We just got back from 10 crazy days in Ireland(s). We are really excited to share what we did and what we saw, but first we want to explain some things. You may not appreciate our stories if you don’t know that there are 2-ish Irelands, or why Londonderry/Derry has two names, or what “the troubles” even are. So here’s a primer about our trip to Ireland(s) so you can appreciate it more.
Why did we go to Ireland?
Last year during Easter break I had a terrible case of strep throat and was completely incapacitated for the whole 2-week break. Leave it to me to not even miss any damn school and waste my biggest vacation wallowing in bed. This year we promised ourselves we would have an Easter vacation to make up for it. We started planning it before Christmas. We had Slovenia, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Georgia (not the state), and Ireland on our list of places to go. Ireland was, honestly, easier than the others to get to and travel around in. When we lived in Germany we went to London/Scotland for 2 weeks and it was a huge relief to speak English again and have just a nice brain-break. We wanted to capture the magic of how that vacation felt – to speak English again, to eat familiar foods, etc.
What about Brexit/Danger
Yes, we were completely aware of the impending Brexit. Obviously. Our hotels and airline all emailed us saying “don’t worry we’ve got it covered.” Everyone in the tourism industry was working to see what would happen and what they could do. We felt really reassured the whole time.
Honestly, though, the whole reason Brexit was delayed was because of the Irish border. So one of two things could happen if there was a no-deal Brexit: Possibility 1) Nothing (most likely) or 2) something insane like a closed border overnight followed by riots and car bombings.
In case option two happened we planned to stay away from “notorious” cities like Derry/Londonderry. And to avoid any demonstrations (we do this when we travel anyway). We also just had to take a small calculated risk that we wouldn’t lose money in either hotels or a flight.
Obviously none of these things happened. A few days before our flight they pushed Brexit back all the way to October. In a last minute decision we decided to swap-in Londonderry since we had been interested in seeing it.
Where did we go?
We flew into Belfast, spent some time in Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and then went down to Dublin and a small city in the Republic of Ireland (an independent country) for a couple days. Then went back up and flew back home from Belfast.
Why did we choose to fly into Belfast?
It was cheaper than Dublin. But after some research it looked like an amazing place. Hiking, history, food and cheaper prices than bigger cities in the republic.
So the fact that we were going to visit BOTH Irelands meant that we were sure to learn about The Troubles…
So, what were The Troubles?
The island of Ireland had been under English rule for 800 or so years. Then in 1921 part of the island gained independence. The Northern part of the island more or less chose to remain a part of the UK. Why didn’t the north want to be independent? A lot of people in Northern Ireland are descended from Scottish and English colonists that England shipped over a long time ago. These colonists intermarried with the Irish natives, but hung on to many English cultural things, namely Protestantism. The rest of Ireland was staunchly Catholic. So the Northern part of the country didn’t mind being a part of the UK, since they mostly shared the same religion and ancestry as the English. The rest of Ireland mostly resented English rule, which they saw as foreign rule. So they were more or less happy to leave (in 1921) and start their own country. After they split, things seemed alright for a while.
But then in the 1960s (lasting until 1998) The Troubles began in Northern Ireland. While the slim majority of Northern Irish people were fine being under British rules, the growing minority was not. The British and Northern Irish governments cracked down much harder than they probably should have, and a series of riots, police shootings, assassinations, and bombings occurred which killed an estimated 3,532 people.
Then in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was signed, and The Troubles gradually faded away. The GFA replaced the purely English-rule government with a government made up of both Nationalists (Irish Rule) and Unionists (English Rule). Simple solution, let the government reflect the will of the people, right?
But the overarching theme of the entire trip…
Game of Thrones.
In Belfast we saw GOT filming studios, and actual props used in the show, and we would run across film locations for the rest of our vacation.
None of this was intentional. We knew about the film locations before we went, but we didn’t go specifically to see them. It all just sort of fell into place, and we really lucked out. Especially because the final season of the show is currently airing and the hype has never been realer.
So keep your eyes out for some Ireland posts, where we will talk about all the cool stuff we saw/did/learned.