Dublin Castle. Stunning. Impressive. Disorienting?
On a sunny Thursday morning we entered through the enormous iron gates to the outer courtyard. The castle grounds were impressive with an eclectic mix of architectural styles. Apparent additions over the centuries resulted in a cluster of buildings boasting a massive medieval tower, grand Georgian wings, an incredible Gothic chapel, a remarkable modern library on world religions and a perfectly manicured garden the size of a football field. A graceful Celtic knot design was neatly embroidered into the lawn in brick.
The diversity of the styles and images all stuck together into one gigantic complex was a bit of a mind-bender. The juxtapositions were further amplified as we hobbled across the cobblestones, past the crude archaic form of the stone tower, directly into one of the most delicately ornate chapels done in the Gothic style—dripping with tracery and filigree. It was absolutely beautiful with the sunlight streaming in through the leaded windows, but somehow, it just didn’t seem to fit with the other parts of the Castle.
After our glorious moments awash in the Gothic era, we strolled from the church through the archway into the inner courtyard. There, we discovered yet another conundrum. There stood a curious man leaning in a doorway with a cane wearing a heavy full length tweed coat and brown bowler hat, looking like Sherlock Holmes himself. We were baffled. Surely Dubliners don’t still dress like that anymore. Maybe it’s the mixed historical context that makes people want to dress up and hang out. But, as we rounded the next corner, we discovered that he wasn’t alone.
There in the courtyard were hoards of heavy-coated people, looking like they just stepped off of a movie set. Well they did! Or rather, we stepped into one. Before us was the film crew working on a period piece, complete with wagons and horses. We watched as the “historical characters” drank their coffee from modern cardboard cups with plastic lids delivered from the local coffee shop, smoked their Virginia Slim cigarettes and checked the latest news on their cell phones—of course taking off their thick black leather gloves in order to push the little buttons.
As we walked away scratching our heads and feeling like we had just been in a time warp, we spied an old lamp mounted to the chapel wall. By the size of the iron arm anchored into the stone, it surely once sported a natural gas lantern. We imagined the flickering yellowish light casting eerie shadows on the ancient cobblestone passageway. No! To our surprise, the fixture had been modified to accept one single modern Dairy-Queen fluorescent bulb. That did it!
We felt as though we’d fallen into a M.C. Escher optical illusion print. So,we hurried off before stumbling onto one more odd incongruity at the curious Irish castle—in fact, the contradictions seemed to be dublin’.
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