A few weeks ago a big group of foreign students decided they wanted to all go to Derry for a day and night. The day before we left I told an Irish guy in my screenwriting class that I was going to Derry and he said to me “In some places it’s called London-Derry, make sure you know which part your in so you call it the right thing.” He didn’t say it in a way that made me nervous about going, but it still seemed kind of strange. Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and is known for being a big target area of ‘the troubles.’ It is also famous for it’s wall that use to surround the city to protect it from invasion. However the city grew so big that now the wall is sort of in the middle, and you can walk around the whole thing and read about the history of it, it’s only about a mile long so it’s easy to do in a day.
On Saturday I got up at 8 and met a few other people who had decided to take the early bus to Derry. We walked to the bus station, which took about 30 mins and caught the 10 a.m. bus. The trip was about an hour and forty minutes through beautiful countryside. We had gotten really lucky and caught a beautiful sunny day, which is rare for Ireland, especially at this time of year. Once we got to Derry one of the boys in our group, Justin, decided he wanted a traditional Irish breakfast so we walked to the hostel to drop our stuff off and find a place to get one. The hostel was located right next to the police station, which looked like a fort. It had huge walls and barbed wire fencing all around it. When we left the hostel a police van was pulling in and two huge metal doors opened to let it in. Standing inside the door was a police officer armed with an automatic rifle and bullet proof vest. So we felt pretty safe at our hostel knowing that was what was nearby.
After we dropped our stuff off we figured it was too late to get Justin’s Irish breakfast so we just stopped at a pub to eat quickly. We thought we might meet up with the other international students that were also going to Derry, but as it turns out they all decided to go much later than us. We decided to start walking along the wall and see what Derry was all about. The scenery was beautiful and the wall had places of significance marked and had explanations about the wall and how it was used. After walking about half the wall we saw a Derry museum. We stopped in and took a tour explaining the history of Derry, when it became Londonderry, and when it was changed back again. There was also a small exhibit about the Spanish Armada because a ship sank nearby.
After walking the rest of the wall we decided to go look at the murals on some of the buildings. The first one that greeted us said:
We walked around looking at all the murals until it started getting dark. Some of the murals even had explanations for what they stood for and what events they were alluding to. After that we went back to the hostel and met up with the other students for dinner and drinks.
The next morning we got up bright and early to get Justin his Irish breakfast. When we looked outside we noticed that there were some cop cars outside the hostel, not unusual since the police station was right by, but there was also caution tape (which is white instead of yellow here). When we went to leave we were told we’d have to go out the back, since out front was too close to the crime scene. We later found out that someone had been killed (not due to the troubles, more likely a drunken fight gone wrong). Even though that was sort of shocking news, we tried to put it behind us and enjoy the rest of our time in Derry. We finally found a place for a big Irish breakfast, which was actually pretty cheap, 3 pounds never bought me so much food.
After that we went to go see some of the murals on the protestant side of town that we hadn’t seen yet. You know exactly when you get to the protestant side of Derry. The curbs are all painted red, white, and blue. And the British flag is flying over a lot of people’s houses. We looked at the murals they had on those buildings and walked around a bit more, enjoying yet another sunny day. We caught the afternoon bus back and made it back to Belfast before dark. It was a great trip, one of many to come. I’ll post some more pictures below, and I have them all posted in an album on my facebook if you want to see them all.