Exploring Dublin. A darlin' vacation spot - with or without the Millennium celebrations
TO be sure, it is the city's Millennium. As sure, that is, as wry, irony-attuned Dubliners can be about their home and its turbulent past - a history which actually began prior to King Mael Sechnaill II's reign, with Dyflyn, the Viking seaport on the river Liffey's south banks and goes on through centuries of enviable literary happenings and unenviable politics. Indeed, if there is a festive mood borne on Dublin's soft summer air, it's as likely to arise from the drubbing Ireland gave England in last month's European Champions' Cup soccer semifinals as from any civic blarney conjured for the Irish chieftain's victory o'er the Vikings in A.D. 988.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Never mind. Any excuse for a ``pairty'' here will do for Dublin's 1 million own and the expected 250,000 additional visitors this year.
Manufactured or no, the Millennium has burgeoned into a year-long celebration with some 1,200 events planned (though many of them are annual occurrences anyway). This month, alone, features an international organ festival in two of Dublin's oldest churches - Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick's; a regatta on the Liffey; a folk music festival; and the official birthday party July 8-10, with 1,000 candles on an enormous cake in the 1,700-acre Phoenix Park. Slow march to gentrification
Not that July holds any particular significance to the 988 victory. The month was chosen simply because it coincides with Dublin's yearly street fair. Such is the pleasingly ad hoc way of doing things in this Georgian city, which has weathered centuries of insurrection and is now on a slow march to gentrification.
On the skyline, construction cranes vie with cathedral spires; on the streets, horse-drawn drays and bicycles compete with Mercedeses and motorbikes. Grafton Street is now a pedestrian mall where Yankee upstarts like Ralph Lauren have opened shops alongside Dublin's ancient and honorable department stores. It's also the place where watering holes like Davey Bryne's and The Bailey, immortalized in James Joyce's ``Ulysses,'' are now patronized by hordes of nine-to-fivers, who crowd the sidewalks with their ties loosened and their shirt sleeves rolled, just the way the yuppie crowd at New York's South Street Seaport does.
A similar restoration underway on Dublin Bay - the $400 million Customs House Dockside Development Project - is scheduled to bring this city new hotels, offices, eateries, and plenty of Olde World charm sometime in the mid-'90s.
All this says far more about the reality of Dublin today than its Viking heritage, touted though it may be in the tri-color Millennium banners hung about the city. Some locals scoff at the observance, insisting that the balmy, dry summer weather and Ireland's favorable exchange rate (the dollar equivalent is $1.50 per Irish punt versus $1.80 per British pound sterling) are more conducive to a boost in tourism than the Millennium itself. A replicated Viking village
In addition to the various events, the Millennium has inspired one important exhibit - the Viking Experience. It's a re-creation of the city's Scandinavian roots, and it's located near the original Dyflyn, in the crypts of St. Audeon's Church. The replicated Viking village there is staffed with a corps of actors performing daily tasks in the tradition of America's Colonial Williamsburg. Rich in state-of-the-art verisimilitude (right down to the dubious asset of the duplicated odors of Dublin 1,000 years ago), the exhibit bears little relation to the Dublin that envelopes a visitor today.
The modern city's pleasures include the serene Georgian squares with their row upon row of pictureque doorways and cookie-cutter perfection, the smoke-filled, aged pubs, and the incessant murmur of Gaelic-cadenced conversation on every corner. The Millennium walking tour