A Travellerspoint blog

Céad míle fáilte!

A hundred thousand welcomes!


Today is one of the reasons why I love to travel. Exposure to different people, different ways, getting close to moments in history you only read about in the news, it all sets you back on your heels sometimes and makes you think.

We started early and met our small group (6 of us) for our Northern Ireland Day Tour (with Elegant Irish Tours, highly recommend). We headed north out of Dublin and our guide/driver, Patrick, filled our heads with "stories" about the history of Ireland all the way back to the ancient times, the Vikings and of course the British era. He is from The Republic of Ireland aka Ireland and not Northern Ireland (do not misuse those names). We lucked out with great weather as we made our way north to the first stop, The Giant's Causeway. The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt (odd hexagonal (mostly) columns of rock sticking up from the ocean floor, some up to 12 feet high, the result of a volcanic eruption.


According to Irish legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant, Fionn MacCool. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn MacCool, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn's wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the 'baby', he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this. (Thank you Wikipedia for the Legend!)

We spent a couple hours walking the trails around the Causeway before a quick stop for lunch (more beef and Guinness pie for me) before heading back to Belfast for our afternoon activity.

Once in Belfast we toured by the Titanic Museum, built on the exact site the ship was built and on to the Black Taxi Tour. From the 1960s to 1998 Belfast was enthralled in a bloody civil war (Sunday Bloody Sunday, which I suspect we will hear Saturday night, is about one of the incidents). Fought between the mainly nationalist catholic community (wanted Northern Ireland to be independent of Britain the "IRA or the Irish Republican Party") and mainly loyalist protestant community (loyal to the Queen). Out of the chaos came some of Belfast’s most recognisable landmarks, its murals (similar to Bogota's mural where art takes a political form). The tour goes east to west, north to south taking in both sides of the community and how they depicted their war efforts through amazingly detailed murals. The driver explained "The Troubles" as this time was referred to up to the Good Friday Agreement (signed in 1998). As Patrick so eloquently put it the period and violence is puzzling and sad. For me it reminded me of my recent experience in Colombia who had suffered a similar history and feels similar to the world today is facing with ISIS. "One man's Freedom Fighter is another man's Terrorist." There is still a wall in the city dividing the east from the west (similar to Berlin) and there are still gates opened and closed daily. Our guide said while the worst violence has passed there are still small dissident groups trying to cause trouble and continue the fight. Brexit also poses a real and frightening resurrection of old feelings.


Again, I consider myself extremely lucky and am grateful that I was born and raised in a country where we haven't had to face these types of tragic series of events. Lucky to be Canadian.

As we head out of Belfast returning to Dublin Ger and I are left reflecting on what we heard and learned today. I write this as we zip down the relatively modern (recently built, in the last 10 years) motorway (our transport has wifi!). I suspect our evening will be a continuation of our on-going pub crawl (Ger has a list of 20 pubs to check out and we have hit 7 so far with only 3 nights left!).

Until next time,

Posted by imalazyj 09:25 Archived in Northern Ireland

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents