Tag Archives: ireland

Dublin Taxis

23 Mar

One of the first things I noticed when I came to Dublin back in January were the abundance of taxis. I’ve never lived in a large city before, so I assumed it was fairly normal. Now that I’ve traveled around Europe, this is not the case. The number of taxis in Dublin is astronomical. A quick Google search on the topic brought up an article from 2008 which states that Dublin, at the time, had almost the exact same amount of taxis as New York City, a little over 12,000, “but with only a fraction of the population to support business.”

This abundance of taxis causes trouble for the drivers themselves, though, which I won’t delve into.  The Irish Examiner has multiple articles on this subject if you’re interested [x].  The abundance of taxis, however, is really helpful for those living in Dublin, especially when the weather is less than ideal or if you’re heading home from a pub or club after drinking maybe a bit too much!

The base price of a taxi starts at €4.10 for standard (8am – 8pm) and on Tariff A, runs at €1.03 per km or €0.36 per minute [x]. Each extra passenger also incurs a charge of €1 per passenger. There are currently 110 taxi ranks in service 24 hours a day, and can be found on O’Connell street by Savoy Cinema, Grafton Street Lower, and Foster Place. You can find a full list on the Dublin City website.

There are multiple taxi companies operating in Dublin, including Hailo, 820 Cabs, Global Taxis, National Radio Cabs, and Blue Cabs. There are a number of ways to get a taxi: call, use a mobile app, hail one on the street, or most of these companies allow you to book a taxi online as well!

I’ve never had a bad experience with a taxi here, but there have been a couple horror stories in the news.

Helpful tips:


Before getting into a taxi, ensure that there is a blue and green taxi sticker on the side of the door, as well as the typical taxi banner across the top of the vehicle. These are required by the state.

Sit in the backseat of the taxi.

When you enter the taxi, make sure that a taxi driver license is displayed prominently on the dashboard.

Record the driver’s name and make a call (real or fake) saying that you’ll be home soon and are in a taxi driven by [the driver’s name].

If you feel unsafe at any time, simply ask for the driver to drop you off where you are, pay your fare, and exit the taxi.

[x] [x]


Kilmainham Gaol

23 Mar


Kilmainham Gaol is a very old, historic jail opened it’s doors in 1796 in Dublin, Ireland. It was expanded upon multiple times in it’s history to accommodate for more prisoners and eventually closed it’s doors following the release of it’s last prisoner in 1924. A grassroots movement to restore the jail began in the 1960s following failed attempts to get a restoration process started. Kilmainham now serves as a heritage historical site that you can enter and tour, and also includes a museum.

The conditions of the jail were harsh. The jail itself has been constructed of limestone, a porous stone, making the jail damp and musty as it constantly rained in Ireland, even back then. For the first 50 years, there was no glass in the windows and no lighting besides a small candle that each prisoners was allotted every two weeks. The diet of most prisoners consisted of break, milk, oatmeal, and soup. Men, women, and children were all thrown into the same cells, sometimes up to 5 prisoners per tiny cell [source].


Within it’s 128 years of operating as a prison, Kilmainham held some of Ireland’s most notable ‘criminals’ from various rebellions throughout Ireland’s history. In 1803, Kilmainham held Robert Emmet, the leader of the 1803 rebellion (against British rule). Emmet, who was sentenced to death after being charged with high treason, delivered the famous Speech from the DockAround the same time Emmet was held at the jail, his ‘housekeeper‘ and co-conspirator, Anne Devlin, was detained as well. However, she was kept in Kilmainham until 1805. During the two years of her imprisonment, she was mentally tortured and held in poor conditions. The goal of her absolute misery was to gather her intelligence about the uprising and the names of those who planned and attempted to execute it. Anne never broke, but passed away in 1851 in absolute poverty. Other notable prisoners included Charles Parnell (1881), Patrick Pearse (1916), Èamon de Valera (1916), James Connolly (1916), and Joseph Plunkett (1916).


My visit to Kilmainham was on a rainy, chilly day, fitting the mood surrounding the jail. Walking into the first hallway gave me chills. I peered into the cells through the holes in the doors and saw the tiny cells where so many Irish citizens spent their time. The mere fact that I was standing in such a historic place in Ireland’s history where important political prisoners were held and some, executed was enough to make me take a step back and say a quick prayer for lives tortured and lost.

