Personal Message from BA:
I have a personal message for you from our management, airhost cheerfully announced as I was settling down in my seat. You have completed x number of flights with us (don’t remember exact number now, it was more than 50 anyway). And British Airways management would like to thank you for being a loyal customer…bla bla bla. Oh you are welcome I responded customarily. Apart from that it was just a routine pleasant flight; BA is a well-disciplined airline, staff delivers same good standard service always. We flew over West England, Wales, briefly over Irish sea and there you go. We are ready to land in Dublin after just 30 or 40 mins down the time. Not much of checking and I was out within minutes. Dublin airport is a modern, newly built airport. I took a taxi and headed to the Clontarf Castle where “Me” the Excellency was residing!
Yes, I was staying at the Clontarf Castle; now converted into a hotel. No red carpet, no guards, no guns or horses, I walked through parked cars past couple of lions at the entrance, not real of course. Inside I was greeted by two armoured empty statues; should have been outside guarding the castle I thought. Surely cold & cloudy Irish weather would have forced them in. Frontal part of the castle was preserved but the back side was converted into a modern hotel.
Clontarf Castle is located in East of Dublin, in the heart of ancient city, where the famous Battle of Clontarf was fought in 1014. A castle was built on the site but its remains are no way in sight now. The current building was erected in 1837 and was converted into a hotel in 1997. It is situated in quiet residential area just couple of minutes’ walk from sea coast. Actual building is small. So much so you cannot even perform a morning walk in it let alone running horses and elephants inside, which would be common sight in Asian or Middle Eastern castles (for Middle East, replace the elephant with a camel please!). European castles are usually small, though grounds around the castles are typically massive. It was the case here too but most of the land has been grabbed by the new residential developments at present.
I checked in, dropped my luggage in the room and left to enjoy sightseeing in Dublin. Receptionist advised me to take a bus to city centre from the road running along the coast. So I walked to the coast through a very quiet road surrounded by houses. Soon I was riding a double-decker bus, sitting at top floor & watching Dublin City unfolding in front of my eyes for the first time; excitement! My imaginations took me back into history of Dublin!
Dublin, the capital & largest city of Ireland has Irish Sea on east & Ireland on rest of the sides. River Liffey divides it in the middle. Some argue this divide is typical North/South divide with south being affluent part. Total population is around 527,000. Climate is similar to England i.e. cold in winter and mild in summer, though Dublin gets more rain.
Bus dropped me near Henry Street, two of the main shopping streets in Dublin (other one is Grafton Street). This is the busiest shopping area in Dublin, a kind of town centre for the city. The place was bustling with tourists and shoppers. I started watching & walking around eagerly.
Where is General Post Office? I enquired from couple of local people. What Post Office? No one seems to know. I wanted to visit the famous old Post Office Building. Oh GPO, the person replied! It is known as GPO in Ireland. Here it is, I was pointed to an old elegant building behind me. The Greek / Georgian style GPO building was built in 1818 to serve as Post Office Head Quarters. It shot to fame during the 1916 Irish Republican Easter Uprising against British rule. The uprising leaders & volunteers seized the GPO and declared it their HQ. The uprising was suppressed within 6 days by the mighty British Army, and almost all of the leaders were hanged by the orders of courts martial.
Traitors of British government were Martyrs of Irish; execution of these leaders was the beginning of the open independence struggle. Only three years later in 1919 fully fledged War of Independence started. And by 1921, British had withdrawn from Ireland except the 6 states which later became Northern Ireland and are under British till present day.
A photo-shoot was in progress in front the building including couple of photographers and a fancy model draped in red dress. I offered my services but they ignored – don’t know why. Forget it, I asked someone to take my photo in front of the building. I then went inside the ‘GPO’. Part of the building is used for post office business and the rest is converted into a museum. I walked through it leisurely but decided to ignore the museum part. It was ticketed and there was not much time left before its closure.
O’Connell Bridge & River Liffey
I walked up to O’Connell Bridge and stared at the River Liffey running beneath for a while. Both the river & the bridge are strange. Talking about the O’Connel Bridge, it is 50m Wide and 45m long; a unique traffic bridge that is wider than its length, probably the unique one in Europe!
Talking about Liffey River, it is about 125 KM long. Starting in Wicklow Mountains just 20 KM away from Dublin, it runs in a U-shape and returns back towards its origins, cutting through Dublin city, finally dropping in Irish Sea at Dublin Bay. Mighty River Niger does the same, though it is way too long. Word Liffey means life in Irish; River Liffey literally is a lifeline for Dublin, providing water for the city. Salute to Irish; they have built 3 dams for electricity generation on this short river.
John Brnye – The Homeless Tapper
In July 2011, John Brnye, a homeless man rescued his pet rabbit Barney from drowning in the river after it was thrown into the river by a passer-by. He dived off O’Connell Bridge into the river in front of hundreds of people and became a celebrity as his video circulated the internet. The man had been homeless on the streets of Dublin for 22 years after he left his home at the age of 13 due to his stepfather. He received an honour for his actions as well as being offered a job at an animal shelter (though he received nothing afterwards). Although John got famous through media, his life has changed little; tapping (his nick name for begging) from 7 to 4 daily and then return to his tent where he lives with his family consisting of a girlfriend & seven pets. The passer-by who threw the rabbit into the river was obviously arrested.
OK, I was feeling hungry now, time to eat…. (Read Part 3 Here)