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My First Night in Dublin

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Hey friends,

I am about to share with you my first travel experience.  This is my adventure from Dublin, Ireland on May 11, 2011.  It was the first time I had ever traveled outside the United States and it was the first time I ever wrote about traveling.  It was great looking back at this and I hope that my regular readers can appreciate the humor in this story.  Just think about the adventures I have had.  This is where they started.

-Jack

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05/11/2011

The sun was about to set on my first night in Dublin.  I walked up Talbot Street looking for a bite to eat.

There was a storefront for a One Euro Store, which is like an American Dollar Store.  Two bald men with wires running down the inside of their suit collars stood watch in front of a casino.  One store promised the “world’s lightest luggage.”    The window that I was interested in promised pizzas, burgers, and kebabs.  I ordered a slice of the meat special pizza and took a seat at the four person dine-in counter.  I started to think about what could happen over the next couple months but there were more possibilities than I had time for.  After all, the sun was about to set on my first night in Dublin.

So as I ate I thought about what had happened since I arrived in Dublin this morning.  After passing through customs and circling the airport parking lot twice I got on a bus.  The driver asked me what I was looking for and I was not sure what to tell him.  I knew the name of my hostel but that was probably not what he was looking for.  I remembered that the street started with a “G” and was in City Center.  I decided to leave off the first part.  “City Center,” I replied.

I sat in the back of the double decker bus waiting for our departure.  Two fellow American travelers boarded and sat next to me on the long bench seats.  The man had auburn dreadlocks and was either tan or dirty.  His clothes were tattered and layered.  He unloaded the small backpack off his chest and then heaved the much larger travel pack onto the seat.  I thought about how much more difficult it would be to travel with so much gear.

The woman had long brown hair atop a tiny frame.  She had her nose pierced on one side and her skin had the same oversunned or underkept look as the man.  Her hoodie hung over the top of her eyes and sagged from her bony shoulders.  They were both from San Francisco and had spent the winter traveling through Spain.  They had spent the previous summer traveling in northern Europe.  Dublin was their last stop before going home to California.

The couple was staying at a hostel on Gardiner Street.  I was also staying at a hostel on Gardiner Street.  We both got off the bus at The Spire.  I stayed with them until we got to Gardiner.  When I found my hostel  I checked in, dropped my bags, and went out onto the sidewalk.

I followed the buzz of activity to a mostly pedestrian road made of asphalt and red brick called Talbot Street.  I walked up the street and stopped where it crossed Gloucester Place.  With my back firmly against the wall I began opening my map of Dublin.  Before I had one fold unfolded a voice stopped me…

“What are ya lookin’ for?” the age-worn Irishman asked.

Once again this question had me stumped.  So I started talking with the old man.  He asked me if I ever boxed.  He thought I might be a relative of a fighter known as Kid Douglass.  “Aaaah! It’s the dimple.  You look just like him,” he insisted as he shadow boxed with me on the corner.  Suddenly he stopped his fists.  His back straightened.  His smile flattened.

Seconds later he was singing about me, my dimple, and Kid Douglass while waving his fists in the air again.  When he stopped again I asked where I could find something good to eat.  He motioned towards the building we were leaning against with his arm.  He took a few sideways steps towards the door while beckoning unsteadily with his head.

I followed my new friend, Noel, into Mother Kelly’s.  I took a seat at the counter near the front door.  I ordered at the bar and when the waitress brought out my meal she also brought out a complimentary pint of Guinness, which comes with lunch at Mother Kelly’s.  I sat eating my vegetable lo mein and trying to get Noel’s attention.  I looked across the room and he was sitting on the arm of a chair with one of his arms wrapped around a man seated in the chair and the other one waving furiously in the air.  He bawled and gyrated before finally hopping to his feet and circling back around the bar, stopping at each table.  When he reached me Noel burst into another round of “The Kid.”  I thanked him for his company and for helping me find good lo mein.  I gave him a pint of Guinness, which he carried from table to table, toasting,  until long after it was empty.

