Living history - Dublin acted out
On our last day, we visit different places where past and present, fact and fiction, virtual and real merge. We start at the "Viking Centre" - a living museum showing the history of the Viking settlement in Dublin. During the 1970s, whole Norse and Norman settlements were found near Christ Church, but the city decided not to go on with excavations but rather to cover the site with civic offices, also called "The Bunkers". The Viking Centre tries to make up for this by taking us back to the "original" settlement. A boat brings us to the harbour, where a Viking called Gunnar meets us and shows us around. He teaches the girls how to defend themselves with an axe and shows the men how to build a new house from reed and dung.

At the building site of the first Christian church, we meet Olaf, one of the few Viking stone masons. He explains how they build the church and introduces us to the not so Christian Viking marriage ceremony. As Alexandra doesn't have her axe ready, she nearly gets married to a Viking, but flatly refuses to continue when it comes to phase three. If you want to find out what this includes, you'll have to visit the Viking Centre yourself. Just a hint: it's a fertility rite.

The second part of the tour takes us to large wall which not only introduces us to the stratum method of dating at excavations, but also includes artefacts representing different phases in Dublin history, e.g. a violin as a symbol for the first performance of Haendel's "Messiah". Continuing from there, the "Museum" part gives an introduction to the work of an archaeologist. We learn how excavations are done, how objects are dated and labelled, what the difference between active and passive conservation is, etc.

After this, we jump forward several hundred years and have a closer look at the Georgian Houses so typical for Dublin. We visit Merrion Square with its Georgian Terraces and the statue of Oscar Wilde opposite his former house. He looks quite satisfied, though during his lifetime he was quite disappointed by the small sum he got for selling the house. Again, we can clearly see the different height of the windows, getting smaller the higher they are and therefore giving the impression of an even higher building, very much like the houses in North Great George's Street, where we have already seen wonderful examples of Georgian stucco work at the James Joyce Centre. The building we like best, though, is Powerscourt Townhouse, now a fashionable shopping centre, where Dublin business people go for their lunch. Entering the glass covered inner court is like a time warp again, especially as under the grand mahogany staircase a lady sits at an old fashioned piano, playing opera music of the 18th and 19th century. We stop to have a tea and then have a look at a smaller staircase at the Western end of the building, with its elaborate plasterwork and crystal chandeliers.

As it's our last evening, we take part in a Literary Tour around Dublin. It is called a "Literary Pub Crawl", but those of us who expected a night of heavy drinking will be disappointed. Two actors take us around the town, performing scenes by Beckett and Behan, delivering speeches by such different characters as Queen Elisabeth I and Oscar Wilde. The time inside pubs is mainly spend searching for answers for our literary quiz, such as: What was the original name of "The Stand"? Maybe you'd like to go there and look for the old photograph yourself. Just a hint, the name is not "Wines and Spirits" as one participant suggested, but the name in between those words…

To give you a final impression, here is a selection of the pub quiz questions for you. If you know all answers, we'll buy you a drink the next time we meet in Dublin:

1) Beckett's birthday was seen as a bad omen. Why?

2) Beckett was Co-Author of the musical "Oh Calcutta". Seeing a group of naked women on stage, he withdrew his name from the production. Another author did likewise. Who was this second author of "Oh Calcutta"? (A hint: He was one of the Beatles).

3) Oscar Wilde always said he hated physical exercise. During his time at Trinity College, though, he practiced a rather unusual sport. Which one?

4) So far, four Irish writers have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Name them.

5) One of those writers not only won the Nobel Prize but also an Oscar. Who?

6) One of the four Nobel Prize winners represented his country at the Olympic Games. Who, and in what discipline?



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Dr. Elmar-Laurent Borgmann
Rhein-Ahr-Campus, FH-Koblenz
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