Sunday morning we took a walking tour of Derry. It is a walled city and we were able to actually go up on top of the walls and walk the entire perimeter of the city. Our tour guide led us around, depicting the history of the city and where it stands now. Most of the history had to do with the independence conflict, but we also learned how and why the walls were built to begin with, famous Irish celebrities who attended the schools in the walls, and how the city is defined today.
From the top of the walls the city was magnificent. The tour started with a huge view of the graveyard far in the distance. Towards the top was a mass amount of tomb stones, towards the bottom a more scattered amount. The guide explained that Catholics are buried towards the top, while the Protestants are buried towards the bottom. This began the tone for the rest of the tour- Protestant v. Catholic.
The first view outside the walled city looked like this:
This is a neighborhood right over the wall (note Derry is also called Londonderry). The sign was recently painted so my suspicions that the animosity exists perhaps a little more than the tour guide was letting on was only reinforced by that sign. The sidewalks are painted those colors to show their support for Great Britain. This is the Protestant side of town–fully in favor of remaining in the UK.
The most striking part was when we reached the other side of the walls–the Catholic side. The pictures speak for themselves, but the tour guide told us a few facts. Free Derry (what the neighborhood is called) was the sight of Bloody Sunday, a conflict that was only recently cleared up through the apology of the UK to the families of the young men shot and killed while peacefully protesting. This part of town is characterized by its large painted sign in the middle of the square, its massive murals painted on the sides of houses, and its Irish flags hanging on almost every door step and atop every house. The Catholic side, Free Derry, is in favor of independence and joining with the rest of Ireland to be free from the UK and this neighborhood is obsessed with free speech… allowing people to hang/paint/write whatever they feel. Note that atop some of the houses are painted letters in support of the IRA.
The murals are a bit eerie as they depict a bad time in the history of the country. The tour guide explained that this generation understands the stakes of the peace treaty and will never let things get bad like they once were. We were able to walk down off the walls into Free Derry and see the murals up close–they were amazing.
We ended out time in Derry walking the Peace Bridge, constructed in honor of the peace agreements that ended the conflict. It was a really nice day and a great send off from an amazingly rich historical place.
Another successful trip!
Up next in November– Dublin, Scotland, London, and possibly Paris!