  Artist’s rendering of Noel.

After meeting Noel I walked back to my hostel to shower and get ready for my first night in Dublin.  The sun was about to set and I had just finished eating a slice of pizza in a kebab house on Talbot Street.  As I turned the first corner I entered an alley.  I came out on a street similar to Talbot on the other side of the alley.  I turned right towards The Spire and enjoyed the final seconds before the sunset.

Then I looked down onto the sidewalk.  The first thing I noticed was the blood.  There was a man in it.  He was holding a towel over his head.  He laid on the sidewalk, trying to hold himself upright with the aid of a garda officer.  A few witnesses stood around the man.  The rest of us walked around the garda’s car as we were instructed.  As I walked away I heard one of the witnesses say “I don’t know who he is but he’s been hanging out around this neighborhood all day.  I’ve seen him five or six times.”

I kept walking but suddenly the darkness and that street seemed threatening, intense, and violent.  Every step that I took away from my hostel took me further adrift in a dark, unknown place.  I needed to gather my thoughts and decide what to do.

I went back to my hostel.  The man at the desk was holding up a paper.  The headline read, “We’re Not Gay.”  This was the statement issued by the Irish pop duo that consists of identical twins named John and Edward.  The band’s name is Jedward.  The man at the front desk was furious about the article.  He did not care one bit about whether or not the twins in Jedward were gay.  That is what he was furious about.  The front page of the paper was entirely devoted to these two pop stars and, as he explained to me in full detail, they are “dreadful.”  I agreed politely and climbed the stairs back to my room.

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The Hunt Continues…

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I entered Phoenix Park with high hopes that day three would succeed where the first two days had failed.  I was hunting the mythical fallow deer that, as goes the myth, have resided here for over 350 years.  Today I would scour the south side of the park.  This was the only area that I had not yet searched and, therefore, success was imminent, right?

I began by following the trails that broke off of Chichester Street, the central avenue that ran the length of the park.  As I followed one of them back to the center I saw the sign for the Visitor’s Center.  It would be open today and I decided to take a detour  so that I might get some expert advice.  I entered the Visitor’s Center and the woman at the information desk was busy on the phone.  As I waited I went into the back room, which was a small gallery devoted to the history of the park.  The centerpiece was a hunting scene that recreated the park in its days as the noble hunting grounds, complete with a stuffed deer.  “There it is,” I thought.  “That is probably the last deer that inhabited this park.”

Then the woman got off the phone and I sauntered back in to interrogate her about the deer.  After a brief conversation, the bottom line seemed to be that the deer went wherever they felt like going.  This was still promising, though, because it meant that they still believed there were deer residing in the park grounds.  My skepticism was diminished but not eliminated.

I left the Visitor’s Center and picked up back where I left off on the south side of Chichester.  My first stop was the Papal Cross.  The cross was at the top of a large flight of stairs and I figured that from this vantage point I could see much more of the park than I could just walking along the trails.  I looked out over the massive field below and imagined what it had looked like on September 29, 1979 when over one million people gathered to hear Pope John Paul II give a sermon.  I also imagined what it might look like if a few hundred deer were passing through in January 2012.  What a glorious site that would have been on this sunspotted day in Dublin.

On the other side of the field was a thick forest that looked like a perfect spot for deer trying to hide.  I followed the trails they had left until I was walking through the trees.  The tracks were fresh and I wondered which of the dozen trails I should follow.  One by one I followed all of them until they led out into another open field.  After inspecting the forests and field I turned back towards Chichester Street.  As I walked I peered from side to side looking for my fallow friends.  Then, nearly 800 yards away I saw something resembling the bales of hay I had mistaken for wild deer the day before.  There was something different about these ones, though.  There were a  hundred of them and they were pressed close together.  Then, I saw them move.

