After Stacey and I completed our “hiking about Ireland” adventure (see “Lesson #50: Do Things You Have No Business Doing), I had a few days to kill alone between the time I was spending with her, and the plans I’d made with “E” (see “Lesson #53: Keep Me In Your Heart For Awhile”).
And having spent time alone traveling Europe, before, one of the things I quickly learned is not to go it alone. Though a bit mocked and sort of cliche’, the tour groups and tour buses keep solo traveler’s, like me, just a bit safer.
So after wandering myself into restlessness a couple days around Dublin, I registered for a tour up to Northern Ireland which, unknown to many, is it’s own separate country. They are still on the English pound monetarily (as opposed to Ireland’s Euro), many of the street signs are in Irish Gaelic and there is still quite a bit of political unrest (though nothing like it used to be). Wandering through Belfast, the inspiration for U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and a city that struck me as having a dark and almost evil energy, I came upon a hotel, still in operation, that has been bombed 52 times.
What makes a tour to Northern Ireland completely worthwhile are the places up past Belfast. And among the most intriguing places I’ve ever visited, simply due to it’s beauty and the mystery of its creation, is “Giant’s Causeway”:
Said to be the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, Giant’s Causeway is an area of large basalt columns coming up from the sea, all perfectly shaped to fit into place with one another. Directly across the sea in Scotland, a similar set resides. These are the only two places in the world anything like this can be found.
Now, each of the cohorts I was traveling with agreed that there seems to be no way a volcanic eruption would have created something so intricately and geometrically put together. Many Irish disagree as well.
Irish legend states that the Causeway was built by a giant, Finn MacCool, as a bridge to get back and forth between Ireland and Scotland. The Irish say that Finn was challenged by a Scottish giant, Benandonner, who was much larger than Finn, so Finn plotted with his wife, Oonagh, to get out of the confrontation.
When the day came that Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for Finn, Oonagh came up with the idea to disguise Finn as a baby, dressing him up as such and tucking him into a cradle. When Benandonner arrived, Oonagh told him that Finn was out cutting wood and showed him “Finn’s son” as he waited. When Benandonner saw the size of the “baby”, he fled home, terrified, imagining just how big Finn must be.
The Irish explain that there are no columns left between Ireland and Scotland, because Benandonner ripped up the Causeway behind him as he fled, wanting to insure that Finn would not follow him.
And, somehow, giants battling and behaving like babies is more believable to me than: “a volcano made this”.
The day-trip was fantastic, and I made some lasting friendships on the little adventure. I truly recommend taking the time to venture up to the Causeway and the Carrick a Rede rope bridge should you find yourselves in Ireland. There are all sorts of affordable tour companies that can get you up and back in a day and, unless you’re a big history buff, choose one that spends little time in Belfast. It’s not the most pleasant place…
** A thank you to Stacey at One Beautiful Thing for acting as my editor on this one. ; )