An EPIC Adventure part 2 – and a batty return

I broke off the last episode part way through my trip to Dublin. Compared to our quiet life here in Tipperary it seemed a very eventful couple of days, too much for the one blog. So, picking up from the second morning, I was stiff and sore from my route marching the day before but determined to see the EPIC museum. I’d heard a lot about it, including the fact it had been placed in the world’s top 5 museums. Focussing on the numerous waves of emigration from Ireland, it has a personal link to some of my history too. I had to see what all the fuss was about.

One thing Dublin has in abundance is taxis. Not surprising as the buses and trams, whilst numerous, are very hard for a visitor to navigate. I bid the B&B a fond farewell and hailed a taxi from right outside. A quick run through slightly more familiar streets (EPIC is quite close to my overnight accommodation) and I walked through the doors into a huge glass atrium. I was a bit shocked at the cost – 21 Euros for an oldie – but I have to say it was worth every cent. The atrium stretched the length of the building and there are shops, cafes and different facilities all along both sides. Families and individuals were already settled at the tables or on the couches, reading or talking, some enjoying the excellent choice of food. I put my bag in a locker, admired the life-size model of a clover-covered pig on a table inside and cast around for the actual museum.

After wandering up and down for a few minutes I swallowed my pride and went back to the ticket office by the entrance. They were perfectly polite and gestured towards a stone staircase heading down. The whole thing is underground. Housed in the vaults below the old port building, the main exhibition has twenty different rooms, each devoted to a single topic. It is difficult to describe the impact of this amazing environment. It uses a lot of film and photography and links the general to the specific through short narratives from actual people. The sound and the film quality is excellent, almost (but not quite) overwhelming in some rooms.

As an artistic display it is stunning with huge models, costumes, paintings and artifacts brought together to tell a story. It is the story however that is so powerful. I think it is something you need to experience to understand it. I was partly expecting a fair amount of self-pity and anger, which would actually be justified given the history of this country. In fact it was quite the opposite. This is not a narrative of victims but of strong, resourceful people. It was enlightening and occasionally sad but ultimately hugely uplifting and inspiring. The journey through the underground barrel vaults can be marked off on a “passport”, issued at the entrance, something I did rather obsessively.

As well as being educational (who knew in 1770 all the Bordeaux wine merchants were Irish?), there are some nice interactive pieces. Selfies at the “convict for transportation” board are very popular especially as you can choose your own crime! The last room is a huge electronic wall of names where the emigrants are listed. I added my Great Grandfather to the hundreds of thousands already remembered.

With the help of a nice ticket inspector I was able to get a tram back to the station in good time, saving my poor swollen knees. The journey showed both the best of the city and some of the darker side also. The people are friendly and helpful. The murals and street art is fabulous (and occasionally subversive) and much of the architecture is splendid. But also there are a large number of rough sleepers, often with just a sleeping bag. Residents scarcely notice them, walking round the bodies without a glance. Small blue tents are reappearing on the riverbanks, soon to be moved on by the Garda. Fast food bicycles are everywhere, often ridden by young men who are almost gaunt as they take terrible risks to meet impossible deadlines. I came away with so much to think about.

As a footnote, a couple of nights ago Jacqui thought she spotted a large spider-like creature in the shower at night. Or maybe it was a small bat. At 3am you really don’t want to investigate too closely, just in case it’s a bat-spider or something equally scary. In the morning I couldn’t find anything so had a shower, but then spotted a lump of dirt moving in one corner, hidden behind a spray bottle. It was a baby bat, smaller than the top of my thumb, soaked through but still just conscious. I was mortified but Jacqui had done some reading about bats in the night.

June is the month when baby bats get lost and confused and can fly into houses. We looked around and spotted another resting above the bathroom door. Following the article’s advice we moved both bats wrapped in a soft rag and placed them outside in a pile of twigs. They were up high away from the dogs and covered with a box to keep out the light. At dusk we removed the box and resisted the urge to poke around the twigs for several hours. There were some signs of movement though so we were hopeful. They both survived and flew away when it got dark and that felt really good. We named them Pip and Squeak and it made a fine ending to a busy and very different couple of weeks.

Thank you for reading. If you are ever in Dublin do go to EPIC – it is an amazing experience.

Have a good few weeks and I hope you will join me soon.