Gloomy weather; Kilmainham Gaol; Much walking and getting lost; The Worst Hostel in the World (or at least in Ireland)

We’d originally planned to spend only two days in Dublin, so when we decided at the last moment to stay another day, we were caught without accommodation. Dublin hostels are always full on weekends (Sundays counting as weekends) so we had to settle for what we could get - more on that later. After breakfast we moved our packs to the new place and headed out into the city. It was a gray and overcast day - not especially chilly but wet enough so that we decided to do indoor things.

We started with Kilmainham Gaol, a historical prison in the far west end of the city, in the suburb of Kilmainham (natch). We thought of taking the bus out there, and decided that walking better suited our roles as Hardened World Travelers. Hours later, with aching feet and having got lost several times, we found the place. you think something as big as a prison would be easy to notice, but we’d walked right past it. I’ve remarked previously that the Irish are not keen on signage.

Entry was by guided tour only, which I was unhappy about at first, but was glad of afterward. Shuffling along in a line wasn’t fun, but without the historical context the guide provided, the prison would have been only an interesting-looking stone structure. The brutal horrors that happened inside those walls during the three centuries of the prison’s operation turned my stomach. No separation of men and women; torture of prisoners and the whipping to death of children; virulent contagion, starvation and terrible overcrowding. And this is the sanitized history for tourist consumption - the mind recoils at the unspeakable scenes that must have played out in the black cells down in the lower levels, to which we were not taken, and to which only oblique mention was made. I leaned a lot too, about the men and women behind the various risings and revolutions over the centuries of British occupation, since nearly all of them were imprisoned in Kilmainham at one point. Id been hearing their names all along, without realizing it, echoed in the names of the streets of Dublin - O’Connell, Parnell, Wolfe Tone and all the rest of them.

I had a bad moment when, having spent too much time in the prison museum, closing time came and they put me out onto they street, and Sheryl was nowhere to be found. I waited an increasingly uneasy fifteen minutes and then began to set my mind to breaking into prison, a place I’ve sworn to avoid at all costs. Just as I was about to admit defeat, the staff threw her out as well, so a jailbreak wasn’t necessary. The walk back to the city centre seemed even longer than the walk out, but I did finally find the famous statue of Molly Malone. Inspired by the old song:

In Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone.
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through streets broad and narrow,
Singing cockles and mussels, alive, alive-o.

the statue is known to Dubliners as ‘the Tart with the Cart’ and it’s every bit as hideous as I’ve always heard.

A quick drink and a game of cards in the pub, then back to the hostel, and wasn’t that a mistake. I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels, and I’m hardly a princess - my standards are quite low at this point, actually - but I’ve never stayed in a worse hostel than this one. The room and kitched were disgustingly filthy; there was no real sitting area; the room was in a separate building so that every time you wanted into it you had to get your keycard re-activated; the ensuite washroom (which we specifically didn’t book) was also filthy, with a door that didn’t close and a light that couldn’t be turned out, so that nobody could sleep; and mixed-gender showers with transparent glass doors and only a thin blue opaque strip protecting one’s modesty. Also, the blue strip was placed for taller people than me - let’s just say that if the water had been warmer, I’d have been giving a bit of a show.

There was so much that was awful about the hostel, I can’t remember it all. The seriously creepy guy who hung around the room in his underwear all evening, lounging on his bunk with his legs spread, mentally undressing everything female; the weird set of three bunks beside each other, with no way into the middle except over one of the others; the blocked drains in the showers which overflowed onto the floor of the room… I can’t say enough negative things about this place. Oh, and all this luxury and princely comfort came at the measly pittance of €26.00 - each, per night. I feel physically sick thinking about it. Oddly though, it had the best breakfast of any hostel yet - ham, cheese, eggs, bread, cereal and fresh fruit, where other hostels give you bread and cereal, or (usually) nothing at all.


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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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