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    • Day 16

      Derry („Londonderry“)

      July 10 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

      I will be two nights in Derry (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derry) before going back to Coleraine by train and to Ballycastle by bus where I‘ve started three days ago. Nothing was really planned; only an idea to come here.
      I am into history of the country and I want to feel and ask a lot to soak the city’s mood. Let’s dive in.
      Decided to write another Footprint 👣 on the history of Derry. My feelings in the city and my „poor“ view about what I‘ve recognized.
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    • Day 16

      Derry history in one day?

      July 10 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

      This history is long…this history means tragedies…this history is tangible…this history makes me sad and hopeful in once.

      My last years trip to Belfast and this to Derry shows how religious differences show up. Do people carry still what ancestors made wrong as they felt doing right over 450 years?

      These words come to mind: Unconsciously conscious, violently non-violent, unresolved solved, hated and beloved, traditionally present, friends, no surrender, free Derry, …

      How can conflicts be solved? Bring people together…go on talking and create present and future not to forget the past, together. Fight for humanity and civil rights. „Sei ein Mensch“!
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    • Day 11


      May 8 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

      “Once a year, go somewhere you’ve never been before.”– The Dalai Lama
      Several new experiences today. The first was to travel to Heathrow using the brand new Elizabeth Line for most of the journey. Quick, clean, comfortable and quiet. Actually better than a minicab as you get the bonus of lugging suitcases up (in this case down) the long hill to Highgate station and the tube station steps. At Tottenham court road station, there were many steps to be climbed and this T-shirted body building type young man grabbed Ursula’s case (13.9kg) and whisked it up several flights of stairs. Lots of people at the airport, as we see nearly everywhere in London. Everything worked properly though a kind fellow traveller helped us with Step 2, sticking the bag tags to our luggage. “Do you get paid by BA?” She laughed.
      Flight to Belfast is just over an hour. While collecting our hire car (a huge Hyundai i10 – Tony had thought a 20 was small), we had our first experience of the unique Northern Ireland accent. We have to listen very carefully. Now we have been let loose on the Irish countryside. Good road. “Should have looked up the speed limits.” We settled on 70 mph. Varied countryside. Very green.
      We entered Londonderry (Derry from now on, much easier) and Google said “You have reached your destination” well before we expected it. Busy road, absolutely nowhere to stop. Fortunately it is Sunday. We found a loading zone around the corner. Not far to drag the luggage. Our apartment is behind and above a baker and Fitzroy’s, a bistro/restaurant. Only a single door entry. Google did very well to find it. We phoned our host about parking, but needed a follow-up text message to locate the street he suggested. Accent again.
      Ursula has done very well with our location. About 40m away there is a bright new shopping centre with, fortunately, a M&S food hall. We just had time to obtain our essentials then were last out of the store which closed at 6. We are immediately outside the walls so very near the centre of this small town. The population is very similar to that of Launceston (Tasmania). That’s where the similarity ends. The town is jumping. Sunday evening. Streets thronging. Cheery people spilling outside the many pubs. Gotta love the Irish.
      We decide to eat at the The Bentley. “Did you check it on the map?” No need. 20m, through the walls. There it is. Location. Location. Location. Inside the main (busy) pub the kitchen has closed so a friendly barman takes us outside and ushers us into a lift to The Bentley Steakhouse. Keen young staff. Wholesome food. Good choice.
      Living in unfamiliar places has its drawbacks. Tony can’t get hot water from the shower. Ursula found the hot water system in a cupboard. It needed to be switched on.
      From our living room Ursula spotted a big yellow sign. “Martin McCrossan award winning walking tours”. We joined the 10am tour and spent an enjoyable hour walking the walls and finding out about Derry’s troubled past. Complicated. The English are not the heroes.
      We looked into the beautifully restored Guild Hall. Now recovered from being bombed in 1972. Massive organ, extensive beautiful stained glass windows, perfectly restored building right down to the pristine toilets. Next, the Visitor Centre proved very helpful. Along the waterfront is a full-sized Tescos. We topped up our shopping. Seemed to spend about the same number of pounds as we would spend dollars at home. Glad we aren’t here permanently.
      Today is the final day of the Derry Jazz and Big Band festival (Guiness Jazz Trail). “We Love Sax” is on at the Embankment. 15 minute walk across the river. Very lively. We sat outside. Tony enjoyed his first Guinness. Surprising to us was the number of kids. See video.
      Tuesday 7 May was forecast to be the best weather for the week. Coastal expedition on the agenda.
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    • Day 12