I approached with caution hoping that this could be my much sought after prey.  But it couldn’t be.  I have never seen this many deer in one place.  As I got within a few hundred yards I saw that one of these hay bales had a massive set of horns atop its head.  This was it!  This was really it!  They were real and I found them!

I walked slowly now.  I did not want to scare them before I could get a picture.  I did not know if I could get much closer. They began to stir.  Some of them stood up.  I snapped some pictures from a distance and decided to press my luck.

There was a trail running about twenty yards from where the herd was grazing and I began moving down it.  Five minutes later I was close enough to join the herd if they would accept members of another species.  Some of them were eating grass while others played non-reindeer deer games.  The only buck in the group went around prodding at the does who laid in the grass until they got up and began grazing.  I stood watching them and thinking about the amazing life these animals had.

When I finally decided to leave them be I walked back towards the main road, kinda.  After about an hour of wandering without knowledge of my precise geographical location I came upon the familiar Phoenix monument.  From there I walked along the trail that I had been on so many times before.  This time something was different, though.  The trail was lined with herds of fallow deer.  It was as if they respected the fortitude I had shown in hunting them and the respect I had shown them when I finally found them.  They seemed to be nodding in approval as they plucked the grass from the dirt.  I am also pretty sure that one of them winked at me as a strolled by.  Well, it was a fun adventure and I can hardly wait to get started on my next one.  Until then…

The Fable of the Fallow Deer of Phoenix Park

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Once upon a time, as I left the pond on the east end of Phoenix Park and said goodbye to my new feathered friends I began my adventure into the depths of Phoenix Park.  I had a mission and I was not going to back down this time.  See, this was my second day in Phoenix Park searching for the elusive fallow deer that have resided in the park since it was constructed 350 years ago as a hunting ground for Irish nobles.  My first day ended with an admittedly half-hearted attempt to hunt down my prey, though at the time I did not realize how half-hearted I had been.  That day I had walked until I found a monument that I assumed was the Phoenix monument which gave the park it’s name.  

It was an impressive monument but it turned out to be a war memorial.  I was also under the impression that I had seen the park in its entirety.  Unfortunately, I had only seen about one tenth of the 1,750 acre mega-park.

I followed the signs pointing to the visitor center.  If those deer were in the park then they would surely be able to help me find them.  When I arrived at the center the sign taped to the door explained that they would open up again on Wednesday.  It looked like I was on my own.  How hard could it be, though?  As it turns out, much harder than I had anticipated.   Then it started to drizzle.

I was heading west through the park when through the trees I saw a building resembling the White House in Washington, D.C.  It was the home of the President of Ireland and the Irish flag waved proudly above this glorious marble mansion.  I stopped briefly but I knew the deer would not be in there so I had to keep moving.  To give you some idea of what I was up against (which I did not know at the time) this park is about five miles from east to west with trails zigzagging for one to two miles north to south.  I was following all the outermost trails and then following the zigzag trails to the centerpoint, which is a main road that goes the length of the park.  After reaching this street, Chichester Road, I would go back to my outer trail and begin again.  This methodical approach assured me success on my hunting expedition, right?

Hours later I  was nearing the west end of Phoenix Park.  By this time I had worked myself into a frenzy over the non-appearance of the hoofed hellians.  Then I saw it… a Deer Crossing sign.  This had to be the spot where I would see them.  I sat down on a bench only a few feet from what I recognized as a trail made by deer and waited.  Then I waited some more.  The drizzle started again.  Forty five minutes later I was cursing the deer under my breath as I stood up to begin searching the other half of the park.  I reached Chichester street and saw a Car Crossing sign.  I couldn’t even get across the street there were so many cars.  Now, I see the humor in the comparative accuracy of these two signs but at that moment my frustration was beginning to set in and decided to take extreme measures.

