Dublin didn’t quite feature on my bucket list. So when I happened to visit there at the end of April, it was with little expectations. It charmed, but it also chilled. Tulips bloomed all over the city to herald spring, yet an icy air set the mood.
The Irish capital is bisected by the River Liffey and is brought together by a series of bridges. These bridges are of different age and design but seemingly still in harmony. This is mirrored in the many buildings that grace the city, many of which were rebuilt after the Irish independence wars. Castles and churches stand alongside high street stores, many being housed in reconverted old buildings.
Trinity College, the oldest university in Ireland, is also one of Dublin’s prime landmarks. The campus on College Green is a small collection of old buildings overlooking tranquil, leafy squares. Entering through the main gate, the Campanile belfry stands tall in the courtyard. The college boasts Ireland’s largest library, with its grand vaulted Long Room. Tourists flock to see the ancient manuscripts, including its most prized possession, The Book of Kells, a 9th century Gospel. The queues were too long for my limited time, and so I wandered off around campus, feeling nostalgic about being a student.
Dublin’s other literary gem is the Chester Beatty Library. It houses a large and rare collection of manuscripts, miniature arts and other decorative arts from the East and West. There’s a collection of beautiful Arabic, Persian and Mughal calligraphy and arts, including a Quran by one of the most highly sought medieval calligraphers. Intricately designed leather book covers are on display. Skilled craftsmen created these elaborate covers for Islamic religious texts, and were later to be adopted by Western publishers. The library is hosting a special exhibition (until 28 August 2016) showcasing the illuminated Qur’ans of Ruzbihan. This 16th century calligrapher showed his reverence by creating dazzling pages with gold and lapis lazuli. The gallery shows the complexity of the calligraphy process and the resulting masterpiece, especially the frontispiece of the Qur’an with its verses of Al-Fatiha (The Opening). Sadly, photographing the library collections is not allowed, but check out this link to see the beautiful work.
Retreating from the warmth of the library, I ventured to the park outside and the adjoining Dublin Castle, dating back to the 12th century. I continued walking to escape the cold, and found myself on the busy shopping avenue of Grafton Street, which kept me occupied for some time.
Dublin’s a small city, so apart from exploring the city centre, I had some time venturing out of town. The little towns were equally rewarding and well worth a day visit. Read about it in the next blog post.