Ireland! Day Fifteen! Over at last!

Finally, the last day is there. Or sadly.

This last day was also a slow day, waking up late, packing stuff, checking out, and then a last and rushed visit to the botanical garden and the Ulster museum.

We didn’t have the chance to enter the old greenhouse in the botanical garden earlier, so we just rushed in at the last minute. It is fairly small by charming due to its age. They grow mostly only a few varieties of flowers there, probably to sell them. But still nice.

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Just across from the botanical garden lies the Ulster museum. It features a bit of everything, some arts, some nature science stuff and some history. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside, but sometimes it is nicer to look at the exhibitions through ones eyes and not through a viewfinder. 

The museum’s setup was quite interesting, as it spiralled down from the top. You just follow a path and little by little you descend through the building to arrive at the exit. The top two floors featured fashion and object art, photography and paintings, lots of boats, but also other painting from Pissarro and Beuys. And a great photo series from Paul Sewright’s set “invisible cities”. Here is a link to look at some of the photos on his website.

Further down we passed a lot of taxidermy (what is the corresponding verb, dear English speakering personas?) of animals from the region. I liked the birds.

Then we went through the history department, starting from the early findings of pre-historical settlements  through the medieval and industrialised periods of Northern Ireland and kind of finishing with the conflict in Northern Ireland. This last part was especially well done, trying to present facts and only little to no judgement over either sides. I believe it is quite difficult to get a neutral narrative going on, when the peace treaty is only in place for some 15 years now.

Unfortunately we were in a hurry and couldn’t read as much as we wanted throughout the exhibitions. The explanations to everything were done in a way that you could get the amount of information you liked, with some general points to put the pieces in context and very detailed descriptions if you are interested in learning more. I guess this way it is interesting for families, were the children can just get the general ideas and the parents don’t have to get bored if they know a bit already, as they can always learn more.

We then returned to the hostel, grabbed our stuff, took the bus to the airport, the plane to amsterdam, waited an hour in line for the easyjet counter, and finally flew home.

Northern Ireland was a great place to visit. I especially enjoyed the landscapes and the local people. But you should definitely get a car or some other means of transportation as the public transport covers the important bits, but not necessarily the beautiful ones.

We will certainly go back there, and also visit the republic of Ireland, to see the true Ireland a bit more.

So this travel reporting comes to an end here, but more reports on other trips will follow.

Cheers.

Ireland! Day Fourteen! It does not stop!

We had a great calm night in the new room that was only shared by us two and not by the snoring smelly rhino, although I missed him a bit.

The next day we thought about doing a tour of all the famous stuff in the city from when catholics and protestants were hitting each in the heads, but then we didn’t really feel like it. Instead we took a bus up to a hill that overlooks all of Belfast north of the town. Taking the bus is a bit scary, as only major stops are depicted on the maps, and you have to trust your driver when you ask him if he was going where you wanted to go. Our driver reassured us that he was indeed going towards the mountain and at some point he more or less yelled “NOW!” and we hurried to get off the bus.

We arrived at the Belfast Zoo which lies at the base of said hill, I will just now call Mount Doom for ease of writing, and our guide book told us, that there was a way to go from the Zoo to a little castle on Mount Doom. And indeed there was, but not quite as we expected. A muddy path crawls behind the Zoo upwards. And unlike Berlin, where you can see at least one animal that isn’t a pigeon from outside the Zoo when you pass by, in Belfast you only see concrete walls, barbed wire and reinforced fences. The path consisted mostly of large patches of mud and some slippery stones and slopes. At some point we had to make our way across 10 meters of heel deep mud by jumping from stone to stone. Doro was cursing like a sailor. I never heard her curse like that before or after. We just made it across the mud pit when a group of 4 joggers arrived and went “Hep Hep Hep Hep” while passing us, their legs muddy up to the knee.

The weather was grey and foggy and so the day looked pretty shitty. Crawling next to a fence through mud is not exactly what we intended to do.

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We then slowly climbed to the peak area of Mount Doom. Doro said it would be nice if it would start to rain. It then started to rain.

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Up on the side of Mount Doom was this cave you see below and we went to take a look at it. Looking down Mount Doom was just a vast area of greyness.