Frustration Creeps In

I crossed the street and headed for the outermost wall.  There was a ditch just inside the wall and I was pretty sure the deer would be found hiding in it.  I began walking in the ditch.  Then, from up ahead I heard a rustle in the bushes.  I grabbed my camera and sprinted ahead.  As I zoomed in and prepared for the much anticipated shot a crow flew out and nearly smacked me in the head.  I shoved my camera in my pocket and started making deer calls.  I should mention that I don’t really know how to make deer calls.  I mean, I can do the breathy snorting sound they do but I don’t know if that attracts them or scares them away.  If I had to guess, I would say it does not attract them.  Anyway, it went on this way until I reached one of the outposts of the park.  Outside the gate was a place known as Farmleigh.  It was a large family farm that had ponds and trails and trees so I reasoned that maybe the deer escaped the park and went to hide in Farmleigh.

As I entered I finished my last granola bar and my master plan was now beginning to crumble fast.  I gave all my bread to the swans.  I ate my last granola bar.  How was I possibly going to get one of these deer to eat out of my hand when I found them?  I would have to give them a finger or something.  So I was on about hour five of my search and , as you may have guessed, this is when things started getting a little weird.  I was sure every bale of hay off in the distance was a bedded down deer.  I would run until it came into focus and then I would shake my fist in fury as the empty field taunted me.  Every duck that flapped its wing was a deer shaking its head until I snapped my head to see the quacking, laughing bird.  At some point I became convinced that I was being watched by a “lookout deer,” as I called him when I cursed his existence numerous times in the coming hours, who warned all the others when I was getting close so they could flee to the next lush field to frolic in my absence.

Cursing The "Lookout Deer"

Frustration Takes Over

The cruelest trick of all took place as I rounded one of the corners on the Farmleigh farm.  There, nearly a quarter mile away, across an open field, were the four legged fallows.  I burst into a mad dash.  Finally, I would take my shot and have successfully hunted my first deer (in a way).  As I neared them I grew with excitement.  I had never seen a fallow deer like these and they were huge.  Fallow deer are thick.  Fallow deer have bulbous heads and no horns.  Wait, that couldn’t be right.  I screamed as I realized my mistake.  “Eeyore!?!  I spend all day stalking these deer and I find Eeeyore!?!,” I yelled as I dropped to a knee to catch my breath.  After spending a little time watching these donkeys eat and stamp their feet and horse around with each other I was happy to have found them. As it turns out donkeys are not as grumpy in real life as they are in the movies.

Now I had reached the end of Farmleigh and was back inside Phoenix Park.  I used the same methodical approach on this side of the park that I had employed on the other side of Chichester Street.  Somewhere, though, something went wrong.  It had been over six hours and I was hungry, thirsty, and my legs were beginning to hurt.  I must have crossed the threshold of Phoenix Park because the next thing I knew I was on a small street.  On both sides of the street were brick walls higher than I could see.  Every few blocks there was a gate and inside I could see very nice homes all in rows.  Then I got to a street corner.  I knew that Dublin was to the left so I took a left and started back towards town.  Maybe I should say I took a left and thought I started back towards town, though.  What I had actually done was begin a long journey in a suburban labrynth.  Every turn led me to a dead end and before long I had no idea where I was or how I was going to get out of this place.  I spent nearly an hour wandering in circles in suburban Dublin.  Then I saw an electrician’s van pull out of a driveway.  I chased after him because I knew he was leaving this place and unless I followed I was not.

I lost sight of him but not before spotting the crucial escape points.  I made a few lefts and rights and I was out on a main street.  Which street I wasn’t sure but I was just happy that I was not going to have to spend the night on the mean streets of suburbia.  Now it was getting late and I headed back to City Center.  Of course, based on what you have heard so far you probably understand that it was not quite that simple.  I followed signs pointing to City Center for about an hour.  I got to the top of an overpass and saw the city getting closer.  It looked smaller than I remembered and I wondered where the river had gone.  Keep in mind, these thoughts were going on in the head of someone who ran out of food and water long ago and was now reaching exhaustion.  As I reached City Center I realized that this was not my city.  I was now standing in Dun Laoghaire, which is a beautiful city about six miles east of Dublin.