      Around Derry

      May 9 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

      “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

      We made an early start (for us). Drove NE along Lough Foyle past Ballykenny (beach views), Bellanena (cliff and beach views). Next stop was the town of Coleraine. The cute Culture Coffee Café provided an opportunity for alliteration, coffee and Portuguese custard tarts. Continuing and hugging the coast we drove through Portstewart and Portrush. Scenic views. Lots of temporary grandstands lining the route. What is it? North West 200. [https://www.northwest200.org/ ] Practice starts tomorrow.
      We could see Dunluce Castle from the road. The first castle on the site dates from the 13th century. There have been extensive renovations but the castle is now mostly ruins. There was actually quite a busy small town here from the 1600s.

      Now we are not far from the Giant’s Causeway which is the big ticket tourist item hereabouts. We had read that parking was a rip-off. Best deal looked to be at the Causeway Hotel where the £10 parking fee is credited to your lunch. The lunch was surprisingly nice. We walked the Blue Trail as the Red looked challenging. Lots of spectacular interlocking basalt columns. Most look hexagonal. Near the sea you can walk on the tops of the columns. At the end of the Blue Trail we could see another, the Red Trail, going further with another vantage point. “By the time you get up there you will be halfway to the top.” So we completed the Red Trail and returned along it, firstly up 150 uneven steps then along the top of the cliffs. Inland there were lots of huge sheep with youngish lambs. Large number of tourists huffing and puffing their way along the trails and up and down the steps. There is a defibrillator at the top of the steps.

      Once back to the car we visited the quaint little harbour of Ballintoy. The inviting-looking café brought forth the desire for ice-creams but we were unable to rouse any service. Unfortunately the desire persisted to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge where we ate huge expensive soft serve ice creams. About twice the quantity we really wanted. Another mile or so to the bridge. We have done plenty of walking today (5-6 miles).
      We drove home along slightly faster roads through Bushmills (we didn’t stop) and back to Derry. Found the Sainsbury store – huge. More essential shopping. Dinner at home tonight as there wasn’t a lot of room after the ice-creams.

      Next day we started with a closer look at Bogside which we had viewed from the top of the walls on the walking tour. The tenement housing has been replaced by upgraded accommodation and some green space. Bogside was a downtrodden catholic neighbourhood which experienced “the troubles” in the 70s. Lots of big murals and thought-provoking plaques depict the events of those times.

      In the afternoon we did a country drive through the Sperrin Mountains as far as Kilrea on the River Bann. Interesting 18th century stone bridge and peaceful river walk. Home firstly along the river to Portglenone. Then a scenic route via Maghera, Cookstown and Gortin. This was a beautiful drive with lovely farmland together with much wilder country and some very narrow “Hail Mary” roads. Also some quaint small villages.

      Typically we reached home quite a bit later than planned. Were planning to eat at Peadar O’Donnell’s pub. Last year it was named as the best pub in the county. No food, so we made do with Guinness and white wine. Feeling hungry we found that not all pubs in Derry serve food after 8:30 pm. Try none. We were directed to the restaurant, Fitzroy’s, which is under our apartment. Nice convenient meal and a unique feature was being able to connect to our apartment’s wifi from our table.

