Sufficiently fueled for the morning from the Irish breakfast and copious amounts of coffee, Dublin awaited. I was dressed in the same outfit I’d first put on in Houston, unbrushed hair, and no makeup, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a vision. My room at the Westbury wasn’t ready, so there was going to be no freshening up for several hours.
Karlin and I left the crystal-encrusted confines of the Westbury to start our Dublin exploration. Map in hand, we established our bearings and developed our plan of attack. First stop was Molly Malone, supposedly the most photographed sight in Dublin. The statue of a busty, female fishmonger (and possible lady of the evening) is a tribute to the heroine from Dublin’s unofficial anthem, “Molly Malone.” On Sunday morning, she was alone, something we realized later was a rarity.
Just across from Miss Molly was our next destination, Trinity College. We passed through the stone archway that led us to the brilliant square. Filled with statues of scholarly men I didn’t know at first glance, we scoured the area for signs directing us to the Book of Kells and the Old Library. As a literary nerd, I had to see the Long Room. Karlin and I scurried along the path following the signs.
We went in through the Literary Shop and forked over our Euros to the friendly cashier. With a scan of our tickets, we entered the “Turning Darkness into Light” exhibition. The book, dating back to the ninth century, contains elaborately hand-drawn depictions of the four Gospels and text in Latin. The book is now divided into four different volumes, but only two of those are on display at a time. Large prints hung on the walls showcasing the amazing detail and handiwork involved in creating the Book of Kells. In her world history classes, Karlin taught the Book of Kells, so she explained the history, workmanship, and symbolism to me.
We made our way to the large, glass display table where we would view what 500,000 other Dublin visitors see each year. One of the volumes was opened displaying a beautiful and ornate page, while the other volume showcased two pages of script. I was at a loss for words, which seemed to be a common reaction judging by the silence surrounding the table.
After sufficiently gawking at the Book of Kells, Karlin and I ventured up the stairs to the Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library. The heavy, wood doors opened and I literarily gasped. I’d seen it in photos and on TV, but I was overwhelmed by the sight of the Long Room. Filled with 200,000 of the library’s oldest books, the Long Room, at just over 71 yards long, is nearly 3/4 the size of a football field. Imagine that! Marble busts of brilliant philosophers and writers stood guard as if protecting the oak-filled room. Said to be the finest bust is the one of Jonathan Swift, the great Irish author of Gulliver’s Travels.
I grabbed a seat on a bench and craned my neck looking up to the leather-bound books. I dreamed of ascending to the top using the old, wooden ladders. The green ropes lining the shelves were my nemesis. I wanted to crack open and breathe in the glorious smell from the old books. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a beautiful harp and was drawn to it. Made from oak and willow and strings from brass, this harp is the oldest of its kind in Ireland. Dating back to the fifteenth century, it is what the emblem of Ireland is modeled after. I would see depictions of this harp throughout my journey in Ireland.
Sufficiently high on the smell of old books, Karlin and I left the Old Library. We saw crowds lining up outside the Library Shop eagerly waiting to see what we just had. Dublin was sunny, albeit still a bit cool, but would present a perfect backdrop for the rest of our day. We nosed around campus a bit more before it was on to our next adventure
Karlin and I walked back through the stone arches that greeted us earlier. This time I noticed the flyers advertising rugby matches and social clubs. I wondered if the students realized how fortunate they were to study in such a storied institution.
I hoped so.