The whole museum was very cool and was shaped like a giant Guinness glass. Our tour guide said that, if full, the glass would hold roughly 12 million pints. Another fun fact we learned is that Guinness is made from barley, water, yeast and hops and that everything except for the hops comes from Ireland. The most interesting part of the tour for me was learning that Arthur Guinness originally signed the factory lease for 9,000 years! That’s quite a commitment and makes it easy to see why Guinness is so synonymous with Dublin and Ireland.