      Thursday 9 May is our final day to enjoy Derry. Relaxation is the key. We started with a long walk along the waterfront and back through town. Tony had noticed Rosta, a new clean and bright independent café on the street into town. They serve Hopong Long Hay Natural coffee imported from Myanmar. A young local guy gave us his window spot and stayed for a chat. Lovely coffee. The Flat White coffee has spread. Even in country Ireland they provide a lovely creamy microfoam, with none of the airy froth you get with a typical cappuccino.
      In the afternoon Tony looked through the Tower Museum while Ursula did some light shopping. The museum had been recommended by yet another friendly, cheerful and helpful Derry local. “I went to Australia supporting a Lions tour. Best time of my life.” There were lots of memorabilia from the wreck of a ship from the Spanish Armada, La Trinidad Valencera, which was wrecked off Derry in 1588 after being blown around Britain. The wreck was discovered in 1971. 500 men managed to struggle ashore. They were confronted by a force of English cavalry. Instead of a battle, they were offered safe conduct provided they surrendered. They did. The officers were separated out for ransom. The others were attacked with muskets and pikes. 300 of the remaining Spanish were massacred while the remainder managed to escape. On a brighter note there were exhibitions about Derry Girls and the Story of Derry.
      Tomorrow, Donegal.
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    • Day 600

      Londonderry die 2.

      June 7 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

      Weil uns die Stadt so gut gefällt nochmal Bilder. Die Leute sind super nett! Smalltalk garantiert 🤩😍
      Ach ja, wir haben die 600 Tage leben im Auto heute erreicht. Soooo schön diese Freiheit!!! 🥳

    • Day 84

      CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 19

      July 6, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

      Today we made an effort to learn about "The Troubles", the violent civil tension between Irish Protestants and Catholics. I really didn't know much about the history in the political territory of the UK except that it amounts to six counties in Northern Ireland separated from the rest of the Republic of Ireland.

      When we were first planning this trip a year ago, I mentioned at a social gathering in Portland that one of the stops on the itinerary was going to be Londonderry. An acquaintance at the gathering, who had spent time in Ireland, told me "Be careful about calling the town Londonderry. It might be better to call it Derry as it may evoke a hostile response otherwise." As recently as yesterday, a friend cautioned me to be careful about what pubs we go to as some might be sectarian.

      The first time that I ever heard the word terrorist was when I was about 14 years old and it was applied to the Irish Republican Army. I knew that there were random bombings over time in my teens, but I didn't really understand what the fight was about. We never talked about it at home.

      The only other sense that I had about the division was when I was about 10 or 11 , and it was St. Patrick's Day. I believe that my parents were both at work, and my grandmother would sometimes look after us after school. I arrived home wearing an orange shirt. My Irish grandmother was furious with me, and I asked her why. She replied angrily, "It means you hate the Irish!" I vividly remember this because it is about the only time in my life that I remember my grandmother being angry with me.

      Today's street tour helped me get a better sense of her anger because I saw it again today. In my effort to recount the day, I make no pretense of claiming full understanding of "The Troubles". We had the opportunity to take a "Bogside" tour conducted by George, a few years younger than me, who lived in Derry-Londonderry during the height of the conflict.

      This tour was organized by Paul Doherty whose father Patrick was one of 17 people killed at age 31 during a protest of the occupation of the British army in Derry just over fifty years ago, January 30th, 1972. The day is more commonly known as "Bloody Sunday" and is referenced in a song by the Irish Band U2. We briefly met Paul at the beginning of the tour and he handed us off to George.

      The people in our tour group were from different places ranging from Tacoma, WA and New Jersey to a couple from England and other undisclosed locations. George opened the tour with the disclaimer, " Some of my friends are British." That immediately caused me to recall the number of times I've heard people say, " I'm not racist; some of my best friends are Black." I said to Jim " I think we're about to hear a very partisan take on the history." And indeed we did.

      George took us through the neighborhoods of the Bogside. He shared historical discrimination against Catholics and the segregation and overcrowding into Catholic neighborhoods, the inability to vote, have good jobs and to live in other areas. Despite the large Catholic population, there was no representation of Catholics in local government.

      In the 60's some people were inspired by the Civil Rights movements in the U.S. and they began to organize against the Protestant held government. In the late 60's those protests led to the British army being called in who ultimately fired upon demonstrators on "Bloody Sunday".

      Those violent clashes escalated over many decades until a peace agreement known as the Good Friday Agreements that were talked facilitated by Special Envoy and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell from Maine.