It was dark and cold.  I contemplated my next move, which for a brief moment I was pretty sure would be to sleep where I stood until morning.

A Quick Upright Nap

However, I knew that if I could get back to my hostel I could deep fry my half bag of French fries and tell my story for a few laughs.  So off I went, following the signs on the expressway that pointed to Dublin.  I only got lost one more time as I tried to circumvent the walk through Phoenix Park.  I now know that you can not go around the park and still end up in Dublin.  With my new found knowledge I entered the park and after traversing the length of Chichester Street I was within a few miles of my French fries and much deserved can of Coke.

Well, as you may have guessed, I made it back to my room safe and sound.  It was a fun adventure that introduced me to the far reaches of an area I may not have otherwise had a chance to see.  I got some interesting pictures and I will be sure to post them when I do my “Dublin roundup” before I leave this beautiful place.  Oh, and as for the deer… I will be back out again tomorrow.  Until our next adventure…

Close Encounter of the Bird Kind

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It was day number two inside Phoenix Park when I decided to get bold.  I had watched the ducks and swans battle the pigeons for the crumbs left on the shoreline but I still thought of swans as gentle creatures.  I anticipated a long day so I brought a baguette and some pieces of chocolate for lunch.  By the time I left the swan pond I was down to just the chocolate but who could say no to a face like this?

Art in the Land of Ire

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Not to early this morning I bundled up in my down coat and hat.  The last couple days here in Dublin have made me think that I might see some snow before I leave for Poland (which I can hardly believe is just over a week away).  For myself, traipsing through snow is old hat but I have met a few fellow travelers who have yet to see their first falling flakes.  Besides, those first few are always a treat.  It’s the billions that often follow that force even the toughest of animals into hibernation.  So enough about the snow.  There was an adventure to be had and I was going to have it.

I crossed the River Liffey and, as I always seem to do, stopped to look down it at the bridges that recede into the distance.  Before long I found myself in another area of Dublin I had never seen.  The stores were much smaller than I have become accustomed to seeing in Dublin.  These were clearly the mom and pop shops of the city.  The wafting smell of croissants and doughnuts lured me into a tiny bakery for a quick snack before heading to the museum.  And, by “heading to the museum” I mean that eventually I would make my way there.  See, I didn’t bring a map and for some reason I had confidence that I would remember to go left, right, right, left, left, and then right on the correct streets.  At which point I would arrive at the main entrance of The National Gallery of Ireland.  As I circled through the unpopulated streets in what I thought was perfect order I  soon realized that I was deciding which direction to turn based on a cheat code to an old Nintendo game that closely resembled my memorized directions.  When I got to the corner and thought to myself, “Ok, now just hit select and start,” I realized I was lost.

I may not have known where I was but I recognized the people that were populating these new streets.  They hustled by me with their head in the air, carrying briefcases and wearing suits.  One thing I have come to learn is that business people everywhere look the same.  A block ahead I thought I saw the museum but it turned out to be a bank of epic proportions.  Two streets later I had finished my croissant and was standing in front of the National Gallery.

I climbed the stairs to the first room and out of the corner of my eye I saw a oil painting brooding on the wall.  It’s pitch black chiaroscuro and  deep red accents told me that this was my main man, Michelangelo Caravagio.  I took a closer look, only to realize that this large as life painting had thus far eluded me entirely.  This struck me as odd because of the (admittedly inordinate) amount of time I have spent pouring over this master’s works.  This painting, it seems, has a history of being quite elusive.  For nearly 200 years “The Taking of Christ” was thought to have been destroyed, until it was rediscovered in a dining room in the home of the Dublin Jesuits in 1990.  Since then it has been on an indefinite loan to The National Gallery.  Just to set the scene, the painting captures the moment that Judas identifies Jesus to the Roman soldiers by giving him a kiss.  The soldiers are grasping for the betrayed Christ as John flees in the background.  One other interesting tidbit about this painting is the presence of Caravagio himself.  He painted himself holding a lantern as he watches the duplicity unfold.

