Galleries, Exhibits, and my Hostel!

Hello and welcome back to my travel blog! I made my first post May 24th, the day after I arrived in Dublin. A lot has happened in the three days since my last posting, both in my life and in the country. May 25th Ireland held their referendum to decide whether to keep or repeal their 8th amendment which involved abortion. Ireland’s abortion previous law was considered one of the strictest laws on abortion.

Over the weekend, the results came back with overwhelming support to repeal the amendment. At my hostel, a group of yes supporters that night celebrated with a pint and a round of pool to celebrate, the yes stickers and pins resting on the tops of their shirts and jackets. I have seen countless pins, buttons, stickers for a “yes” vote, while I’ve seen one “no” sticker. Overall, the mood here in Dublin has been one of excitement over the vote.

The day of the vote was my second day out and about in Dublin. The previous day I trekked to a museum and then headed to Dublin Castle. My first time around I was unable to visit the gardens and the exhibit currently showing behind the castle and wanted to catch up on it. The 25th I trekked back to the castle and headed around back to the garden.

Countless families and business people were enjoying the warm and sunny day with lunches and drinks. I walked along the circular path and headed into the museum. There was a stark difference between the sunny, cherry atmosphere outside and the subdued atmosphere of the museum exhibit which involved art centering around An Gorta Mór—The Great Famine. This was one of the eras I’ve studied in Irish History at Pitt. It’s a difficult and somber subject. The suffering that Ireland endured during the Famine and the years after it ended are hard to put into words. The exhibit left me feeling heavy and contemplative. I thought it did a great job educating regarding this time in Irish History.

The visiting exhibit is on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. Over 1 million lost their lives as a result of the Famine and government policies. A further 2 million Irish emigrated to the United States, Canada, England, etc. One of the major points the exhibit made was regarding the effect the Famine had on the country, physically and spiritually. 

The visiting exhibit is on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. Over 1 million lost their lives as a result of the Famine and government policies. A further 2 million Irish emigrated to the United States, Canada, England, etc. One of the major points the exhibit made was regarding the effect the Famine had on the country, physically and spiritually. 

The museum featured art created in the years during and after the famine as well as modern depictions. In the center of the main hall a television played a recorded history lesson explaining the situation which tied back to the art surrounding us. The images, the diary readings, the heartbreak was hard to sit through just as it had been in the lecture hall when I first heard it. As I watched the images flash by the screen and listened to the recorded woman’s voice, I couldn’t shake the thought of my location, my presence inside the country so affected by the tragedy. The recorded voice reminded us watching and listening that the effects of the Famine are still here in Ireland, all these years later. 

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The artwork featured on the banner outside. This painting was the most haunting in person to me. The anguish and exhaustion on the faces are both distrurbing and saddening. 

The artwork featured on the banner outside. This painting was the most haunting in person to me. The anguish and exhaustion on the faces are both distrurbing and saddening. 

After the exhibit, I sat outside on a bench watching pigeons and seagulls flutter around the garden, looking for scraps from local lunchers. I wanted to absorb everything I’d just seen and heard. While sitting there, I noticed a building to my left, a library, the Chester Beatty Library. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I picked up my camera bag and headed over. Immediately walking through the doors into the open space I was hit by the aromatic smells from the café, the Silk Road Café. I rented out a locker, depositing my Euro, as bags were not allowed upstairs. I ascended the steps to an art exhibit I had not realized was there. I spent an hour going through the collection, which once belonged to Chester Beatty, the namesake of the library. The exhibit was free to the public and filled with beautiful artifacts from around the world. The exhibit was filled with pages and books from ancient Egypt, Calligraphy and illustrations in Qur’ans and other religious texts, as well as art and scrolls from Japan and China. There were books and illuminated manuscripts from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Pages embroidered with golds and other bright colors outlined these ancient texts. It was breathtaking.  
The library’s collection prohibited photography so both my phone and camera stayed behind. I didn’t mind at all considering the age of the tests and artifacts. It gave me a chance to be present in the moment and soak up the information and spend time letting my eyes wander across the illustrations and pieces in the exhibit. 
 

A few pieces sat outside the exhibit which they allowed visitors to photograph. 

A few pieces sat outside the exhibit which they allowed visitors to photograph. 

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This was one of the temporary exhibits I also viewed in addition to the permanent exhibit. 

This was one of the temporary exhibits I also viewed in addition to the permanent exhibit. 

