|Derry from the Hills|
Our first target was the old Derry city wall. Derry is known around Ireland for its recent contentious history and its 17th-century wall. Almost all of the original wall is still standing and intact, and the local authorities have thankfully opened the top of the wall for a scenic walk around the old fort city.
A few (unmanned) British guard towers still stand along the wall as a reminder of the very recent problems with violence and terrorism in the city. We saw more evidence of that later in the day...
Old cannons (and replicas) still line the battlements of the wall. Some are (somewhat ominously) pointed out at the town below. Take that, King James II!
|Here's Lookin' at You!|
|City Wall Exterior|
From the top of the wall, we could see most of the largely-Catholic Bogside neighborhood. The poorer Catholic population of Derry was long ago forced out of the high and dry ground and pushed into the low-lying, soggy, boggy Bogside. From the wall, the dip of the earth is clearly visible.
We could also just make out some of the Republican political murals, which we would revisit later in the day.
But not everyone on this side of the Foyle is Republican, and we were reminded (here in Derry more than any other city) who was on which side with flags, graffiti (including murals), and walls. Connected to the old city wall was a much newer, higher wall. This protects a small Unionist neighborhood from the marauding Catholics in the wilds of this Bogside area. Ironically and sadly, it is called the Peace Wall. It must keep peace, but the message isn't very friendly...
It's extremely sad and frustrating- to an outsider like me- that people refuse to live together in peace here, and the high fences make it clear that real, lasting peace is still a long way off.
|Peace Wall (?)|
|Iron Maiden's Eddie Hoover, Symbol of Britain's Military Might|
...But at least some people are trying to push the peace process along. Not all the murals and artwork are sectarian or violent in nature. This beautiful mosaic depicting the Peace Bridge, a robin, and an oak tree (the symbol of Derry, from the Irish word for oak tree, Doire) is made of pictures of faces tinted different colors.
A sculpture around the corner depicts two colorless, sexless humanoids back to back. Passers-by can look through the eyeholes of one and see out the eyeholes of the other. This symbolizes the hope that two disagreeing sides can see the world as the other sees it, through the other's eyes.
We ended our morning at the Guildhall, Derry's most iconic city building. From Guildhall Square, U.S. President Bill Clinton gave a rousing pro-peace speech. He even refused to say the name of the city (Derry or Londonderry?) to make sure no one was offended.
Today, it houses the City Council chambers and a so-so (but free) museum.
Much more from Derry next Monday!