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When we arrived at the cave’s entrance, we turned around to see that in that exact minute the skies cleared up, the sun shined on our faces and all the clouds moved away to annoy someone else.

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The view then was most spectacular, we could watch the big boats arriving in the harbour of Belfast, look out to the see and all around us was sunshine and happiness. Yay!

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While we stood there, admiring the scenery, me getting all sentimental and crying about the beauty of the day and God’s holy creation that we could witness, I was pulled out of my tranquillity by Doro fistpunching me in the kidneys. Twice. A young guy walked over the hill next to us. “Hello! How are you doing!”, was what I said. “Oh, ihr seid auch aus Deutschland.” was his answer. Great. So much for my English skills. He then presented himself to be a lone wanderer of the Belfast area, originating from the Bodensee in Germany. We had a chat and he pointed us in the direction he came from to get to the castle that was our original goal. We said farewell, he went on and we went where he came from.

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The forest we entered looked suiting to Mount Doom, green and mossy and like it was bursting with witches and alike.

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But it wasn’t. The evil that lied within it was far beyond the evil of witchcraft. We took a turn at one point to get further down Mount Doom in direction of the castle I will now call Minas Tirit for no apparent reason. The slopes got more slippery and Doro had to do some impressive moves to avoid falling. So did I. But luckily I was the bearer of the camera and so it is not captured how I tumble down Mount Doom.

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It soon appeared to us that we took a turn for a mountain bike downhill course. This paths are not made for walking. Although I can’t imagine how to survive riding a bike on a muddy slippery slope down Mount Doom, some people must have done that regularly. We found bike tracks and later on some ramps for jumps.

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Then it happened. Although I descended Mount Doom lightfooted like a woodelf and fell and buried the camera in mud. Fun times. Luckily we soon found a way off this God forsaken bicycle track back to a normal route and we soon approached Minas Tirit. A lovely castle, often booked by wedding people to wed people together somehow. We walked over nicely kept lawns, me covered in mud, exhausted and not in the best mood. We headed straight into the washing rooms where we removed what we could of all the mud we brought.

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I cleaned the camera and as we (or rather Doro) spent a lot of money on the camera it was actually water and dust sealed and could basically just be rinsed with water until it was clean. My leg still looked muddy for the rest of the day.

So finally, this is the castle of Minas Tirit.

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The garden tells some kind of story of how the earl of the castle set himself on fire and jumped of a very high thing and fell into the town like a human torch, but unlike the friend of Mr Spandex, Invisible Girl and Dwayne Johnson he wasn’t able to fly like a bird. To tell the story a number of cats was hidden in the garden. Hidden as in there was a mosaic or a statue or picture. See if you can find them all on the pictures that follow up.

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These stairs are mainly used by newly marriaged people to stumble and fall down while the guests are laughing at them. Very nice thing to see.

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These are for friendzoned men and their crushes. Quite close but with an uncrossable gap.

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This sign tells the story of how the castle’s inhabitants (servants for weddings) are lucky as long as a cat lives on the premises. As cats are known to chew on headphone cables the servants thought to be clever by hiding cat shaped objects in the garden. Kind of similar to the way they wanted to tell the story of the Earl of Minas Tirit and his torch experience.

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This is me ignoring the fact that the cat is dead, because she messed with Goldfinger.

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I then lost a part of my backpack somewhere and despite looking for it we couldn’t find it. Mmh. We then descended from Mount Doom back into the civilisation. When we turned around we were stunned by the giant’s face that was visible against the sky. WE WERE WALKING ON A GIANT’S HEAD ALL THE TIME!?! We were so lucky not to have woken him. The locals say that the giant’s face looks like Napoleon. But I don’t see the afro anywhere. Or the moonboots.

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Nearly done now! Only a few dozen posts about Ireland left before I can talk to you again about my food and the stuff I don’t like!

Huzza!

 

Ireland! Day Thirteen! Just look at this city!

It is dark outside, grey, my nose is running, I cough occasionally, what better thing is there to do then to finish up my master piece of how I went to Ireland and came back.

What happened so far: We arrived in Belfast the day before, found an amazing tent full of fancy veg, browsed the southern area of Belfast and then headed back to the hostel, after having some mediocre fish and chips and place calling itself “The best fish and chips”. It was not.

