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 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!

Ireland! Day four and five! We went to Bel and fast!

On day four we mostly planned our stay in Northern Ireland. We used our mobile internet traffic to browse the interwebs for things to do. We spent the afternoon on a walk to Prehen Woods, a small patch of forest 30 minutes on foot south of Derry. The way there was marked by a beautiful motorway and a boring residential area. The forest itself was completely lacking people which was a good thing. Not the most exciting forest, but relaxing nonetheless. All the pictures were done on analog cameras, they might follow once I cleaned my dev stuff and got some development going.

The next day we got up early and took the bus service to Belfast. We saw a church thing that might actually not be a church but more of a thing.

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We went on a saturday. Which brought the big advantage of being able to visit a lovely food market. It featured some grocery stands but mostly freshly prepared food. And fish.

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And lovely baby clothing.

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We ate breakfast/lunch (someone should invent a word for that) consisting of a beef steak bap (which is like a regular burger) and some paella. Both dishes were really good. Unfortunately there was not so much space available to sit down, which was a bit of a downer. But then again a great band played some relaxed jazz/reggae/rock.

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And so many cupcakes everywhere. Note the boxes on the side containing another truckload of fancy decorated cupcakes that drown in colored icing, silver pearls and colorful sprinkles. Of course we didn’t buy any as we both preferred taste over looks, and sugar icing and sugar pearls and colorants just don’t taste that great.

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As we went back outside to stroll around the city, it started to rain. Constant, annoying, wet, pouring, mean rain.

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Not even a giant herring could cheer us up.

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As an emergency solution we did a boat tour of the harbor with this lovely tiny boat.

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The boat instantly pleased by being kind of indoors and with chairs.

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This are the Titanic Studios, where Game of Thrones is made. Also a lot of the exterior settings are actually located somewhere in Ireland. A good choice by HBO to produce the series on this beautiful island.

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The harbor looked like a harbor, with docks and stuff. Somewhere in this harbor the Titanic was built by Irishmen before it was sunk by an Englishman, as the locals never cease to point out. “She was fine when when she left us.”

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I am enjoying myself so much. And my raincoat was basically useless as it just soaked up all the water and kept it around me.

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In this dock the Titanic or the sister ship Olympic or maybe some completely unrelated ship was built. The guide was fun, I guess, as we could hardly understand him. But he sounded nice.

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Doro has a bit more fun than me as she actually brought proper rain clothing to the land of everlasting rain.

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Navy seals hiding on the bank.

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They built an impressive giant thing that was quite big. I have about a million pictures of it, but I only show you this one because I am a good person.

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And by the end of the tour the sky cleared up and the rain stopped. Big success.

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We enjoyed the little tour a lot, not only because it provided shelter from the rain, it was also interesting to see the docks, the size of the machines and hear a bit about the story of the harbor. We saw “THE TITANIC EXPERIENCE” (yes, it has to be all caps and be read in a deep dramatic voice) which is just a fancy wording for museum that features stuff around the Titanic. The interesting thing about the building was, that the top edge of it was constructed in a way that it would be exactly the height of the nose (technical term for the front thingy of a boating machine) of Titanic. The building was quite tall. But I did not find a picture of it in the folder. Can’t be that interesting then.

We said goodbye to the lovely boat people and their boat and went on.

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We then finally did some city strolling. Unfortunately Belfast is quite boring on a saturday night if you are not interested in spending a lot of hard earned money on beer in small bars full with people. The shops close at very early, the pubs are expensive.

We saw this cathedral. Its tower has been blown away by the IRA and was not rebuilt. Instead, to appease the situation a sky needle was constructed.

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Before the shops finally closed we jumped into an outdoor supply store and looked for a rain jacket that would actually repel rain instead of sucking it all up and using it to chill the body down to cozy 12 degrees Kelvin. We were so lucky to find a big rack of jackets on sale and after trying on several different options Doro bought me a very nice Northface jacket that I then wore for the rest of the holidays.

After nightfall we got on the bus to Derry and went home.

Ireland. Day two. This time actually on the island

So. We arrived in Derry.

Here you find the story of how we got there.

Due to some circumstances we slept the first night in Valentina’s flatmate’s room. The flatmate decided not to move in until we were gone. Wise move.

The room had the nice and vibrant color pink on every wall.

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We slept quite well mostly because we got a nice and large duvet from Valentina.

The next morning we were ready to explore the vast and interesting city of Derry. Valentina was cleaning the kitchen as the previous tenants of the house left it covered in sticky goo. Did I mention she just moved in there a few days before us?

After the promised “only 20 minutes” turned out to be more than an hour, Doro joined in cleaning the fridge to avoid waiting another 2 hours. Nothing says holidays as cleaning a fridge that has never been cleaned before. Only 2 hours later than expected we opened the front door to leave.

This is what Derry looked like.

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Despite the horrible look from the pictures I kind of liked the look of the town. The one above is the main playground for the kids. We met children from 8 to 12 years from 8 to 12 pm there. The area we stayed is called the bogside or just the bog. It is the area of the working class people and has nowadays the highest unemployment rates of the whole city. It reminded me of all these movies about working class people, mostly in scotland, but apparently it looks similar in Northern Ireland.

Some of the photos might look a bit overdramatic. I listened and listen to the smashing pumpkins tonight.

As you might or might not know, Derry was the location of the Bloody Sunday shootings when the british occupying forces shot 26 unarmed civilians and wounded many others. This event is covered by the Derry murals that depict several scenes from this day and others. Although they are not that well executed technically it is still impressing how present the events are in the town. More on that later.

Some random inner city shots.

Derry is famous for its wall, also called the “Maiden City” as it was never penetrated by foreign forces. The wall still stands and circles the inner city which is on a hill, facing the river foyle on one side and the bogside on the other. In the inner city the people of Derry decided to put the most atrocious post-war modern architecture.

And obviously they don’t know how to place ATM machines.

At least the King didn’t make it. Probably the only royal ever permanently chased from the city.

We toured the city on the wall and had some views on the town, but honestly, everything the town has to offer can be seen in an afternoon, the most interesting things being the bus and the train station as they provide fast escape routes from the city into the beautiful countryside around.

The area in the kind of valley is the bogside where we stayed.

This is the loyalist quarter in the inner city. Note how the sidewalks are painted in the union jack’s colors to clearly mark the royalist territory. The sign says:

LONDONDERRY

West Bank Loyalists

Still Under Siege

NO SURRENDER

And to make the point even more clear the lovely royalist people burn every year a huge pile of wood and some Irish republican flags. The republicans respond by marches through the city, resulting in violence every year. Already the name of the city “Derry/Londonderry” shows the division of the city’s population. The loyalists keep their tight bounds with the british royalty while the Republicans avoid to mention the enemy’s capital.

Throughout the country you see whole streets that either have all the Union Jack or the Republican flag attached to lamp posts, houses and sidewalks.

The IRA is no more but their acronym can be found all over the bog side. Freedom fighters for the one side and terrorists for the other.

We then went home, it was night by the time. We waited on several occasions for a long time on our host and therefore spent far more time in the city than necessary.

We had dinner and went out again for an evening walk. More on that later. Probably more photos than words next time.