Last weekend, I was in Dublin. I had last been there in May 2007, receiving training at the Firm's European HQ. Even then, I had hardly recognised the city I thought I loved.
In retrospect, I suspect it was a bit like those kind of relationships where you think it's love, when in fact your relationship is borderline obsessive and more a case of being in love with the idea of something/someone being perfect for you.
Such was the case with my relationship with Dublin, where I spent my Erasmus year in 1993/94. Don't get me wrong - I did thoroughly enjoy my time there, but my determination to live the dream of immersing onesself in a foreign culture got the better of me and made me turn into Ireland-Bore #1 upon my return. I'm not sure I actually believed that myself, but the way I presented it to my friends and family, everything was better there than in Austria. The people friendlier. The bookstores better (that one for sure). The courses more interesting (not that difficult to achieve, given the lecturers we had at our alma mater in Vienna). The landscape more beautiful. Etc. Etc.
When my Mum picked me up at the airport in June 1994, eagerly awaiting her only child, she was greeted by a grumpy dumpling (I'd gained at least 5 kilos in those 9 months abroad), tear-streaked, whose first sentece was "I didn't want to leave!". Such was my passion for Dublin or arguably, obsession.
I deliberately picked a topic for my thesis ("Thematic Patterns in the Novels of Dermot Bolger" in case you're interested) that would require me to do research in Ireland and apply for another grant and went back to visit friends several times, still very much enamoured with the city.
The Celtic Tiger
had put its claws into the city already in the 1990s, but back then it was hardly noticeable. Gradually, Dublin became more affluent, people stopped saying "thank you" to bus drivers as they got off, the airport slowly started bursting at its seams, "Polski sklep" stores started popping up and the old-fashioned and insular charme gave way to continental urban chic. Obviously the Dubliners who benefitted from the new affluence are all in favour of it, but from a purely selfish touristy perspective I have to say I much preferred the Dirty Old Town
in its pre-Celic Tiger incarnation.