After the library, I headed to pick up my transit card at a local shop and then back to the hostel. I’d been walking for hours and was feeling pretty tired. Once back in the hostel, I took a nap and spent the rest of the day relaxing there. The food and atmosphere within the hostel itself are very fun. There are people studying and holidaying within the hostel from countless countries. Sometimes I have to remind myself when I am inside the hostel that I am in Ireland. I hear so much German and French spoken! Within the hostel, besides locals who come for a pint or to listen to live bands and DJs, I hear and see German travelers the most. I earned my German minor and have studied the language and culture since I was 12, so when I find myself within the presence of groups of German speakers, my brain switches over to the language. I’ve caught myself from responding to people in German like saying thank you and excuse me especially.

I wanted to end this blog post with pictures from my hostel! It has a cool, urban feel and lots of community space to eat, drink, and enjoy the company of locals and foreigners as well. I’ve felt nothing but at home within the hostel. The workers foster an environment of community here. I have stories about the openness and kindness I’ve seen, but that’s for another blog post! Here are some pictures!

A view of the street on my way back. 

A view of the street on my way back. 

Once back in the hostel, I took a nap and spent the rest of the day relaxing there. The food and atmosphere within the hostel itself are very fun. There are people studying and holidaying within the hostel from countless countries. Sometimes I have to remind myself when I am inside the hostel that I am in Ireland. I hear so much German and French spoken! Within the hostel, besides locals who come for a pint or to listen to live bands and DJs, I hear and see German travelers the most. I earned my German minor and have studied the language and culture since I was 12, so when I find myself within the presence of groups of German speakers, my brain switches over to the language. I’ve caught myself from responding to people in German like saying thank you and excuse me especially.

I wanted to end this blog post with pictures from my hostel! It has a cool, urban feel and lots of community space to eat, drink, and enjoy the company of locals and foreigners as well. I’ve felt nothing but at home within the hostel. The workers foster an environment of community here. I have stories about the openness and kindness I’ve seen, but that’s for another blog post! Here are some pictures!

The lobby of Generator Hostel located in Smithfield Square in Dublin. 

The lobby of Generator Hostel located in Smithfield Square in Dublin. 

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My bed is the messy one! I share the room with five other people. It's one of the mixed gender rooms of the hostel. The six of us share a bathroom. Under the bottom bunk are two compartments labeled for each bed for storage of luggage. The basement also has a storage room for further luggage. 

My bed is the messy one! I share the room with five other people. It's one of the mixed gender rooms of the hostel. The six of us share a bathroom. Under the bottom bunk are two compartments labeled for each bed for storage of luggage. The basement also has a storage room for further luggage. 

The Hostel features a Jameson chandelier. How cool is that!

The Hostel features a Jameson chandelier. How cool is that!

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Jameson barrels also decorate the main gathering area. The Jameson Distillery is right next door to the hostel. 

Jameson barrels also decorate the main gathering area. The Jameson Distillery is right next door to the hostel. 

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That's all for now! My next blog posts will detail my hike and exploration of Howth, my Jameson tour, and my night with the locals!

Céad Míle Fáilte: Welcome to My Blog!

Today is my second day in Ireland. It was a busy day. Before I dive into the details, I want to describe my first day in the Emerald Isle. 

Day one started early. On May 23rd, I flew from Pittsburgh to New York. After a layover, I had a seven hour flight over night to Dublin. I was tired from three days in a row of little sleep as I squeezed in last minute doctor's appointments I'd been neglecting over the semester, packing, and final days at work. I assumed that I would be able to sleep on the plane, but try as I might I could barely sleep for more than twenty minutes. Early in the morning, around 5:35 Dublin time, the pilot announced that we would be landing. I opened up the window covering, hoping to catch a sight of the green expanses, but it was a mostly cloudy, overcast morning with thick gray clouds hanging low. Finally, as we approached the runaway, I saw patchwork spaces of greens. It almost felt like a dream as the wheels touched down on the runway. I felt exhausted from the previous days but I couldn't help but feel my bubbling excitement. 

After we landed, the passengers filed our way into the airport, a handful of cranky babies cried (bless their parents) and sleepily we made our way to the immigration section of the airport. After I made it through the checkpoint, I arrived at the luggage carousel, hoping for a quick turn around. I sat on the floor for an hour, trying not to nod off. I had thoughts of hot showers and fresh bed sheets dancing in my mind. I watched a cute toddler run between her parents with her jelly legs wobbling at the effort. Her smile stretched across her face and her curls bounced as her father scooped her up in his arms. I smiled watching them; it helped the time pass and it was nice to see someone appreciating the early hour. 

After about an hour the luggage began pouring out, black, floral, animal print, all kinds of bags tumbled out. I grabbed my bags (I packed a lot because what if I need those extra thirty pairs of socks?!). I am a planner, someone who likes schedules and order in my life. My packing backs this up. Anyway, after grabbing my bags I pushed the luggage cart out to the buses lined up outside. I bought my ticket which would take me closest to the hostel.

