When I move to a new place even if it is within the United States I find it very important to play tourist in your new city. It is the best way to discover all of the things your new home has to offer. Since I just moved to Dublin I have decided to make it my mission to play tourist at least once a week around the city; whether it be going to a different museum or wandering around a new park. Any little thing counts. So as my first attempt at playing tourist my gracious host (until I stop being homeless) suggested we go to Kilmainham Gaol. Going into this “field trip” I knew literally NOTHING about this spot. I’ve been to Dublin quite a few times so I find it shocking that there was a major historical spot that I didn’t know about. Now I believe it is a must stop in Dublin if you ever find yourself vacationing there. This jail is one of the oldest unoccupied jails in all of Western Europe. When it was still in use it housed some of the most famous political prisoners in Ireland at the time of the uprising. I had not anticipated what would come from this tour, but I was excited to learn all I could.
Upon arrival to the jail I immediately noticed the grandness of the building. It looked like an ancient estate that you would see on a show similar to Downton Abbey. It was difficult for me to grasp the fact that it was a jail at one point. However, as you actually enter the prison and walk past the modernized receptionist desk and look beyond the the construction workers outdoors the vibe of the place took a complete 180. The cells that line the walls of the oldest part of the prison were dark and held a dark history. Just looking through the tiny peep hole located on each door you immediately felt the lack of privacy each prisoner experienced. Prisoners were kept in single cells under constant supervision and unable to speak. It was the opinion of the jailers that if they could keep the prisoners silent they would quickly change their ways. When entering the newer section of the prison which had very similar architecture to that of the immigrant building on Ellis Island in New York you saw the actual graffiti from the prisoners. Whether it was representing their hometown or their political beliefs you could almost feel the people with you.
The original structure was built in 1796 and remained open until 1924. It saw many prisoners come through. Some for petty crime like stealing food during the famine to political prisoners who fought for their beliefs. Kilmainham had such a strong energy about it. Everywhere you turned and looked you felt an energy. You could feel the presence of the prisoners and workers alike. As it is nearing the 100th anniversary of the Easter uprising it was an amazing experience to stand and learn a bit about the the place that had such an important impact during the time.
As someone who doesn’t know much about Irish history it was awesome to get a little crash course in scraping the surface of what people did to cope with the famine and later the uprising. It was definitely one of the more somber spots in Dublin, but also a must see!
I can’t wait to spend the rest of my time here exploring all Dublin has to offer.