Friday, May 10, 2013

More of The Troubles and Ireland's Rugged Beauty

At our hotel in Derry I saw sod for the first time. Sodded turf, that is, used for burning as we use coals or logs.
I believe these have been compressed. They don't look like the ones we saw in other locations.
Before I start today's story, I should explain why I've referred to Derry as Derry/Londonderry.

The city is in Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom, where the Protestants and Catholics still have discord. The Protestants share affinity with England. The Catholics still chaff under the many years of English rule that deprived them of basic rights: they were not permitted to own land, and, therefore, were not allowed to vote. The changes to these laws are quite recent.

The very name of the city reflects this schism. Loyalists (to the crown) attach the prefix; Nationalists delete it.

For my part, I will use Derry, as it is shorter and easier to type.

As in Belfast, the conflict is still very much on the minds of the citizens. And likewise, it is expressed in murals.
Bobby Sands, who died in the hunger strike in 1981.
Our day began with a walking tour atop the walls of the original fortified city of Londonderry looking down on "the Bogside" area where the Protestant community lived. (The Catholics lived in the "Waterside" area.)
The view of the Bogside from the top of the wall.
Our charming Irish-Chinese Buddhist guide took pains to help us understand. He was grateful that we made Northern Ireland part of our tour and stressed that the vast majority of people there just want to get on with their lives, want a better future for their children.
Our guide, Ronin, on the right.
The police officer (whose bike you see in the background) is a good friend of his.
And things do seem to be improving. The police officer explained that they had just removed one of the gates from the wall. As a matter of fact, the gate we had just passed through was the last remaining gate on the wall.
The remaining gate.
And some of the murals in the town are more hopeful and less divisive.

At first, I thought this was a Banksy, but it is not on Banksy's official site and appears to be a knock-off promoting the pub's entertainment. I'm sure Banksy would have something to say about this.

Along with our history lesson, we enjoyed the views of Derry's ancient walls and stone buildings.
I cannot remember what this building was.
The gate that our bus squeezed through. Our driver was a Bus Ninja!
That afternoon, Steve and I went on the optional tour of the Inishowen Peninsula.
One of many panoramic views of the Inishowen Peninsula.
And another vista. 
The highlight of this tour was the Grianan Aileach - an ancient circular stone fort with a commanding view of the entire region.
An ancient fortress, called Grianan Aileach, the seat of the O'Neill clan.
Stairs within the fortress.
Steve at the wall. The wind was fierce.
Near the bottom of the hill, there was a church built to echo the form of Grianan Aileach.

The inside of the church was beautiful.
The view of the spire from within.
I shall end this post with a picture of one of the most common views we saw on this trip: sheep. Especially in the north, the land really is not suitable for much else. Even cattle are problematic on the boggy land as their hooves are prone to infection because of the constant wetness.

A rough map of the excursion. I don't know the exact route we took.

View Ireland Tour 2013 in a larger map

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