At it’s Belfastst
In the Netherlands we’ve got this company where people can buy a surprise trip. Quite funny, but also a bit scary. As I have travelled a lot around Europe ánd I’m that person that loves the pre-travel fun. What I normally do when I book a trip is: read books about the destination, learn a couple of words in the local language, read some blogs about nice places to visit and things to see, learn about the history and religion of the destination and more. So, a surprise trip to me is a trip without any knowledge beforehand about the destination. I don’t really like that. But, I always say I can’t have an opinion about something I haven’t tried so I booked a surprise trip for Yuri’s birthday.
It’s Friday morning and we are on our way to the airport. Up to now I have had no excitement of going on a trip. I thought I would at least be curious about where we were going but the only thing I thought about was “I hope not this place, oh and definitely not that place. And what if it’s that place, we’ve been there loads of times.”
Finally, we are at Schiphol airport ready to open the envelope which holds our boarding passes. Yuri opens the envelope and… BELFAST! Ok, so that was one of the destinations I hoped we wouldn’t be going to. Not because I don’t like Northern-Ireland. I absolutely love Great Britain, but because I have been there loads of times cause a friend of mine has lived there for a couple of years. More funny, a friend of Yuri as well so he has also been there many times.
But after some time and deciding we should rent a car and get out of Belfast the next day I enjoyed the idea of the Irish pubs, beers, music, landscape, non-understandable slang and more. Luckily for me, I had read many books about ‘the troubles’ and I think I know all of the Irish myths and legends. So, this time no need for preparations.
On the road again
We started with a delay of half an hour, but finally up in the air the lovely feeling of travelling hit me. I absolutely love to be on the road, travel wherever and whenever. Though, I don’t like flying and mostly I fall asleep before taking off and wake up after landing, well scheduled.
What about Belfast?
So, we made it to Belfast. Checked-in and ran off to a pub where I drank a delicious Belfast Stout. Afterwards we head into town to walk around a bit and relived our previous travels to the city. Nothing has changed. The clocktower is still standing proud and tall, the Town Hall is as beautiful as it was, the streets are clean and wide and the big fish a strange and not so nice landmark. We see Erasmus students heading out for a pub-crawl, elder men with red noses and cheeks smoking a cigarette in the doorway of a pub, girls with lots and lots of make-up to cover their true faces and musicians trying to make a living on the street.
The funniest pub of Belfast
I forgot that Belfast is quite a nice place to spent the weekend. There is not much I haven’t seen in this city so I can now focus on other things, like Irish beers, music and comedy. We didn’t find a comedy club but we found a pub with a funny bartender, which is quite the same 😉 In Norther-Ireland everyone asks you how are. Of course you respond with “I’m fine, how are you?” So when Yuri did this the bartender thought it would be a good idea to check whether everyone in the pub felt the same. “How are you? Are you fine, too? And you sir, are you O.K.? How about you in the back? Lady, you fine too? Well I guess everyone is fine” A good start is half the fun, right? This pub is btw. Maddens, which I recommend everyone to go to!
At it’s Belfastst
So, the next day we woke up at about 5 o’clock in the morning because we wanted to photograph The dark Hedges at sunrise. A bit crazy on a ‘very short holiday’ but well, luckily we both like photography. I must say, I don’t regret waking up that early. It was magnificent! The day we travelled to the Dark Hedges, the Giant’s Causeway, Mussenden Temple and a Stone Circle before heading back to Belfast for some live music. So, the day I will tell alongside photos below which is way more fun!
On Sunday we decided to head for the market, which again was real fun! We got to talk with a nice bloke who sold typical GB hats. He told us about good ol’ King Billy, or Willem III for us. As you probably know King Billy is known for his battles in Northern Ireland/Ireland. He is the reason of the orange part in the Irish flag, and of course the orange marshes (the Twelfth / 12th of July) which up to now is a restless day in Belfast.
Afterwards we decided to do our own historical pub crawl with a visit to Katy’s Bar, Maddens and the Crown. All recommended pubs. Oh and include: The Hatfield bar and Mc Hugh’s. For a gig you can head out to Limelight. After three pints and some delicious stew we had to get back to the airport. A quick visit, at its Belfasts.
Above you see the Giant’s Causeway. It is Northern-Ireland’s only UNESCO heritage site. And for the ones who don’t know the myth:
Irish giant Finn Mc Cool is having trouble with someone across the water: the Scottish giant Benandonner is threatening Ireland. An enraged Finn grabs chunks of the Antrim coast and throws them into the sea. The rocks form a path for Finn to follow and teach Benandonner a lesson. The path took him all the way to Scotland, where you can also visit a small part of the Giant’s Causeway.
Finn soon finds out this is a bad idea, because Benandonner is terrifyingly huge! Finn beats a hasty retreat, followed by the giant, only to be saved by the quick-thinking wife of Finn, who disguised him as a baby. The angry Scot sees the baby and decides: if the child is this big, the daddy must be incredibly massive. So he runs back to Scotland and destroys the causeway.
Above you see the Mussenden temple. The temple was built in 1785 and is part of the Downhill Demesne. The demesne was part of the estate of Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol. He served as the Church of Ireland Lord Bishop of Derry from 1768 till 1803. Lord Bristol had the temple built. It was constructed as a library though and is dedicated to the memory of Bishop Lord Bristol’s cousin: Frideswide Mussenden.
Over the years the erosion of the cliff face at Downhill has brought Mussenden Temple ever closer to the edge, and in 1997 The National Trust carried out cliff stabilisation work to prevent the loss of the building.
The inscription around the building reads:
“Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis
e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem.”
“Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore
The troubled sailor, and hear the tempests roar.”
The quotation is from Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 2.1-2.
This is the Beaghmore stone circle. It is a complex of early Bronze Age megalithic features, stone circles and cairns. The site could possibly mark a focal point for religious and/or social gatherings. Some archaeologists believe that the circles have been constructed in relation of the rising sun or to record the movements of the sun and moon. Because of the number of stones (there are many many stones here) is is possible that at least part of the function of the site was burial. Some cairns have been found to hold cremated human remains.
So we woke up very very early to visit the Dark Hedges, it was all worth it. In about 1775 James Stuart built a new house, named Gracehill House after his wife Grace Lynd. Over 150 beech trees were planted along the entrance road to the estate, to create an imposing approach. I guess, he succeeded in that. Oh and of course this place also has a legend. The legend of the Grey Lady. According to legend, the hedges are visited by a ghost who travels the road and flits across it from tree to tree. The Grey Lady is claimed to be either the spirit of James Stuart’s daughter. On Halloween she is joined on her visitation by other spirits from the graveyard. Guess we have to go back again.