Derry is a quiet place compared to the big cities and with winter scaring off all of the tourists it made the stay there even quieter. On arriving in the hostel I did a quick scope around and found that there were probably 3 other people staying there; a South African couple and a blazer looking to score drugs constantly. Definitely using the locker here. The couple were great and we had a chill night watching pirated DVDs and enjoying a sofa each in the common area.
For a small town Derry is really punching above its weight on historical events and it was almost heartbreaking to think that such a cliché pretty Irish town was being bombed up until a few years ago. Even though I was only there for a day but the amount of museums and historical places kept me occupied and clocking up some serious km’s walking around town. The site of the most violent protests and Bloody Sunday massacre has dozens of murals on the sides of buildings and it is like a living memorial as you walk along the road and see the stories being told.
Moving on from Derry my next stop was Belfast. Again, Belfast is well known for being the location for some pretty terrible acts of violence during the troubles and while everyone seems to be trying to move on and become a whole community again, there are so many relics from the past that just astounded me. For example, during the troubles a massive fence was erected between the catholic and protestant neighbourhoods to stop bombs and other things being thrown into the houses of the other side. The fence was also made with time controlled gates on the roads which lockdown on weekends and at night to stop each side sneaking over to commit crimes and murders during the night. This fence still exists and is fully functional today separating the Catholics and protestants and has now been around longer than the Berlin Wall. Doing a black cab tour is the best way to see this part of the city and also helps put a human face to the history. My driver lived through the whole thing, lost 3 members of his family and witnessed so many of the worst moment’s first-hand. When I asked him why the fence still existed his answer was a simple, “it’s still too soon.”
All of the above aside, Belfast is a great place. The locals are incredibly warm to travellers, it’s clean, seems pretty safe, the night life is pumping and I had the chance to meet up with some old friends and be shown around by some locals. There is also a lot of urban renewal going on with a new titanic museum and a couple of foodie areas adding to the list of places worth visiting. If it isn’t happening already in a few years it will become a big location for tourists to visit.
On my last day in the north I jumped in the car and did a sweeeet road trip to the north coast and Giants Causeway. I only realised during the drive after seeing a few signs that a lot of the scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed in Northern Ireland. After doing a quick internet search I had a whole new itinerary and set off to try and find them and see how realistic the places were. Well, from the pictures below. They didn’t do much editing at all.
Finally it was time to visit Dublin again for the second time this trip. Winter had finally arrived with snow settling in the hills above the city and the cold gave us only one option for how to spend our time. Pubs! I met a whole new group of Aussies, Britt’s and Europeans and we spent the next few nights making sure we left no corner of Temple Bar untouched. Sadly this is the end of my time in Europe for now, my next stop after Dublin is New York. Looking back at the last 6 and a half months and thinking about all the experiences, people and places it really hits me in the feels. If you were a part of it, all I can say is thanks and I’m glad you were.