Ireland! Day Twelve! Flower Power in Belfast!

After ten days in Derry we kind of had the feeling that we did everything that was accessible to us without a bike or car. We did some stuff even several times already (Castlerock!). And when we first went to Belfast, the weather was shitty and the city was just too big to be conquered in just one day. So we packed our stuff, said farewell to our host and took the morning train to Belfast, which is nearly as fast as the bus and way more comfortable.

Ireland! Day Eleven! Not much!

This is a short one.

The night before we had our farewell dinner with our host at nice grill box restaurant that served really good Irish steak.

The next day we went to see Coleraine together with Valentina, as it is easy to get there by bus or train from Derry. We strolled around and had a relaxed day looking at the city. And we went to a small forest.

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In this forest were the remains of a pre-medieval fort. Basically just a funny shaped hill. We strolled around and went back to the city.

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We soon went home, as we had to pack and be excited about our upcoming plans: going to Belfast and being there! Woo!

 

Ireland! Day Ten! The Shire!

After having seen the sea for several times we wanted to some of the green forests that were promised by the guides. We took the bus down to Strabane and from the the rambler tour bus to Gortin Glenn Forest Park, a wildlife preservation park that features several paths to have a casual walk.

Ireland! Day Nine! The Town of the Whiskey!

After the exhausting pedaling the day before we decided to do something quiet, slow and indoors. So we headed to Bushmills, the place where the famous distillery is located.

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They had a lot of these Potemkin facades with painted on shops and stuff. I read that the government put these up during the G8 summit to give the impression of a living town while in fact the whole area is breaking apart, no more jobs are available and a lot of house just stay empty and rot.

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We headed for the Distillery tour. There were no photos allowed due to security reasons – electric appliance might ignite the faint ethanol aerosols and blow up the whole distillery. But honestly there was not much to take picture of. The interesting bits were just opened for the tourists, the real deal was going on in endless stainless steel tanks, fully automated. A single guy was checking on a dozen of distilleries at the same time.

We saw the big casks their ethanol is stored in to give a bit of flavor. We heard a lot on the benefits of not having actual flavor. Sort of.

In the end there was some tasting for everyone, one whiskey free with every admission.

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Doro got the special whiskey they only sell at their gift shop. It’s supposed to taste of honey and sweetness.

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I think it did not taste that much of honey.

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I had the regular one, to check if it’s worth buying. Although I’m smiling, it is not great.

The guide spent a lot of time to tell us that in fact the scotch is better. Where the scots burn peat to use its smoke to get flavor into the raw mixture, the Irish use dry heat. Flavorless. Where the Scots distill only twice to preserve the taste, the Irish distill it three times to get rid of all flavor, then water it down, then put in bourbon casks to mask everything with vanilla flavor.

And the resulting taste is just boring. I might be harsh on the Irish whiskey, I only visited the big mainstream distillery. It is like judging German beer after visiting the Beck’s brewery. But still – the famous Bushmills whiskey is only okay with Cola.

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We then took again the Rambler Tour Bus to get away and to the next stop. Dunluce Castle. But first: Cows.

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The Castle is an old ruin, just clinging to a piece of rock over the sea. Half of it broke away, taking some servants with it. It is now a museum for its history.

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Did I mention I don’t like tourists?

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The castle is situated on a beautiful piece of coastline. It must have looked spectacular when it was still fully functional.

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You could climb  down a slippery flight of stairs and check out the castle from below.

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There was also this cave of unknown function. It headed directly to the sea.

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As you might notice, the weather quickly got foggier and foggier.

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I turned into spider man. Obviously.

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Soon we couldn’t see anymore for 50 meters. The horizon vanished in gradient from sea to clouds. Beautiful.

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I have tons and tons of pictures of basically nothing. I love this feeling so much. All the sunshine in the world does not amaze as much as a cloudy foggy day at the sea.

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We then got back to Derry  using the bus. I think we were happy that this day was a rather relaxed and short day. And I was so happy because fog.

 

Ireland! Day Eight! Bicycle, Bicycle, Bicycle Race!