      As George walked us through the neighborhoods of the conflict with murals and monuments memorializing the times, I noticed the growing discomfort of the British couple. The husband muttered under his breath several times sarcastically about the British being the bad guys, and that it was fifty years ago. He remarked to me, "They should just get over it. "

      George is not over it, and I suspect that many of my generation here aren't either. There does seem to be a path toward unification, but every local person who we have talked to, things that this reality is still years away and complicated by the economy, Brexit and identity issues.

      After we left the tour, we went to the Free Derry museum. The museum tells a narrative that aligns with George's perspective. The part I found the most moving was Great Britain's investigation of the Bloody Sunday incident nearly 40 years after its occurrence and the subsequent acknowledgement and apology by the British Prime Minister that the army's act of violence was ".. unjustified and unjusifiable..." The footage showed the jubilation of the massive crowd gathered at the same spot where we began the tour. I imagined the vindication of family members who had lost their loved ones so many years ago.

      I don't know the other side of the story. I grew up thinking that the IRA were angry terrorists. I failed to ask George about the emulation of MLK when their actions seem more aligned with Malcolm X.

      In an effort to see evidence of the Unionists, those who remain loyal to the UK, we searched for murals representing that perspective. We found the neighborhoods to be eerily quiet. Territories were marked by curbs of red white and blue along with Union Jack flags and orange flags representing the Protestant groups. We noticed the Statue of a man in the middle of a playground portraying the "Apprentice Boys", a group of young men closing the gates against the army of Catholic King James in the 1600's. Some hold it as a fight that hasn't gone away.

      While I haven't researched it further, the Protestant neighborhoods are referred to as "waterside". I found it curious as both sides of Derry-Londonderry are waterside.

      How do we overcome artificial divisions? Witnessing the struggles of a country that share the same language and land, it makes me think of our struggles back home. I think about my grandmother seeing her Irish identity as aligned with Catholicism and not recognizing that the Protestants were also on Irish land.

      I think about the great experiment of America where the melting pot was seen as its strength and wondering how we return to that ideal rather than a deficit. I think of a SCOTUS comprised of six Catholics who seem to have abandoned the first amendment or the sentiment of the majority of Americans.

      Yet, I still hold hope. At the end of the tour, George remarked about the promise of young people who are more able to ignore long-held grudges than he is able to do by his own admission. I think about the Peace Bridge and a statue we saw last night depicting connection. I think about the Free Derry momument that is also repainted to demonstrate other fights against oppression. I also hold hope in young people to create a better future if we get out of their way.

      "How long, how long must we sing this song?
      How long? How long?

      'Cause tonight
      We can be as one

      Sunday Bloody Sunday U2
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    • Day 83


      July 5, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

      Today is the 25th anniversary of our Ceremony of Union at the Brunswick Unitarian Universalist Church in Maine. We remain grateful for a spiritual community that recognized our relationship as legitimate well before our government did. I'm grateful to have Jim C by my side for nearly 29 years.

      We prepared to leave Donegal today after breakfast. As I was thanking Theresa and Patricia, for the lovely stay, they launched into personal stories about being "saved". I knew from a conversation the day before that Patricia had met and married her minister husband about four years ago, and that he was from California.

      I'm assuming that Theresa and Patricia shared their stories as testimony of how their spiritual journey had saved their lives. At first, I wanted to quickly extricate myself from the conversation. I have generally felt verbally assaulted by conservative Christians who too often cherry pick the bible and make sure to let me know that anyone who doesn't join them is going to burn in the fiery depths of Hell, particularly the likes of the "God Hates Fags" signs that I've walked by in Pride Parades. Instead I told them after listening to their stories, that I was happy that they had chosen a path for them that gave them fulfillment and hope, and that we were all trying to figure that out.

      I told them that the U.S. was very divided on these ideas and that the fracture was causing much heartache back home. Patricia told me that most people in Ireland had seen America as the "light on the hill" and that it was viewed as a place of openness, diversity and freedom. I told her that I hoped that we would live up to those principles soon. I didn't tell her that I thought it was a bit of a myth that we have ever lived up to that ideal. I gave both of the women hugs and thanked them for the conversation and their hospitality.