I left this first room and anxiously approached the others on this floor.  Then I went to the special exhibition on the top story of the museum.  I had never heard the name of this artist before but surely the hype surrounding the exhibit meant that it was a must-see when visiting.  Now, let me be honest.  The moment before I entered the three room special exhibition I was extremely disappointed.  I saw the word “watercolor” and my heart dropped.  I know that art is subjective and we can all have our own point of view on it.  That being said, I just plain do not like watercolors.  To me, they are dull.  I find Easter eggs more exiting than most watercolor paintings.  These rooms, however, changed my mind about the possibilities of this medium.  The artists name was Joseph Mallord William Turner.  The collection of 31 of his works arrived at The National Gallery in 1900.  The story of their arrival begins with the son of a wealthy hat maker named Henry Vaughn.  Vaughn was an avid art collector and when he died in 1899 his collection of works by Turner were left to the National Galleries of the United Kingdom, under two conditions: 1. All the works must be shown together during the month of January only, and 2. The exhibition must remain free to the public.  The Gallery in Ireland happily acquiesced to these conditions and began exhibiting Turner’s magnificent watercolors (along with one pencil sketch and six monochromes) every January over one hundred years ago.  These paintings sparkle with the life of the places they depict.  All of his works portray the real places he visited to paint them, including Scotland, the South Coast of England, and Venice.  For me, what sets him apart is his use of color to heighten the drama of the scene.  His dark blue oceans crash with whitecapped waves.  His fiery suns burn from the center and illuminate the seascaped coast.  His style is powerful and gives life to the environment it captures.  The way he described it, after being lambasted by his contemporaries for “improperly” using watercolors, was to say that “atmosphere is my style” and I couldn’t have said it better.

This was not all the Gallery had to offer and I highly recommend that when you travel to Ireland you make this a stop on your own adventure.  In particular, the exhibit on the Irish painter Jack Yeats alone would make the trip worthwhile with his vibrant, thick-layered paints and great name.  Well, it looks like the sun is going to shine like a Joseph Turner watercolor for a little bit this afternoon so I really must get out to enjoy it.  Until our next adventure…

Hostel Takeover

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After a heaping plate of spaghetti in the kitchen/common area I started talking to some of the guys I have befriended here in Dublin.  A large group of them from Brazil were drinking beers, playing cards, and getting ready to head out to Temple Bar.  Then Vinny said, “Do you know anyone who plays guitar?”  I have been missing my guitar nearly as much as my miss my dog so I excitedly answered in the affirmative.

Just then Donnell, the hostel’s owner, came in and asked one of the guys for some help on Facebook.  Well, let’s just say the guy was not a lot of help in the state he was in.  I volunteered my Facebook expertise and went into the television room to help him out.  There I met a percussionist from Portugal and a singer from Cork.  Before long Donnell said I could grab his guitar from behind the front desk if I wanted to play.

By the time I got ahold of the six string I could hear strumming from out in the courtyard.  We all filed out and the woman from Cork requested that we play “Zombie” by The Cranberries.  I vaguely remembered the song and it didn’t take long before all three guitarists were strumming along while the Corkite let loose with her pipes, complete with fluttering falsetto. As we sounded the final notes of the song a smile crept over all our faces.  One of the Brazilians immediately began “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night,” and that set the tone for the evening.  Every song we played gathered more singers as they came out of their rooms and into the open yard.  Some even sang along out their windows to avoid the frigid Dublin air.

By one it was time for the club hoppers among us to head out.  Donnell and I walked with them to Temple Bar for the good company and conversation.  Then we broke off and grabbed a burger before I headed back to the hostel and Donnell headed home.  I had spent all day roaming the streets of Dublin looking for an adventure and, though I had a lot of fun, never found it.  But while eating a plate of spaghetti in a public kitchen adventure found me.  Who’d have thought?