I want to take a moment to say how much I appreciate public transportation. The bus was filled with fellow travelers from my flight who were heading to their hostels and hotels. Most of us were searching maps, reading emails, checking text messages and google maps for where exactly we were supposed to be dropped off. The bus driver took a minute before we took of to explain how buses work and payment works in Ireland. We clamored on with bulky suitcases and bags and stuffed them on the bus luggage rack and sat down. She called out each stop and helped travelers figure out the best stops for them. When I got off my stop, the next to last, I pulled out my phone hoping to figure out which direction I needed to go. Before she left, the bus driver asked the group of us who just stepped off if we knew which way to go. I told her the name of my hostel and she spent a quick minute detailing the directions I would need to take. She gave me a smile and continued her directions even as the doors closed. This was my first of so far many encounters of Dubliners being so helpful and kind to me as a traveler. I'm used to Americans being categorized as friendly, but this felt like a personal and individualized encounter. I take the bus daily in Pittsburgh and am confident in navigating the sometimes tricky world of public transport. Despite this, it was still nerve-wracking to be so tired in a country I was unfamiliar with to try and navigate the streets and bus routes. The bus driver left when I thanked her and heading in the direction she described. 

With slow and heavy steps, I made my way to the hostel. I scoured the internet to try and find an affordable and nice hostel. I was most nervous about this. I value sleep and privacy. I would be spending the duration of my stay in a six person room in a bunkbed with a shared bathroom and shower. I wouldn't know who I was rooming with until they showed up to claim their bunk. It would be a while until I met them. I hobbled my way to the hostel, my energy dissipating with each step and finally arrived. I had four hours before my check in. Luckily, my hostel has a spacious common area on the ground floor with tables and chairs, couches, a bar, and even a pool table. I slumped into the couch and slept for four hours in a disjointed mess of limbs and uncombed hair. 

When check in came, I raced up to my room and took a swift shower, washing travel away. I then proceeded to sleep for the majority of the day. Throughout the day various hostel-mates trickled in but I barely registered the door swinging open. I did force myself to eat late at night before the hostel dinning hours closed, not having eaten since breakfast on the plane at 4 a.m. The food in this hostel is amazing. Let me explain with a picture of my dinner from the first night. A picture says a thousand words after all. 

The Avo Burger at Generator Hostel in Dublin

The Avo Burger at Generator Hostel in Dublin

After dinner, I walked about fifteen minutes to where I would be staying once classes begin next week. I circled back toward my hostel and explored the area close by, calling it a night not long after. This photo is the only one I managed to take my first day in Dublin. Since I spent the majority of my day sleeping. 

As far as my hostel-mates, everyone is great and super conscientious of noise and space. Only one hostel-mate and I have not said hello because either one of us have been asleep while the other is awake.  Of the five in the room, two are Germans, one is Canadian, and two are American. The five of us had a laugh this morning, discovering that the small and so far inaccessible balcony attached to our room has a discarded pair of boxers shorts resting there from a previous tenant.

Day two proved to be more enriching and tiring in its own way. I have yet to purchase a bus pass and have been waking to all my destinations, which I love! This gives me a chance to pull out my camera and document street life. I am obsessed with museums of all kinds. I had a quick breakfast in the hostel and drowned myself in sweet, sweet life giving coffee and headed out to my first stop of my busy day. There are numerous museums in Dublin and since I was still recovering from the exhaustion of travel, I wanted to head to a close one. The nearest one was around ten minutes away called the National Museum of Ireland. I headed that way with my camera in tow excited to begin photographing my adventure. To my delight, the museum had free admission. I was behind a group of Irish school students on a field trip and began to make my way though the museum. As I pulled out my camera, I realized my batteries had been left in another bag back at the hostel. Not wanting to delay, I took my phone and headed into the display rooms. 

I didn't look up what the museum offered before arriving. I wanted to be surprised, plus it was so close. The museum detailed a lot of the political and military history of Ireland with some interactive displays. This was incredibly exciting to me as this was one of my focuses in studying Irish History. 

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This figure depicts a prisoner captured in 1798 after the United Irishmen Rebellion. The plaque next to him posed two options for his fate, either execution or because of his age, he would be sent as a prisoner to Australia. 

This figure depicts a prisoner captured in 1798 after the United Irishmen Rebellion. The plaque next to him posed two options for his fate, either execution or because of his age, he would be sent as a prisoner to Australia. 

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the interactive display of old guns. After you picked one up, the screen displayed the proper way they were used and handled. Next to the guns was a wooden block depicting the result of the bullet on contact with a human. 

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the interactive display of old guns. After you picked one up, the screen displayed the proper way they were used and handled. Next to the guns was a wooden block depicting the result of the bullet on contact with a human. 

