We had scheduled a train excursion to Waterford and a couple of other spots in the Irish countryside, but it was cancelled for lack of other participants (apparently we were the only people who’d signed up), so we spent most of the day walking around Dublin.
The area around our hotel is fairly posh, but a few block away, things changed. While the amount of retailing remained astonishing, the quality of goods on display–and seemingly all being offered at 50-60% off–was somewhere between poor and shoddy. While we had remarked on a lack of diversity around the hotel, there was much more in the poorer precincts, leading us to form an impression that ‘people of color’ are probably disproportionately poorer here, as at home.
We walked through and around Trinity College, where students could be identified by their traditional black robes (now polyester–I wonder what they used to be). The campus is very old and impressive, but there is a lot of deferred maintenance visible.
We were struck by what appears to be a really first-rate public transportation system. Buses, rail, taxis are everywhere. And we were jealous of the impressive bike-share program; the distinctive blue bikes can be checked out through a kiosk, which unlocks the bike from it’s stand. No attendant needed. From casual observation, the program seemed very popular–we saw lots of folks checking them out and returning them.
People are not as thin as in Vilnius, but still far, far from as obese as we are in Indiana.
Tomorrow is a long travel day–we need to leave our hotel at four in the morning, and then it is air and rail with several changes until we reach Berlin.
The difference between Vilnius and Dublin in attitudes is palpable. Although the young woman who narrated our tour in Vilnius said that Lithuania was experiencing an economic downturn, it wasn’t visible–shops and cafes were bustling, there was significant construction and restoration activity, and everyone we interacted with seemed upbeat.
In Dublin, by contrast, the shops are all plastered with sale signs, there are empty shops even on Grafton Street, the “fancy” and expensive shopping thoroughfare, and both our cab-driver yesterday and a salesclerk in Marks and Spencer’s today volunteered that Ireland is experiencing a depression. (Their terminology.)
The taxi driver also volunteered considerable anger at “the bankers” who are giving themselves bonuses after their actions bankrupted the country. People are losing everything, he said, and those who brought on the crisis are still living high. One of these days, he predicted, someone with nothing left to lose will shoot a couple of them.
Sobering realities, and not so far from those we left at home–although I haven’t heard so direct an indictment elsewhere.
Last evening we strolled around Temple Bar and ate at a traditional Irish restaurant called Gallaghers. We had Irish boxty–the Irish version of Knish, with some variation. (It has been a theory of mine that every culture has similar dishes that are simply named differently–kreplach, ravioli…).
Tomorrow we are taking a day train out into the Irish countryside, and quite early on Tuesday we head for Berlin via Birmingham, London, the Chunnel and Paris. It will be a long travel day, and I anticipate no time for blogging until we are in Berlin.