The prison itself is well-preserved and restored in some areas. Graffiti from prisoners still litters the doors and walls throughout the prison. It was an informative and eye-opening experience.


Other sources: [1], [2], [3]

Blood + Sweat + Tears = Rugby

21 Mar

Okay so no one ever told me how hardcore Rugby is. Where has this sport been all my life? Thank you Ireland for opening my eyes.

I know we have it in the states. I mean my cousin played at the same university I attend now, but it’s a much bigger deal here. Better players. Better matches. Better fans.

What is Rugby?

If you don’t want to know the ins and outs then just know that Rugby is basically a better, fiercer, bloodier, soccer-football mutant. Yeah mutant, like these guys’ massive quad muscles.

To be a bit more technical…there are 15 guys running around for each team. The objective is to score points by getting the rugby ball across the goal line. This is called a try (like a touchdown) worth 5 points. You can also kick field goals and every team gets to kick after scoring a try.

So far its sounds a lot like football, but now we stray. Any player can carry, pass, or kick the ball. The only restriction is you cannot pass the ball forward. So basically it looks like a giant game of keep-away…but more hardcore. There are no formal plays like in football. Thus, the clock rarely stops. 80 minutes of brutal force split into two halves.

Something particularly unique to Rugby is the scrum. A scrum is a contest for the ball involving eight players who bind together and push against the other team’s assembled eight for possession. Scrums restart play after certain minor infractions. This is the coolest thing y’all.


For the record, there are different rules for Rugby Leagues versus Rugby Unions, but I’ll just leave that to you and your Google searching if you’re interested.

Why is Rugby so Hardcore?

Is that really a question? Silly reader.

First of all. They wear no pads. No helmets.

Just their adorable long socks and short-shorts so we can all admire.

I fully appreciate the magnificence of the Rugby uniform, but at the same time I cringe at how beaten their bodies must get. These guys are slammed into the ground. Not even turf. Freaking earth. Have you felt the earth lately? It’s not something I enjoy slamming my body into.


Second of all, there are like zero breaks. American football is constant start and stop, but Rugby is a pretty solid 80 minutes of go. Oh but THEN let’s talk about substitutions. American NFL football teams hold 53 players. Those players and then split, like play time, into offense and defense. And in both football and soccer, substitutions are nearly infinite.

But oh no Rugby, that would be too easy. There are only 7-12 substitutions on each Rugby team, and once a player goes out, he cannot re-enter the game. Breaks are apparently for the weak.

Oh wait. The only exception to that rule is if guys run off because blood is slowly dripping down their face and they get stitched up real fast. Nbd.

I’ve sort of rambled on at this point, so I’m going to cut myself off here and just say: Rugby is one of the most physically and mentally intense games I’ve ever seen.

Up Close and Personal

Thanks to the lovely study abroad program I’m attending, FIE, I was able to attend a Pro 12 match between Leinster (Providence Dublin is in) and the Glasgow Warriors (from Scotland).

It was great. Men in short-shorts everywhere.


Haha. Okay I swear it was cool because of the sport and atmosphere too, not just these men and their long socks.

The match was a lot like minor league sports back home. Smaller stadium, less rowdy, cheaper tickets etc. Though, I think Pro 12 is a pretty major rugby league…. Y’all I don’t know I’m doing my best haha Anyways, I just love sports so I had a great time. Plus Leinster won 28-25!

I love actually going to sporting events, but everyone knows sometimes the best seats are from your own chair in front of the television. So this brings me too…

Six Nations Rugby and IRISH DOMINATION

So there is this big tournament called Six Nations Rugby. The nations are: Ireland, England, France, Whales, Scotland, and Italy. This year, St.Patrick’s weekend, France hosted Ireland for the championship.

So basically every single television in this country was on. It’s like the Superbowl. Emotions ran high.

We went to watch the game at a nearby pub and holy shells it was intense. People were packed in like sardines. It was so funny for the pub to be basically silent and then all of a sudden everyone would be cursing out the television in unison. You really didn’t need to understand the game at all. It was obvious weather I was supposed to be happy or angry about a play.

The passion ladies and gents. That’s something I love about sports. It’s like religion for some people.

