Saturday, July 14, 2012

Londonderry (or Derry if you so prefer)

While Londonderry or Derry as some prefer to call it, was very much in the news in the 70’s and 80’s, I must confess I never really understood whether the conflicts were based on nationalism or religion. Having recently spent a day and evening there, I am still not sure. But there is no doubt that the past conflicts have left indelible marks on this somewhat rugged city which has much to offer.
Londonderry is a walled city and the walls are in remarkably good condition. It is built along both sides of the river Foyle and a major international yachting event was taking place just as we arrived.  One of the newest features of the city is a pedestrian bridge across the river, known as the Peace Bridge, uniting the communities on both sides of the river.  Londonderry is also home to Austins, the worlds oldest independent department store.I was told this, but still had to look it up since I found it hard to believe!

Saturday night in Londonderry was a busy night with many people hanging around pubs in the city centre.  I was particularly impressed by how the ladies got dressed up to go out, often in groups to restaurants, while the men were generally poorly dressed and hanging around the bars. While most of these people were born in and around the city, an increasingly large number of them are from Poland and nearby countries, like these two girls who Sally and I met when they asked to have their photo taken before heading off to a party. (I took their photo on condition they would pose with Sally, which they were most happy to do.)
Driving around early Sunday morning, I was startled to find the carcass of a burned out car still in the road.  In the back seat were two bicycles, but for some reason, while the car was completely burned, the tires on one of the bicycle were still intact. While I stopped to take photos, most others walked or drove by the car, as if it this was a common sight in Londonderry on a Sunday morning.
In a nearby neighbourhood I also discovered wall murals painted on the end wall of housing estate blocks celebrating the past conflicts, although I was soon to realize that Belfast is the place to really see partisan murals .



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