Friday, October 21, 2011

Trinity College: Books, Bollywood, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

While some of us (cough, me) went to Playboy's Number Four Party School in North America, others went to slightly more prestigious universities with more of a focus on, crazy as it sounds, academics (disclosure: my alma mater is actually an amazing school with a strong history of excellence in both academics AND partying - we Mustangs work hard and play hard).

My friend Iain attended Trinity College in Dublin, founded in 1592 by letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I. It was modeled after Oxford and Cambridge, and was exclusively for Protestants - an attempt on the part of the Virgin Queen to solidify Protestant Tudor rule in Ireland. In fact, even though Trinity opened its doors to Catholics in 1793, it wasn't really until the 1970s that Catholics began studying there.

Iain and I met up with two of his friends, Sinead and Patrick, at The Buttery, one of the student cafes. We talked for a bit and then I left the three to finish catching up while I took a tour of the college. A ten euro ticket included a 30-minute guided walk around the campus by a fourth year history student AND entrance into the Book of Kells exhibit, which normally costs 9 euros. A great deal!

The campus was more packed than usual on this particular Monday morning, thanks to a Bollywood movie that was being filmed on location. As per usual in Bollywood films, plot plausibility lost out to spontaneous musical dancing numbers, complete with rugby players:

Here's a brief outline of the film according to my tour guide, titled Ek Tha Tiger, and you can decide whether or not you will be heading to the theatre in June 2012 when it hits cinemas. A professor at Trinity has been selling secrets from his Indian government to the Pakistanis, so what does Indian Secret Service do? Send in their finest, naturally. And their finest agent is also their sexiest one, played by the woman who is undoubtedly one of the most famous Bollywood actresses, Katrina Kaif, who just so happens to fall in love with the professor whilst on a mission to kill him. Musical dance-offs involving rugby players ensue. I cannot WAIT to watch this cinematic masterpiece!

Russ, my tour guide, was a genial, knowledgeable guy who made several self-deprecating jokes at Ireland's expense. Actually, I noticed this trend of making wry, bitter comments about the state of the Irish economy and the government amongst all the young Irish people I met my age. Everyone seemed so jaded and cynical, which is perhaps inevitable considering the recent bail-out...but I don't know...there seemed to be a lot of hopelessness, too.

Standing on the quad opposite the chapel, Russ explained that every Trinity grad is entitled to get married in the chapel - the only place of worship in Ireland that is for both Catholics and Protestants alike - in the five years following graduation.

"So I have about six years to find a nice girl and get married," he said. To which I quipped, "I'm available!" (hey, he was good-looking and obviously an intelligent guy, and a wedding at can see I've raised my standards slightly from "wears shorts and is not a drug addict", clearly. Don't ask.)

Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion that living in rainy climes is not so conducive to my general scheme of attracting members of the opposite sex. Let's just say the rain does absolutely nothing for my hair, which during this tour I had shoved up underneath a cloche hat in an attempt to hide the frizz.

Russ did not exactly seem swept off his feet by the drowned-rat look I was rocking, so I slunk off to the back of the crowd and contented myself with listening to the rest of his tour. I learned some interesting things, like how this building is supposed to resemble the hanging gardens of Babylon:

As Russ said in his lilting Irish accent, "It's a loose interpretation." As I said in my boring old Canadian accent, "Did the architects graduate from the School of Soviet Design?"

The tour concluded at the entrance to the Book of Kells exhibit (entitled "Turning Darkness into Light"), which is one of the top tourist attractions in Dublin and considered to be one of Ireland's national treasures. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript from 800 A.D., a masterpiece of calligraphy and absolutely breathtaking to behold in its intricacy and lovingly rendered details. It is not one of those objets d'art that you build up in your mind, and then when you see it, you're like, "wait, that's it?" The Book of Kells is just as impressive and awe-inspiring as I imagined, and the entire exhibit is beautiful, thoughtful, and informative.

The Book itself is a collection of the Four Gospels in the New Testament, but because it is slowly falling apart, only two pages are opened to the public for a period of a few months before it changes. When I was there, John 6:28-43 was displayed, as well as Luke 4:1, the temptation of Christ.

At the end of the exhibit, you're funneled out into the Long Room of the Old Library, which is the penultimate bibliophile's dream:

I always thought that the library the Beast gives Belle in Beauty and the Beast was my fantasy, but its been supplanted by this one. If you're willing to sign your life away, and you happen to be a masters or PhD student at Trinity, you can read one of these 200,000 books (organized by SIZE, not by author or Dewey Decimal code!) under the watchful gaze of the librarian!

The libraries at Trinity are the only ones in Ireland that have Legal Deposit Library status, which means that they are entitled to a copy of every single book that is published in the UK. So far there are 4 million books in circulation...when you think about it, that's a LOT of crappy chick lit that's getting sent there...

Trinity College was beautiful, and as it is so conveniently located close to St. Stephen's Green and the trendy Temple Bar district, its the perfect stop on a trip to Dublin. Even if there are no Bollywood movies being filmed when you go, I can guarantee that there will be no lack of bustle and excitement on the campus!

Just remember to bring a hat to hide the frizz.


  1. I'm afraid even a cloche hat would do nothing for my frizz. And alas, I will have to be content to spend my days at the St. Boniface Library. Although lacking the "wow" factor of Trinity, on a sunny autumn day the view is stunning. I never knew how much I missed windows.

    Awesome post!

  2. If I had to guess, I'd say you couldn't stay unattached for long judging from the pic in front of the phone booth, because it's extremely cute. I was married to an Englishwoman for 16 years, and I wouldn't rate them as much for competition. And hey - in England you can even say, "Why don't you knock me up tomorrow morning", and it isn't even dirty! Check first to see if it's something dirty in Ireland, though: you can never tell.

  3. i am impressed by your boldness in offering up your availability, and clearly the tour guide was gay or else he would have immediately taken you up on the offer. or at least asked for a date.

  4. Mum did you know that its illegal in Germany to have an office without any windows? Canada clearly needs to introduce that legislation. I don't know how you worked in that library for a year! Thank you Rhea and Mark for those boosts to my self-esteem haha but trust me, I was no prize to be won that day!

  5. Hello, I am currently working on a website documenting all the films that were shot at Trinity College. I came across your pictures of filming during Ek Tha Tiger and I was hoping you might grant me permission to use them for the website. If so, could you please give me your consent by mailing me through the contact form on the webpage found here:
    Thanking you in advance, Aidan.