Anyways the game was brutal. Lots of bloody faces not getting stitched up. One guy was carried off in a stretcher. These guys are insane.

Fast forward 80 minutes…


VICTORY IS OURS. Ireland defeated France 20-22. It was a cool moment, even for me, a new bandwagon fan for the Irish. I was so happy for them! There was no shortage of blood, sweat, and tears at this match.

I’ll leave you with this great quote:

“You know, say what you will about the ravages of sports in this corporate age where overpaid athletes expect prima donna treatment, but there is still something so unifying about sport in its purest form, when athletes rise above themselves and touch greatness and, in doing so, remind us all that we also have greatness inside of us.” 


Brooke Ballengee

A Trip to the North

18 Mar

Disclaimer: These are just my thoughts. I make no assumption that I could ever fully understand the sectritaian divide still in existence in Northern Ireland, having not been a part of it myself!

A Mucho Simplified Down Low of the History

Most of you guys have probably heard of the IRA and you may know that there is some protestant-catholic stuff going on right? That was basically what I knew when I arrived on this tiny island.  Little did I know how complicated the conflict really was. So here’s the bare bones of it.

Remember that whole colonization turned independence from the British thing we did, well we aren’t the only ones. In the 16th century Britain started to come on over and start what they call Plantations, which is basically forming colonies. Fast forward a century and things start to get pretty crappy for the indigenous population. I’m talking institutionalized ethnic-based discrimination that lasted for hundreds of years. Ringing any familiar bells? The plantation idea is similar to the British colonizing New England in America, and the oppression of the Irish population has many similarities to the systematic discrimination of African-Americans in the States.

After an uprising that sparked the fire in 1916 Ireland wins independence in 1922, but not the entire island. The northeast corner of the island was carved out for the Unionists (those citizens who wanted to remain under British rule). Nationalists (those who want a complete Republic of Ireland) weren’t too happy about that. So at this point we’ve got Catholics/Protestants and Nationalist/Unionists with an Irish/British on top.

The tensions exploded into violence in Northern Ireland in the late 60s and 70s when the historically Irish Catholic population demanded equal rights. Paramilitary groups arose on both sides and a civil-war-like conflict broke out. Most of the victims, as with any war, were innocent civilians. Following a ceasefire, an agreement was met in 1998 (The Good Friday Agreement) which established a number of things including a duel government and duel citizenship for citizens of N. Ireland.

My impression of Northern Ireland today is primarily that people are tired and done with the fighting. 99% of the population puts peace above the divisions among themselves. Barring an unforeseen catastrophic event, I believe the storm has finally passed.

Belfast Peace Wall Tour

The peace wall divides part of the working class area of Belfast, it closes every night at 7pm and doesn’t open until 7am. One side is a protestant British community, the other an Irish-Catholic community. I don’t really like the name “Peace Wall” when it so clearly signifies division in the community. Our group got to hear from both a Republican and a Unionist on their “respective” sides of the wall.

Every war has two sides right, and we definitely heard different accounts. The Republican man (who by the way was not affiliated with any religion) focused a lot on the past discrimination by the British, the infamous Bloody Sunday, and other violent acts committed. He said that most members of the community appreciated the peace wall because of the mistrust between the communities.

On the other side, the Unionist man focused on the present and future much more. He said he wished the peace wall would come down because he didn’t think the communities could really heal and intertwine until it did. In my humble opinion, I think he’s definitely right about this one. Physical environments effect behavior, and I think it will be a beautiful thing when the wall is finally gone.

I thought it was really interesting to see which facts the Nationalist crowd gave versus the facts from the Unionist crowd. Both presentations were true, and yet they are so different. I think there is more than one valuable lesson that we world should take from the experience of Northern Ireland, but one of them is that no story has one side. No major conflict is totally black and white.



Brooke Ballengee

From the National Museum: The Kavanagh Charter Horn

26 Jan

The Kavanagh ‘Charter’ Horn

One of very few surviving objects known to have been the personal property of an Irish king, the Kavanagh Charter Horn is a ceremonial drinking horn of elephant ivory dating from the early 12th century. The brass mountings were added in the 15th century. It is the only known piece of Irish regalia to survive Medieval Ireland. The Kavangh clan’s bloodline ruled the kingdom of Leinster. The family retained possession of the horn until they decided to donate it to the National Museum of Ireland.

