Last stop, the Tilda City, Derry~Londonderry, at the very top of Northern Ireland. This is how everyone refers to it, certainly all the print information. In casual conversation, most people say “Derry”.
Derry is within a stone’s throw from the Irish border. I can see the Republic of Ireland from here – County Donegal.
But maybe saying a “stone’s throw” is not the best expression. You might say that the modern troubles started here in the late 1960s. Plenty of adults that I talked to were affected by it all.
There even was a march from Belfast to Derry in 1969, reminiscent of the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery, AL. But now all is quiet. It’s a small vibrant city, with a growing number of visitors.
As I entered the city, the first thing I saw was the “Hands across the divide” sculpture – two men reaching out to each other, but not quite touching. Speaking of men, it felt like the demonstrations and fighting between the IRA and the British were very much a man’s war with the “grannies cooking the food.”
I took a walk across the Peace Bridge, which links the traditional Republicans and Loyalists areas. According to my host, born and bred here, this bridge has made a tremendous improvement in the relationship between different groups.
I also took a tour to the Bogside, the traditional Republican area of small, neat houses, just off the city center. During the fighting, Bogside declared itself free of the authorities; the sign above remains.
Like the traditional areas in Belfast, the Bogside has murals as a reminder of the troubled times and hope and peace of the present and future.
Here’s one of my favorite of peace icons. You’ll recognize Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa. The man in the top left corner is John Hume, a former MP from Derry who was instrumental in the Irish peace process and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
But there’s so much to Derry and Northern Ireland than reminders of the Troubles. The city has walls surrounding the whole small center, walks along the River Foyle, museums, old churches … I’m starting to sound like their tourist bureau.
I’m so glad I came to Northern Ireland after hiking in the South. This is such a vital part of Ireland, though I’ve only touched the surface. All good things must come to an end. I’m making my slow journey home, looking forward to leading my next Friends of the Smokies hike and other commitments.
Thanks for coming along for the “walk” and thanks for all the new Irish friends I made, from South and North.