Thursday, 22 November 2012

Derry/Londonderry.Murals.Walled City.

Last Friday we had a four day trip to Ireland as our friend Graeme has a house in Donegal and kindly invited Alan ,Alex and myself over to stay with him. The weather did not look promising for the trip but the fates were with us once again and we avoided the worst of any showers which were heavy and frequent at times.I cant remember my jacket getting wet much at all which was exceptional in itself.
Either that or we are getting better at hiding from water these days.
You may recognise the old soap dodger above,wandering round the Bogside in head to toe blue apparel. We are both that used to wearing our jackets every weekend on the hills it never struck us  this colour might not be such a clever idea but no-one in the area seemed to mind as they are well used to tourists wandering around by now. I had my usual green one with me,an intentional choice on my part as the only other one I possess,as you know, is bright orange.I,m not that keen on it as I look like a numpty in it and it scares away any wildlife on the hills. This is now a free standing gable but at one point was probably part of a row of houses.
Thanks to Graeme who was driving our hired vehicle we had a quick tour of the city in light drizzle.This would have been unpleasant up in the mountains where no doubt it would have been heavy and wind driven but down here it was no problem and we had a quick tour of one of the most complete walled cities left anywhere in Europe.It was also one of the last to be built.
Derry/Londonderry has such a long interesting history there,s no way I can squash any of it into here so visit this link for a better understanding of the layout and complexity of this amazing city.
We didn,t have a great deal of time here as we were staying somewhere else and didn't fancy driving around unfamiliar city streets at rush hour in the dark but we managed to pack a lot into the couple of hours we had available.
On the western side of the city walls lies the Catholic areas of Bogside and Creggan with thier Murals,Bloody Sunday and H block Memorials on Rossville Steet.We parked here first on Fahan street and went for a wander on foot around the area.Don't know why but it came as a surprise,arriving from Glasgow, to find a Celtic park here as well.It was also a surprise to find a Che Guevara connection here but as Alex's pointing out above his relatives came originally from Ireland  and  he was an inspiration  for the locals during the troubles in the 1960's and 70's.

Beside the Museum of Free Derry were similar wall murals to Palestine and a huge replica of Pablo Picasso's Guernica which also initially puzzled me.Mind you being a Daily Record reader I,m as dumb as a doughnut when it comes to world affairs.
We visited this museum next which was good value at £4 quid admission.Brought back all the news reports from my teenage years watching daily updates of events in Northern Ireland unfolding at the height of the conflict.I also didn't realise the Bogside is so called because it was built originally on marshy ground on a low lying strip of land. Doh! Obvious really when you think about it.

This was the DIY mural nearby that tickled me the most though.Bugs bunny and Homer Simpson along with local gang slogans.Kids will always mix and match the world around them to create their own unique vision of the place.

From an outsider tourist point of view however,although still obviously divided into two halves either side of the walls people are free to drive or walk back and forth as they please into the city.Like any large urban area there are dangers walking around at night in the outlying districts I,d imagine but the same is true of Glasgow, Manchester or London.I noticed from my visitor map that there is a national cycle route along the banks of the Foyle running right through the city,past several parks , the newly built peace bridge and Ebrington Square so there is plenty to see and do visitor wise with walking tours,cycle hire,and dozens of tourist attractions within a short distance.Everyone we met was helpful and good natured and seemed genuinely pleased we were exploring and learning about their city.
Windowless Shop.I actually felt perfectly at home here as it reminded me of the Glasgow schemes I grew up in which had similar fortifications to prevent entry.Made me very nostalgic in fact. Bought a long ago favourite chocolate bar to remind me of my own youth.First for thirty five years.Tasted just as good.
Bogside Murals.There was talk of removing the more provocative examples because it increased tension but from a strictly personal point of view I think it would lose that edge.Nearby is a mural of a peace dove but its the type you can see in any city and is not unique to this area.I think I,ve seen one in Glasgow somewhere. Put simply its not got the same tourist draw.People like the idea of a place that may be dangerous under the surface but is also safe to visit.Its human nature I suppose.
The view from the other side of the city walls.The west bank refers to the west bank of the River Foyle.We didn't have time to visit this area but only because it was getting dark by this time.For the history of the murals  and more examples click here.For me the big pleasure of Northern Ireland was seeing everyone busy with christmas shopping for their families.They all seemed more concerned nowadays with getting  presents under the tree which is as it should be and was a heartening sight.
Alex walking below the city walls.I like any city that streaches itself over hills as you can look down into all the different areas.Glasgow,Edinburgh,Dundee.All have fabulous views from urban summits.Derry/Londonderry is the same. As mountain men we always feel happier walking up slopes wherever we find ourselves so we couldnt resist climbing up here after visting the museum.
A great first day behind us we headed for Graeme's house and the mountains of Donegal.
The Blue Stack Mountains.The Sperrins, the Ox and the Iron mountains The Derry Veagh range.All new ,mysterious and wonderful to this first time vistor.Yippeee! Bring em on!

