Sunday, May 5, 2013

If today is Sunday, then this must be Killarney.

Before I left, I thought I would write a blog post per day. But then I got here and . . . well, I've got some catching-up to do. We still have a few days left before we return home, but I have plenty to share with you.

On the road between Dublin and Belfast.
The main problem has been that I've taken too many pictures. At first, every green field, every patchwork hedgerow, and every castle is worth a click. We've been here a week now, and I'm sort of slowing down, but it's still difficult to choose which pictures to share.

I will start with Belfast, the most surprising part of our trip, so far.

When we were planning this trip, I was adamant that we choose a package that included the Giant's Causeway, a natural wonder of the world that just happens to be in Northern Ireland. Because I am not a political animal, I had only a sketchy understanding of The Troubles - a conflict between the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland that started with civil disobedience, but rapidly inflamed in the 1960's. The British forces who were called in to support the Irish police only expected the uprising to last 18 months.

Calm has been restored recently enough that very few tour companies venture into Northern Ireland. Ours did, and included a Black Cab tour of the wounded areas of Belfast. (Which, by the way, is pronounced with the emphasis on the final syllable: bel-FAST.)
Our cabbie, Joel
Northern Ireland still bears the scars. And, judging by these freshly painted murals, the conflict will not soon be forgotten. (I say "freshly painted" because, although many of the houses needed maintenance, these murals were relatively pristine.)
"Heroes" of the Protestant Ulster Defence Union.

Bombay Street - Never Again
In the Catholic neighbourhood.
Murals like this are all over the buildings between the Falls and Shankill neighbourhoods. Between the two stands a wall.
It is a long wall. You can see that it was not initially built high enough and had to be extended.
Bomb damage on the side of the wall facing the Protestants.
On the Catholic side of the wall, there are still houses built quite close to it. Residents in these homes have built "Ulster Greenhouses" - instead of glass, they use chainlink fencing to protect themselves from thrown objects (i.e., bombs).
Charming, right?
The gate in the wall is still closed at curfew every night. I've never been to a recently war-torn country, so it was sobering to see the lingering effects up close.

But our visit to Belfast did not end on a sad note. We met this hilarious character at Aunt Sandra's Candy Shop.
Uncle Jimmy
And went on a mini-pub-crawl (only two pubs).
Bushmills seems to be the most popular Irish whiskey.
And that, my friends, was just ONE DAY of our 12-day trip. The rest of my posts will not be quite so long, I think. I hope.

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