Later in the museum I had fun with another display. One of the museum workers saluted me when he saw me and told me I was a soldier now. 

Later in the museum I had fun with another display. One of the museum workers saluted me when he saw me and told me I was a soldier now. 

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The remains of a B-17 engine that crashed in 1943. 

The remains of a B-17 engine that crashed in 1943. 

After the museum, I headed back to the hostel to pick up my batteries. The next stop was Dublin Castle for a guided tour. On the way I took some pictures on the street. For a background, right now Ireland is buzzing with news of the upcoming referendum on the 8th Amendment. I've been reading a lot about this topic in the recent weeks as a multitude of news agencies are covering it. I was not prepared for the amount of signage regarding the amendment on the street. It was as if every post had at least one poster either for or against repealing it, sometimes there were multiple signs stacked on top of each other. Here are a few pictures I took while heading to the castle. 

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You can see in this picture the posts down from the one upfront have similar signs all the way down. 

You can see in this picture the posts down from the one upfront have similar signs all the way down. 

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May 25th (tomorrow) is the referendum. 

Here are a few other sights on the way to the castle. 

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The signs feature both Gaelic and English!

The signs feature both Gaelic and English!

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A statue dedicated to children born after/of the Millennium. 

A statue dedicated to children born after/of the Millennium. 

It began to rain just as I made it to the castle. 

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Our tour guide James took us down into the underground of what was once the wall surrounding Dublin Castle. Where we stood would be where the moat once ran. The rocks here are the side of the wall and James is standing in front of the steps that lead to the entrance. 

Our tour guide James took us down into the underground of what was once the wall surrounding Dublin Castle. Where we stood would be where the moat once ran. The rocks here are the side of the wall and James is standing in front of the steps that lead to the entrance. 

The steps were purposefully made uneven to hinder the advance of enemies should they try to climb. 

The steps were purposefully made uneven to hinder the advance of enemies should they try to climb. 

This building is the private chapel on the grounds, originally made to be an Anglican church. 

This building is the private chapel on the grounds, originally made to be an Anglican church. 

Cromwell, who is not a happy historical memory for most Irish people, is listed here. 

Cromwell, who is not a happy historical memory for most Irish people, is listed here. 

The chapel has the names of British leaders sent to manage Ireland from Dublin Castle. 

The chapel has the names of British leaders sent to manage Ireland from Dublin Castle. 

Apparently, Bram Stoker worked in this building! It's now a government building. 

Apparently, Bram Stoker worked in this building! It's now a government building. 

Fun Story! The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and the national color is blue not green! When the Republic of Ireland went to make the harp the symbol they discovered that Guinness had copyrighted that symbol over a hundred years earlier. So to satisfy this situation, Dublin's Government flipped the harp. If you look up Guinness, the harp faces the other way!

Fun Story! The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and the national color is blue not green! When the Republic of Ireland went to make the harp the symbol they discovered that Guinness had copyrighted that symbol over a hundred years earlier. So to satisfy this situation, Dublin's Government flipped the harp. If you look up Guinness, the harp faces the other way!

The interior had so much gold!

The interior had so much gold!

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Gold on Gold on Gold on Gold!

Gold on Gold on Gold on Gold!

In addition to the gold, each room had beautiful and unique chandeliers. This was one of my favorites. 

In addition to the gold, each room had beautiful and unique chandeliers. This was one of my favorites. 

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One of the most interesting parts of the castle was the room that featured those executed in the 1916 Uprising. It was such a stark change from royal opulance to plain portraits hanging on a wall of men who were executed. 

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I enjoyed Dublin Castle and plan to head back to explore the gardens and the art gallery on loan from Connecticut which features art depicting the Irish Famine. 

After my outings I came back to enjoy my first pint of Guinness and Fish and chips in my hostel and to listen to live music from a local band. 

I will admit I am not usually a huge fan of Guinness. It's my Irish sin, I know. I LOVED this pint. It tasted great paired with dinner. 

I will admit I am not usually a huge fan of Guinness. It's my Irish sin, I know. I LOVED this pint. It tasted great paired with dinner. 

I could not finish this all! I did give it my college best. 

I could not finish this all! I did give it my college best. 

While eating and enjoying my pint I listened to Fenton Blue, an Irish Alt-Rock band. 

While eating and enjoying my pint I listened to Fenton Blue, an Irish Alt-Rock band. 

It's been an eventful day and I'm tired! I can't wait to post more from my adventures. Stay tuned as I update my blog. Also watch out for the gallery of all the extra pictures that didn't make this post! And I also want to take a moment to thank all those who helped make the beginning of this adventure great (thank you bus driver and hostel-mates), my University's study abroad program, and the Nationality Room Committee/Irish Room scholarship. I cannot express my gratitude for this opportunity enough.