Next stop: The Giant’s Causeway. I repeat next stop…. The Giant’s Causeway.
Forced from under the warm protective layers of blankets, I was assaulted by the Irish cold that morning. I grudgingly fumbled onto our tour bus half asleep, almost certain I had forgotten to pack some of my belongings in the commotion to get on the bus. It was way too early for any sane human being to be awake, and yet it had to be done. By sacrificing my sleep, I would be earning something much more valuable, the chance to visit The Giant’s Causeway. For those who are reading this and have no idea what The Giant’s Causeway is, let me give you a brief background on this wonder. The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is made up of thousands of hexagonal basalt columns which are the result of ancient volcanic eruptions and erosion. As lava emerged from the depths of the earth’s core, it cooled and hardened and would go on to make the spectacular hexagonal columns you see today.
However, this isn’t the only story regarding the formation of The Giant’s Causeway. As the name of the heritage site suggests it was created by giants! Yes, you read that correctly. As the legend goes, The Giant’s Causeway was the result of a feud between between two giants: Finn MacCool (of Ireland) and Benandonner (of Scotland). You see, these two giants had it in for each other and after fighting for many years, Finn had enough! Finn was determined to fight Benandonner once and for all, and so he created a causeway of stepping stones connecting the two lands together. However, Finn’s bravado was soon deflated. As he inched closer to Benandonner, Finn realized that Benandonner was a lot larger than he originally thought and hastily ran back home in terror. With Benandonner hot on his trail, MacCool’s wife had to think quickly and using her quick wit she disguised her husband as a baby in an attempt to hide him from Benandonner. At last Benandonner arrives demanding to see Finn, however upon seeing Finn’s “baby”, he decides that if the baby is that giant how big is the father! It is now Benandonner’s turn to flee and upon running back to his homeland of Scotland, he destroys the causeway behind him, severing the only path to one another once and for all.
Whether you believe this was caused by giants or volcanic eruptions, the fact remains that a trip to Ireland is not complete without visiting The Giant’s Causeway. I am always blown away by what nature is capable of and the raw beauty found within it. Standing amongst these hexagonal columns makes one feel so small and yet simultaneously part of something so big. Nature truly is a force to be reckoned with. Pair this with the folklore of the formation of the causeway itself, it reminds me of the stories that have come from those before me and the stories that will be written after I am gone. Up to this point, it seems like I have been saying every single place I have visited is my favourite. I would like to take a moment that the places I have visited before and the places I have visited after although beautiful in their own right cannot compare to Ireland. With its rich folklore and raw beauty, it is like glimpsing into the past, present and future all at once. It truly is a magical place.
(Once again I would like to apologize for the quality of my photos, at this moment in my life I barely knew how to hold a camera. I mean to be fair, I still have trouble)
After journeying from the land of giants, the next stop was Derry, Ireland which we would call home for the night. It is at this point that we leave the land of mystical beings, and return to the Ireland’s darker past once again. You see, just as Belfast was heavily affected during “The Troubles” conflict of the late 60s until the late 90s, so was Derry. Upon arrival, our tour guide informed us that we were scheduled for a walking tour with one of the locals to learn about it’s complicated past. As we walked along the streets, the tour guide spoke of fights that broke out within the very streets we walked through and the casualties that ensued. Just as the black cabbie driver in Belfast teared up, so did our local guide in Derry. It was evident that this was not simply their past but their present and that they lived with these memories in their mind every day. As we walked through the streets, our tour guide explained mural after mural and the people depicted in them. He spoke of an event called Bloody Sunday in which a civil rights protest would become a massacre, killing many innocent civilians in its wake. He spoke of those that had been lost and the personal connection he had to one of the deceased. As we continued on our tour, we stopped in front of a mural of a little girl who had become a casualty during this turbulent period in Derry’s history. Our guide informed us that she was simply walking down the street when a stray bullet struck her down and killed her. More heartbreaking was how after her death, her father would sit on a bench near the spot she was killed and talked to her as if she was still alive. One thing I really appreciated about Ireland was the fact that they do not try to hide their history. Living in a country that is stereotyped as being kind and nice, we often forget about the atrocities that were committed in my own country’s past. I think all countries could stand to benefit from being open about their past, in order to recognize what was done wrong and how to bring change into the future.