Today, we drove to a town divided by religious and political differences. So much so, that it has two names. Ask a Catholic, or Republican, and it’s Derry. Speak to a Protestant, someone waving the Union Jack, you’ll be told it’s Londonderry.
It was a long drive from Westport, but after about three hours we crossed from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland — a nation of the United Kingdom. From Euros to Sterling, kilometers to miles, the differences are stark enough that you feel like you’ve traveled further than just a few miles.
We got into town just in time to hop into a walking tour of the town, which mostly consisted of walking the city walls — built between 1613-1619 — which are still completely intact, making it the only such city in Ireland.
Views included the above, peering over a Protestant neighborhood. Notice the Union colors are painted on the curbs, and the “No Surrender” moniker. While the tensions of The Troubles and Bloody Sunday have simmered, there is still a bit of an uncomfortable feeling seeing the fences, walls and opposing colors depending on which direction you look.
After the tour, we visited St. Columb’s Cathedral. Built in 1633, stained glass depicted scenes in great detail. The volunteer inside was an older lady, and extremely passionate about this place and some of the artifacts that they had in their small museum. Included were the original locks and keys to the town’s gates.
She even went on a little rant about Meg Ryan after we told her we were from Seattle. Apparently Meg Ryan was on some talk show here and showed disinterest in being there. One thing you learn about the Irish — speak to them, and you best be prepared to listen to them talk for a while.
We strolled around town a bit more, including crossing the Peace Bridge, a pedestrian bridge on the River Foyle. The weather has remained wonderful (yep, I got sunburned in Ireland, of course).
This town has so much history. It’s unfortunate much of that is recent history which contains bloodshed and tension. However, things have made a positive turn. The fact that we are even here is proof that the city is open for business and no longer dangerous.