Tale From The Crypt

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As I left behind the myriad graves and descended the stone steps into the burial vault the sounds of the city disappeared.  I was transported to a place where time stood still.  The agelessness of this place was all around me.  The smell in this narrow passage made of limestone bordered on sickening.  However, it was the methane that seeped up from the ground that made this incredible site possible.  Due to the natural limestone, stream of methane, and constant year round temperature in this crypt I was about to see one of the most bizarre sights in the city:  The Mummies of Saint Michan’s.

Along the sides of the corridor were gated entrances that stood no higher than five feet.  Inside, where the vaults opened up, were stacks of coffins.  Some of them stacked so high, and for so long, that the ones near the bottom were broken by the pressure.  Each vault was owned by a family who buried generations of their kin here.  Some of the earlier progeny had the unfortunate luck of now being partially exposed to the thousands of visitors who come to the underground burial chambers each year.  Though the rooms were not lit, due to them remaining “active” in the case that members of the lineage wish to be buried here, I saw enough to make the visit worthwhile.

It wasn’t until I reached the final chamber, which was lit, that I realized how awesomely macabre this visit was going to be.  In front of me lay four completely mummified bodies.  Notice that I said “completely mummified” bodies and not “complete, mummified” bodies.  The devil is in the details here.  In the center of the room was a thick, wood coffin covered in dust.  Inside the coffin, with an outstretched arm, were the mummified remains of an unknown man.  There are many theories as to what kind of a man he was.  One of the most popular hypotheses is that he was reformed thief who went on to become a priest at Saint Michan’s.  They believe he was reformed because only members of the church were ever allowed to be buried here.  “Why a thief?” you ask.  Oh, did I forget to mention that his outstretched arm was sans hand.  Yes, the man had his hand chopped off, which was a common punishment for thievery.  As for the missing feet…  Did I forget to mention that, too?  Both his feet had been lopped off.  It is believed that the poor guy was just too tall for his coffin so they did what any good mortician of the time would do- make him shorter.

While this gruesome centerpiece was more intriguing than the complete, mummified bodies who lay at both sides of him he was not the treasure of the tomb.  As I stared through the gate at these bags of bones my guide drew my attention to the rear of the room.  There, in another dilapidated coffin, lie the man most often referred to as “The Crusader.”  He acquired his nickname because he was buried in the traditional style of Crusaders: with his legs crossed, to form the shape of a crucifix.  However, this man was not a traditional man of his times in one respect.  He measured in at 6’6″ tall.  Even by today’s standards those are hulking proportions.  Remember how our problem-solving mortician fixed up our friend who was a few inches too tall for his coffin?  Well, The Crusader’s mortician had a better idea.  Rather than just chop of a few inches, to be lost to decomposition, he rearranged his lower half.  The enlightened embalmer cut off both legs near the knee and then placed the loose limbs beneath the rest of the body.  “How do I know this?” you might wonder.  After all, I did say the body was butted up against the back of the vault and inside a coffin, right?  It seems that there is a local legend that says rubbing the pointer finger of The Crusader brings good luck.  Well friends, I cut a deal with my guide.  In exchange for fifteen percent of my lottery winnings he removed the gate and allowed me to enter the vault and rub the finger of this preserved Crusader.

After standing among the dry, dusty corpses for what seemed like an eternity, though I am sure if they could speak they would tell me I am being melodramatic, I carefully ducked beneath the opening and back into the limestone corridor.  After the short walk back up the stone steps I popped out into the cemetery behind Saint Michan’s and heard the sounds of the city once again.  This was only the first of the vaults I had a chance to explore beneath the church today but nothing I saw compared to this.  Realistically, how could it?  It’s like the comment that nearly everyone who signed the visitor’s book at the vault said:  “This is the most incredible thing I have seen since I’ve been in Dublin!”  Until we adventure again…

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