Ulster amusements

23. Juli 2012 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

In Portrush, a few days ago, I happily met up with Marianne and Leonie, picking them up from the train station in a cold and miserable drizzle. But it was a joyful occasion, and we soon warmed up in a cramped B&B triple bedroom with mismatched wallpaper and squidgy carpets. We went for dinner in a dim but cozy hotel restaurant which was practically empty. The resort town is an odd mixture of Blackpoolesque forced merriment and joyful Irish neglect. The indoor amusement park sports various rides like the mad tea party and caroussels with shiny plastic horses. There were a number of families who seemed to amuse themselves to a considerable degree.
The next morning, we debate whether it would be a good idea to visit the UNESCO site of the Giant’s Causeway. I’d been there to check out if it was worth it the day before on my way over from Ballycastle. Leonie agreed with me that it was not fair to ask for money (£8.50) for something that’s just there by nature and needn’t be staged in any way. I did pay up and noted with dismay that the audioguide presents only a flimsy and foreshortened explanation for the wondrous basalt pillars and their genesis (the cooling effect inside a deep lava pool worked out regular penta- and hexagonal shapes), while it was loaded with numerous sagas of Finn MacCool, the giant, his family living in a cave and blowing smoke from a rock smokestack, as well as with utterly silly efforts by the acoustic guide chap to invent a suitable nickname for himself.
The clincher that got Marianne to renounce was the fact that it’s hard to get there: few public buses, and a very busy road without any cycle lane. Plus I brought along some photos for which I managed to zoom onto the pillars and patterns excluding the many tourist legs, arms and heads. That was as close to the real thing as you can get.
We set out westward through Port Stewart and the lively university town of Coleraine, and then we are chased by a good north-easterly tailwind up an endless-seeming hill on National Cycle Route 92, which is obviously intent on making us admire the very fine Loch Foyle, the 8-mile beach of Benone and the ferry at Magilligan Point which we see as a tiny dot under the low-hanging mist blown in from the Atlantic. We later take this ferry ourselves, but not before having passed alongside a huge military and prison complex with high walls and miles of barbed wire, all to protect the forces from those they were sent to protect. The sombre past of Ulster also lurches in Derry, where we spend the next night. We find a colourful B&B in the midst of the Bogside neighbourhood, where the Bloody Sunday massacre occurred in 1972. The sign at the corner (You are now entering Free Derry) has been freshly repainted, the Che Guevaras and Nelson Mandelas of the world show their solidarity with the cause from the colourful giant murals, but Leonie has trouble understanding why one can wage war on neighbours about the issue of creeds. Well, it’s a slightly longer and more complicated story than this, I sigh. I download a Wikipedia article and promise myself to study and rehash it later for my daughter.
In the meantime, we cross the river on the new peace bridge, a minor architectural wonder, and expose ourselves to the frosty wind that sweeps over the former military parade ground that will be the centrepoint for next year’s celebrations, when Derry will be the cultural capital of, well, not the EU, but the UK. All of this happens under a sombre sky thick with grey clouds. But Leonie and Marianne are great undefeatable company and cheer me up wonderfully.

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