Eclectic mix of things to see and do in Dublin
DUBLIN -- The most popular residents of the National Museum ofIreland
aren't very talkative, never get up to greet the public and aren't fussy about their ragged clothing.
But the Bog Men -- well preserved Iron Age bodies compressed in peat bogs before their discovery this century -- tell quite a story. Parts of their leather-toned heads, torsos and limbs are separated or missing entirely, but they're still the star attractions of the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibit in the heart of this wondrous museum.
The bog's environment cut the oxygen bacteria needs to feed, which prevented body decomposition and preserved skin pores, stomach contents, dental information, evidence of body trauma -- even hair-care products. It also allowed experts to determine much about the Bog Men and the times they lived -- times that included violent human sacrifice.
Such finds are still being made, in fact the museum has been examining "Cashel Man" since he was uncovered just west of Dublin in 2011. He's 20-something, dates to 2,000 B.C., and is the oldest find of its kind in Europe.
The archaeology department of the museum -- housed in Kildare St. and handy to many of Dublin's public treasures -- is worth a look solely for the classical mythology mosaic and zodiac symbols on the portal floor, and the 20-metre colonnaded entrance and domed rotunda, modelled on the Roman Pantheon. Inside the 130-year-old structure are displays on prehistoric, Viking and medieval Ireland.
Rain or shine, Dublin provides plenty to see and do in its compact city centre. Highlights of a recent visit include:
THE LONG ROOM - Trinity College
Neck muscles will quite likely need adjustment from gazing up at shelves containing 200,000 volumes -- every book in a country blessed with literary greats. The library ran out of space about 1850 -- when the 65-metre-long hall approached 20 shelves in height -- which necessitated the building of today's stunning barrel-vaulted ceiling. It covers the collection and the white busts of ancient scholars that line each cubicle. In the centre under glass protection are featured manuscripts, King Brian Boru's 15th-century harp that Ireland's national emblem is based on, and the 1916 proclamation of the Irish Republic.
BOOK OF KELLS - Trinity College
When the Irish boast about saving Christianity, they are talking about how monks protected ancient books and manuscripts from destruction during Viking raids. The most important of these is the Book of Kells, an intricate medieval illuminated manuscript, which contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. Once sheltered at Abbey of Kells, it has been at Trinity College since the 17th century.
For a change of pace, head to Dublin's famous bohemian dining and entertainment district -- especially at night. Handy to Christ Church Cathedral, it's a worthwhile trek along the cobblestones to the River Liffey to take pictures on the picturesque Ha'Penny Bridge. If the music in the pubs or from street musicians doesn't provide a spring in your step before you leave, finish the evening at Dublin's oldest pub -- The Brazen Head -- where many local musicians congregate with their melodeons, violins, flutes and drums.
ST. STEPHEN'S GREEN
This serene park near the city-centre is also the gateway to Trinity College, the National Gallery, many museums and excellent shopping around Grafton St.
The double-decker Dublin Bus offers a hop-on, hop off tour that takes in the city's top destinations as well as hidden spots, such as where an unknown U2 and their fans left graffiti, the statue of legendary Molly Malone, the Dublin Writers Museum and "The Irish White House" -- the Phoenix Park residence of the country's president. A candle is perpetually lit in its front window for the millions of Irish who have departed through the centuries but are never forgotten and always welcomed home.
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