Drinking horns are mentioned in many Irish chronicles. Many were very valuable and passed from generation to generation. They were valuable not only because of their material makeup, but because of the symbolic value.

I’d assume that most of the drinks horns like these would’ve held different alcoholic beverages from the time, primarily beer and wine. Monks brewed virtually all beer of good quality until the twelfth century. Around the thirteenth century, hops (which both flavors and preserves) became a common ingredient in some beers, especially in northern Europe. Ale, often a thick and nutritious soupy beverage, soured quickly and was made for local consumption. (http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1114796842.html#.UuTuGRZ6gmI)

I guess the pub culture of Ireland goes way back!

Two Worlds Meet Through Belfast

19 Nov

The first Irish person I ever met was actually in my small American hometown of Weston, Connecticut. His name was Marty and he was staying with a friend of mine for the summer from Belfast, along with a number of other boys, to play basketball. The program they were with was called Full Court Peace, started by a graduate of my high school, bringing kids from Belfast together through basketball to bridge the gap and create peace between Protestant and Catholic kids.

Mike Evans, the founder of the program, traveled to Belfast and witnessed the separation of the youth, specifically in their neighborhoods and in their school systems. He was determined to bring these students together and end the segregation plaguing the city and decided to use basketball, a neutral sport, to do so. As he taught gym in the Catholic and Protestant school, he connected with about five students in each and eventually pitched the idea of creating an integrated team, an idea the boys originally were originally hesitant to. The plan was that the boys would alternate practicing the sport at each other’s school where they would be able to focus on learning and playing the game rather than the past trouble that still lingered in their lives. As they got into the sport, guards were quickly let down and the boys quickly became a unified team and more importantly, friends. They had been promised that if they could play basketball together they could come to the US for a summer to play against high school teams, and that’s just what they did. Despite frequent defeats in the US, their playing and traveling together was what really counted. Many families of my high school’s basketball team housed players from Belfast during their visit which is how I was lucky enough to witness first hand just how unified this team was all through this idea of sports diplomacy.

I’ll be honest, though, at the time I didn’t quite understand why they needed to create peace; I had this image of Ireland as a friendly place, definitely not somewhere ridden with a history of aggression or disputes. But from what I was being told, there was a need to bring these kids together to make peace with each other and become friends.

Visiting Belfast finally brought me more clarity to what the program was doing. I got to see first hand the area that had so many past troubles and began to understand how there could still be differences and separation between Protestants and Catholics. It wasn’t necessarily that they had reasons to dislike each other, but these boys were being raised in a city full of old tensions and were bound to be affected by it. I saw first hand the walls that were still up, marking the extreme separation there once was between these religions and realized that despite being in peaceful times, there were constant reminders of the troubles throughout the city. The murals were also fascinating to me, depicting historical people and events throughout their troubles; I found it amazing that these beautiful works of art could cover the city telling the stories of what Belfast had been through.

I was also captivated by the fact that we were getting two tours of the city, one from a nationalist perspective and the other from a loyalist perspective, and both by men who had served time in jail due to the political troubles in the past. I found it incredible how much someone’s perspective could have on the way they portrayed something to others. I appreciated their disclaimers that, yes, they would be giving biased opinions of the events, but the facts were all true. Not only did it help me to understand exactly what the troubles were all about, but it also helped me understand the differences between the loyalists and nationalists and how it was different today.

My mind still spins when I think about this trip and the troubles that faced Northern Ireland and the way they have changed. I had never imagined that a place as lovely as Ireland could have fostered such tensions, but it does bring to light just how important peoples’ beliefs are to them and the extents they will go to protect them. I admire the fact that they have since made peace, but then think about the boys playing in Full Court Peace and it is very bittersweet. I love the fact that these kids from such different backgrounds were able to come together despite ancient tensions and make lasting friendships through such a simple thing as basketball, but it also saddens me to think about how although the troubles are over, they still linger in the city and affect younger generations. They may not be raised to hate each other, but they are raised separately; they attend different schools, there are sports that are representative of the different religions and the walls are still up. I hope that the reminders of the troubles and union of younger generations continues to bridge the gap, because Belfast is truly an amazing place that I am thankful for having the opportunity to visit. It put a lot into perspective for me regarding problems throughout the world and how close they really are to me.