Saturday, July 05, 2008

Adventures in Northern Ireland

June 27
Went to Belfast today and saw the old “Trouble Spots.” Bombay street was one of the areas that suffered the most destruction, it seems. Originally, the Protestants were trying to burn down the Catholic church. The Catholics managed to save their church, but the fire spread. There was an immediate retaliation on the part of the Catholics. That was in 1969, and it is generally accepted that it was the beginning of all the violence throughout the UK and Ireland that lasted until the ceasefire in 1994, though there are still some occasional murders.
The IRA recruited boys as young as 13, though they weren’t considered full soldiers. I was enjoying the tour of Belfast – the Peace Wall and the memorial murals – but when we got to Bombay Street and saw the memorials and the pictures, I became depressed and ashamed to be there as a tourist, essentially on holiday, looking at this memorial like its an attraction. I tried to distance myself from the group after that.
We also saw a memorial to the ten men who died in the hunger strike in prison – they went on strike becasue the government refused to acknowledge their status as political prisoners – basically, they were P.O.W.s, but internationally they were portrayed as criminals, which they were, I suppose, but they were more than just the thugs that people apparently thought they were.
The most violent year of the conflict was 1972. I think Mike Palin’s diary mentions the most car bombing in London that year, too. I think the hunger strike happened in the 1980s – people also went on hygiene strike. I think I’d rather hunger strike.
June 28
Last night was fun. Ilse Bendorf, Allison Crowely, Suzanne Gold, and Annie-Rose Strausser, and I took our time walking along the beach after dinner at a restaurant in Portrush called Coast. Decent meal. Good wine.
We took off our shoes and waded in the Atlantic Ocean, which was colder than the center of Hell where Satan hangs up-side-down with his feet embedded in ice. I went out really far and chased waves, so my jeans were completely soaked for the walk back to the hotel. we took our time going back, stopping to smell flowers and hang out on some cliffs. Went straight to the bar for a pint afterwards, but soon a band started to play with a horrible, whiney singer that killed my mellow, so I went to bed around midnight – read a bit about Sean O’Casey until 1am, maybe. This morning my roommate and I found a banana in one of our drawers. Don’t know how it got there.
Today we start out with the Giants Causeway.
June 30
The Giants Causeway was amazing. Took lots of pictures, especially of the tiny ocean plants and animals. Out at the furthest point of the Causeway, the stones are covered in barnacles and clusters of mussels. There were also lots of underwater plans. I could have stayed there all day watching the waves crush against the rocks and recede, but we only got to stay for two hours.
Next we went to Dunluce Castle. It was built in the thirteenth century and much of it is still standing. A lot of the fireplaces, ovens, and architectural details were still there. We went up a spiral stiarcase in the Northwestern tower, and in the stairwell someone had carved his or her name: A. Chestnut. In the 16th Century, the kitchen on the North side of the castle fell off the cliff and into the sea, killing seven cooks. You can still see the foundation and where the kitchen was. There’s only about a 2-3 feet wide strip left.

I could have stayed there all afternoon, too, but we had to go to the Carrick rope bridge. I thought, “Yeah, that's what I want to do – I want to leave the ruins of a 13th Century castle to go cross a fucking bridge,” but whatever, it sounded kind of cool. Then we got there and I saw that it was a rope bridge in name only – it had been reinforced with steel and goddamn pine wood, and four-inch chains embedded several feet into the rock face kept it up. It used to be that it was an actual rope bridge that the fishermen used to erect every season to get to a good fishing area across the chasm, but just this summer they’d made alterations in the name of safety. Just what this world needs – one more nanny state. When I got to the middle of the bridge and jumped up and down, it barely wobbled.
Stayed in a hostel in Enniskellin. Went out with Ilse, Suzanne, Annie-Rose, and Allison to a place called the Linen Hall for dinner, then to a pub called William Blake (the name made us happy). Later, everyone else went to bed, and I met up with our program coordinators Ashley Taggart and Sarah Power at a pub called Busch. My roommate Ali and her friend Matt were there, too. It was the first night in a while that I spent knocking’em back, so to speak, but was still bright-eyed in time for breakfast at 8am this morning. Not even a mild headache. God bless my Viking ancestry. I think I'd gotten in at around 3am. The whole downtown area was full of drunken youngsters at that hour. Lots of falling down and vomiting. I had my pepper spray and walked straight for the hostel.
This morning at around 10, we went on a boat tour of the waterways in Enniskellin and stopped to look at a pre-Christian monastery. Of course, it later fell into the hands of the Irish Catholics. Again, a surprising percentage of it was still standing and many of the grave stones, the latest dating to the 1870s, were still perfectly ledgible. Got some great pictures of those, too. Too bad we didn’t bring any paper and charcoal for rubbings.
I was excited because we were eating at a swanky hotel restaurant afterward, but it was the worst meal I’ve had since I got here. Tasteless salmon with a cheese sauce that was trying way too hard to be rich and flavorful. Also, plain steamed veggies, which I’ve never liked, and uninteresting potatoes. Dessert was pretty uninspired, too. Luckily, we were just getting back on the bus to go back to Dublin afterwards, so I didn’t have to eat too much.
It was a wonderful trip, though. Wish it could have lasted longer. Oh well. I can look back on it while I’m reading the book I got at the Giants Causeway about the geology and formation of the earth. My jeans stayed wet all weekend.

Tonight, Three sisters at the Abbey Theatre. Also, I found out in class today that I can get codeine over-the-counter here. I wonder what else I can get. Would they dare sell Demerol? and what ever happened to Quaaludes? Are those still around? Probably not the best idea, anyway. I’m already getting less sleep than I probably should be.
Warning on can of salmon: Contains fish.
I found a sticker that says “FAR TOO MUCH BERTIE.” Peeled it off the lock on the Liffey and put it on the cover of my journal. Wonder what it means.

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