We soon realised, that  we won’t get to the good places on foot or by just relying on public transport. I stumbled across a website on the interwebs promising a bike tour for “Derry Day Trippers”. It sounded just right for us, inexperienced tourists, a simple day tour on bikes to see Ireland’s most northern point. Some 40 km of flat lands. Or so we thought. 

Ireland! Day One! Amsterdam!

We went to Ireland.

We just felt like getting too much sun in Berlin. We needed to act fast. So we booked flights to visit our acquaintance Valentina in Derry/Londonderry. But as most of you, unknown readers of this site, know, every trip you’ll ever do has to begin in Amsterdam.

Cops and wooden shoes. Amsterdam!

Ireland! Day Six! Beaches, sand, dunes and sea!

After the excitingness and rain of Belfast we wanted to relax a bit. What is more relaxing than a walk on the beach? That’s right, nothing.

We passed Castlerock already after our horrible horrific walk from bellarena to magilligan point and I desperately wanted to go back there. I said pretty please and could convince Doro and Valentina to go there.

We hopped on the train, and more importantly hopped of the train in Castlerock and in front of a cloudy sky we saw an ice cream vendor.

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We longed more for beaches than for ice cream so I pushed the ladies in the direction of the relaxing woooooosh sound produced by several mole of water hitting elongated stretches of sand. 

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Doro.

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Although it wasn’t freezing it also wasn’t exactly warm. The chilling wind made us be glad for our windstopping jackets. But those guys did not really care.

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It’s hard to tell from the small tumblr image, but they actually wear only swimming shorts and strut into the water like the men they are. Strong Irish men probably laughing at the German sissies hiding in their rain coats.

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I fell in love with this place. The sound of the waves hitting the beach, the sky, the dunes, everything just made me smile. Like a little honey pie horse, as we tend to say in Prussian.

And it’s Doro again.

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Valentina had to take her shoes of because reasons.

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The partly blue sky changed to a rather grey colour complete with rainy bits and other forms of water falling from above. Did I mention we had raincoats? And more importantly, I had my new raincoat. The water was forming little spheres on my coat and I just shook myself like a dog and the water was gone, I was dry again. I only showed this a few dozen times to Doro. I think she appreciated it.

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Who is the handsome fella? Did he fall out of a vogue cover shoot? Or was it GQ? I don’t know, but the trail of girls following his footsteps made him really look important

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Into the dunes!

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We climbed some minor dunes, feeling completely immersed into the spiky green grass and the sand and then we reached the top. To the right was the sea and to the left – of course – a golf course. They are the cancer of the region, there is hardly a strip of land without golfers. I think they are quite easy to grow in these harsh conditions, with a lot of rain and hardly any sun. The sign warns from the dangers of being hit in the head repeatedly with a golf ball, a faith happening to those dreaded who enter the lands of the golf.

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Flowers!

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As the sun switched back on, I allowed the girls to have some ice. I am a gentle and loving master. And the ice cream was especially good. Made from happy cow’s udder secretion. And the waffle was covered in chocolaty chocolate.

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This is actually a Presbyterian church.

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Keep calm and be original.

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Om nom nom, house was eaten.

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How more Irish can a cottage get?

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We came to see these bungalows overlooking the area. They looked so nice and cozy, facing the sea.

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But then we continued and we found that they are actually part of huge settlement of bungalows. They have wheels underneath so they can easily be moved elsewhere. Not so lovely any more.

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My homage to Hiroshi Sugimoto.

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This little library/dome/bishop’s porn stash is on all of the postcards.

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I just love the Irish weather for this. You see Malin’s head on the other side in the light.

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Any postcard company who wants to pay a bazillion pounds for this? Thanks.

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I also like to live dangerously.

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Everyone went away. Again. I had to do the selfies all by myself.

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There they are, far ahead, about to cross the valley of kind of harmless effort.

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The shallow lake of mediocrity.

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This castle’s ruins are quite ruinesque. This is a word now.

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The ruins were open to everyone, also to the rain, as the roof was partied away.

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And that’s it already. Just a million pictures of the beach and the skies and the beach and the dunes and the beach. We went back to Castlerock and took the train home.

I really really really love this place. It’s so calm and relaxing and beautiful. I will return!