Belfast has an image that can only be described as ... outdated. When people think about or hear of Northern Ireland, and often Belfast in particular, they immediately associate a string of words with the area ... like "no-go-area". Yes, old habits die hard. But every visitor to "the North" comes away with a different impression. So, get a first impression of a changing city with some image galleries from Belfast.
A visual taste of Dublin? Ireland's capital has so much to offer, so take a quick peek here. Armchair travelling has never bee so easy. So follow me to the banks of the Liffey, where old and new co-exist, albeit not always peacefully. So here is a selection of Dublin image galleries ... from Trinity College to Dublin Castle, from the zoo to the lesser nuggets you may miss.
It has been a busy month ... in so many ways. November in Ireland is the month were the days get decidedly shorter and you have dreary weather (unless ... see below). And the Income Tax has to be filed. And the heating bills add up. Not much to give thanks for? Oh, well, it is not all doom and gloom, trust me.
So here is a round-up (as usual) of the stuff published during the month of November in 2013:
- Let us be clear on one thing ... there is no Thanksgiving in the US or Canadian sense in Ireland. So the turkeys were safe. One would think. But the geese maybe were not, as in some areas ...
- Saint Martin's Day is still celebrated, one of the harvest festivals. And traditionally involving a little bit of bloodshed for ritual reasons and a goose in the oven. By the way, one might also enjoy a Saint Martin's Summer around this time.
- Not celebrated, at least not widely, is another day, the Fifth of November. Or rather night ... Guy Fawkes Night. Gunpowder, treason and plot are indeed forgot - though this might well be true in Britain as well. Halloween has taken over, it seems.
- Speaking of gunpowder and North American connections ... I tried to make some heads and tails of the slithery entity that is commonly called the Irish Republican Army - but might be one of a number of separate organisations that claim or claimed the IRA moniker.
- But enough of politics, let us seek out a very special place - have you ever wondered whether even big rivers have to start small? In Ireland you can see proof, at the Shannon Pot in County Cavan the mighty Shannon has its origin. in a secluded spot. That you'll only reach by backroads.
- Backroads, motorways ... they have all been tried and tested by our guest author Carsten Rößler, who wrote up his personal experiences on touring Ireland with a camper-van. Not quite as free and easy as one might think, but a great experience nonetheless. Except ...
- ... for those pesky Toll Roads in Ireland ... where you'll have to fork out for passing through. Which, over the course of a whole holiday, may get quite expensive. But may also save time and money, if one compares the alternative of trudging through the back of beyond.
But only if you are young. In a statistical exercise, bordering on futility in my opinion, the Irish Injuries Board has determined that (to quote the Irish Times) "young motorists in Donegal should take extra care today because they will be driving on the most dangerous day of the week in the most perilous county in the State as the most deadly month of the year comes to an end".
Which is based on claims made. Not too much on reality, as the report later clarifies within itself - Friday being the "most dangerous day" solely in terms of the number of awards made with Sunday coming in as the "least dangerous". But some sobering news (no pun intended), traffic incidents on Sundays are more severe. Which is reflected in regular reports of carnage especially in the early hours of Sunday, around the time the nightclubs close.
Well, it always pays to be careful. So here are some hints on how to cope with Ireland's road traffic:
"So, how y'all celebrate Thanksgiving then?" We don't, simple answer. Thanksgiving in the Canadian and US sense does not exist in Ireland. No big party, no ridiculous "turkey pardon", nothing. But ... if you define "Thanksgiving" as a traditional harvest festival, yes, there are some. And they are also celebrated in the churches, but not on a fixed date. Intrigued? Well, find out more about harvest festivals, the "Irish thanksgiving", here ...
If you are Irish-American, there is a good chance that your ancestors actually came from Ulster - Ulstermen played an important role in the history of the United States. The Ulster American Folk Park highlights the individual reasons for migration, from the religious dissenters to the simply poor.
The real strength of the Ulster American Folk Park, however, lies in the recreation of the actual experience of migration. Visitors are first guided through parts of an Irish village, consisting of smallholdings, cottages, churches and a blacksmith's workshop. The park then "ends" in a city street (complete with well-stocked shops) leading down to a quay. Here a sailing ship awaits you, you board ... and when you get off again you are in America.
The Ulster American Folk Park allows a unique glimpse into history indeed - on both sides of the Atlantic! And it is a bit of time travel too. Without a Tardis.
With the corpse not yet cold ... nay, with the patient still breathing (albeit with no positive prognosis beyond the end of the year) ... Ireland's tourism marketers already float the idea of a "Gathering Reloaded".
Apparently the "Gathering 2013" was such a success that the idea came up to try a re-run in a few years. Making a one-off event a regular thing might or might not work.
The 2013 edition will close in spectacular style with the New Years' Eve celebrations in Dublin. The programme of which was announced these days. And which sounds tempting indeed ... if you are looking for a big, sprawling street party.
Now this may become expensive or hectic ... if you are a penny-pinching traveller like myself, you bring your rental car back with a full tank. Because most of the rental companies may not charge you and arm and a leg, but certainly over the odds, for refilling the car. And they will also profit from the last bits you left in the tank.
At Dublin Airport this is, usually, an easy feat, but: the Dublin Airport service station, conveniently located on the airport itself, is currently closed ta facilitate major upgrade works. This is planned to continue until Monday, December 9th.
Don't panic - there are many service stations on the roads leading to the airport, on the Dublin Road and the Swords Road (both known as R132). Only ensure that you have the five to (better) ten additional minutes to make the detour for a pit stop. Otherwise it can be costly. For updates on this (and any other road travel information), I do not hesitate to recommend the excellent website of AA Roadwatch.
This year's "Black Friday" is still a week away in the US ... and a concept as alien to Europeans as peanut butter jelly sandwiches. Yeah, we heard about it, but what it really is all about, we don't know. But we do remember that fifty years ago today a truly black Friday came to pass. On November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy waved to the crowds on Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. Then the dream shattered.
In Ireland, commemorations will be held - not least because through his visit a few months before his assassination, JFK was transformed into a living saint already.
Here he was, in person, the first Irish President of the United States. Nobody dared to point out that he wasn't ... that honour would have to be held by Andrew Jackson, but he was "Ulster-Scots", not really Irish to many. And, to boot, he was not a Catholic. Actually there were fourteen US Presidents before Kennedy with Irish roots. Plus Sam Houston, President of Texas.
And since JFK? Starting with Richard Nixon, each and every elected President of the United States has laid claim to Irish roots. Some may say just to swing the "Irish Vote".
Whatever the case may be ... the visit of John F. Kennedy to Ireland in 1963 has left many tangible traces - there is a number of "JFK Places" in Ireland. From the sublime, like the John F. Kennedy Arboretum, to the ... well ... strange, like the JFK mosaic in Galway Cathedral.
If you drive too fast from Sligo to Donegal, you might miss it - the main road cuts straight through Drumcliff and, apart from a few signs and a huge parking area, the first impression may not be that breathtaking. Yet you should slow down, park and have a stroll. Here you will find a round tower, a high cross and the grave of Ireland's most famous poet. Or maybe not ... the jury is still out on whether Yeats really rests beneath Benbulben. nonetheless, a visit to Drumcliff is worth it. And a fine café they have too ...