I tried to find something  apt and different for this weeks video.As anyone who reads this post knows by now I,m not religious in any way,shape or form  and cant be arsed with politicians 99 percent of the time.In my twenties I discovered folk music in the record collections of local libraries and it was a revelation to someone brought up with pop and rock.Here was music with  great tunes, complex stories and history I knew nothing about. Scottish, English and Irish folk.I became a big fan of Christy Moore's early traditional stuff ,Dick Gaughan,The Dubliners,June Tabor, The bothy band and many many more.
I tried to find a Juicy version of the Rocky Road to Dublin as this was a song I tried to learn the words to myself on three different occasions... and failed.I do know all the words to 20 odd songs but this one beat me every time ! I always get the middle section mixed up.
Irish music has travelled the globe. Little did I dream the answer would be in Germany with a German band singing Irish folk tunes.I do hope they are not swearing in German thoughout as that is verboten on the blog.Looks a great gig though.


Carol said...

I'm sure there are still some bad areas in Glasgow but I find the place seems much safer and more peaceful than when I was stuck there one weekend with no money in the 1970s and I was just 17!

I can't comment on Ireland and, apart from the mountains, I'm not sure I'd ever got there really. I'm not that well up on their politics either - why can't you wear blue?

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
Is this a wind up?
Well you can obviously but the one half of the city tends to favour green,white and gold lamp posts for some reason while the other side of the river prefers red, white and blue.According to wiki there are fewer than 500 protestants living on this west bank of the River Foyle,hence the mural there.
Parts of the west of Scotland are like that as well with little enclaves its just not as noticable there and it is more of a mixture.
Thanks for bringing it up.
Yours... a neutral observer to the city.

The Glebe Blog said...

I've driven through Derry/Londonderry (When it becomes the European City of Culture next year it'll be worth a visit) about half a dozen times over the years, but only ever stopped once due to a puncture, so you've seen more than me Bob. There'll be quite a few generations pass on before old scores are completely forgotten over there.
It's slowly getting better though. Travelling through Northern Ireland in the 70's and 80's if we only got stopped half a dozen times we were lucky.

blueskyscotland said...

I loved the place Jim and would go back again.So much to see and do there.We only had time for a quick glimpse. I was also surprised how wide the River Foyle was near the city centre.

Carol said...

Do you mean was my question about wearing blue a wind-up? I'm pretty oblivious of the colours of Irish politics to be honest - I gather some of it is orange but that's about it (and I don't know which side that is either!) ;-) The only green I'd have thought about was the fact they call it the 'Emerald Isle' so more a countryside thing than a political one?

blueskyscotland said...

Right. Put it this way Carol.
In Glasgow Rangers play in dark blue strips,always have.Celtic play in Green and white.If you are on your own in certain parts of Glasgow it is a smart idea to be wearing the right colour of strip.Simple as that.
And before you ask I dont wear either cos I,m a hillwalker.
Have a look at the wiki links included if you want to know anyhing further :)

Carol said...

I think I'll stick to pink :-)