      I am giving this conversation much attention in today's thoughts because I think it's important to find ways to have dialogue with people when we don't view the world from the same perspective. For the next several days, we're off to Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom that is divided from the Republic of Ireland. For many years Northern Ireland experienced "The Troubles" a euphemistic caption for the violent division between Protestants and Catholics.

      Enroute to Derry-Londonderry we took a detour to the Marble Arch Caves. The tour was quite spectacular as the formations were impressive as well as the story of explorers who first discovered the cave.

      We made our way to the city of Derry/Londonderry which continues to have a naming dispute depending on the perspective of the people. The Irish Nationalists prefer Derry and the Unionists prefer Londonderry. We will be going to explore the history of the city and the area over the next several days.

      For now, I can tell you that this beautiful walled city sits on the Foyle River. It is the setting of the popular show "The Derry Girls" which portrays living in the area during the latter part of "The Troubles".

      We enjoyed dinner, a stop at a few pubs and a walk across the Peace Bridge, a symbol of breaking down the divisions in the city.

      We are staying at a nice B&B on the outskirts of town. We settled in for the night, and we're looking forward to learning about this city.
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    • Day 85

      CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 20

      July 7, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

      We took the opportunity to explore the northern coast today after breakfast at our B&B. We woke up to another overcast day, but we held out hope that the weather forecast for sun later in the day would be accurate.

      Our first destination was Malin Head the northern most point on the Emerald Isle. At times the drive was a bit foggy which added to the navigation challenges along narrow roads.

      We enjoyed the overlook at Malin Head. The turquoise waves crashing over the rocks below along with the gulls dancing against the strong winds made for a great vista.

      Our next destination was to the Giant's Causeway. Jim C discovered that there was a ferry that would shorten the trip. We took the tiny Greencastle Ferry. The sun started to appear and it really "pops" the landscape. Ireland is beautiful during dreary weather, but it's quite a treat when the sun shows up for the day.

      On the way to Giant's Causeway we noticed an interesting structure on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We decided to pull over to explore the area. It turns out that this site is the Mussenden Temple and the Downhill Demesne (House). We entered the property through Bishop's Gate and we enjoyed our walk past the gardens and through the woods.

      The pasture gate opened to beautiful sloped grassy field reminiscent of Andrew Wythe's "Christina's World". The field revealed a mausoleum and the ruins of the Downhill House. The house was built in the late 1700's, and it was gutted by a fire a century later. The window structures framed a beautiful beach below as well as the Mussendem Temple, the structure overlooking the cliff that we noticed from the road.

      We left the grounds next and proceeded to Giant's Causeway. My reseach of this site is that the Causeway features of colums of hexagonal pillars was formed between 50 and 60 million years ago. The Causeway takes its name from the legends of the giant Finn MacCool. One could see how early explorers to this space would think that it was created by giants. The hexagonal basal rocks are estimated to have formed 6 million years ago by a flow of basaltic lava. As the lava cooled it formed these shapes.
      It really was quite spectacular and we enjoyed our walk in the area.

      After we left the Causeway, we headed back to Derry where we had a great Indian dinner. We enjoyed a beer at the Pub with a local acquaintance, and we called it a night. It was a really enjoyable exploration of the north coast.
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    • Day 24

      Northern Ireland & Derry

      May 26, 2023 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

      After arriving in Northern Ireland, we travelled through Antrim and Ulster to Londonderry, where we were taken on a tour of the city with a local appropriately named Ronan. He was entertaining and told and showed us the cities history and explained the story behind the conflict of The Troubles between the Irish and the English and how Londonderry (or Derry, depending on whether you are English or Irish, Protestant or Catholic) has moved on since the peace settlement in 1998 with the signing of the Belfast Agreement.Read more

    • Day 16

      Derry City Wall

      July 22, 2023 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 59 °F

      Mom and I got up and walked the Derry Wall. Pretty cool. It's about a mile around, and served the purpose of protecting the city in the 1600's. It served the purpose of keeping the Catholics out in the 1900's.Read more

    You might also know this place by the following names:

    City of Derry, Londonderry, DRY, Doire

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