Monday, May 31, 2010

Belfast Day 1!

This weekend, we went to Belfast to see the highlights of Northern Ireland, since we are not able to spend an extensive amount of time there. Although there is a fairly intangible borderline, the country itself did feel different. The most obvious change is that they use pounds (rather than Euros) there. Also, most of the city is partitioned off by fences built to stem the violence. They must not work that well because right after we left the area, a murder occurred in one of the areas we visited murals in.

The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge was our first stop in Belfast. The rope bridge was built three

hundred years ago to connect a small island to the mainland for fishers of salmon. Apparently, the salmon in the spot were so plentiful that the bridge was a necessary for fishermen to get to that specific area. It was still a working salmon site until 2007, when they closed it down because of high tourism, as well as overfishing of salmon. Until recently, the bridge was much less stable and a person had to go on each individual step rather than walking on a completely fenced in, somewhat invincible bridge like it is today. From the walk, you can also see Scotland. Although we were given a more extensive history from the place, I am told that it was very confused and so will not perpetuate what we were told! One of my favorite parts of the Carrick-a-Rede tour was how much the weather changed from moment to moment. When we got there, it was sunny, but by the time we left, it had rained and cleared up again within an hour. I am going to miss the weather here.

From Carrick-a-Rede, we went to the Giant’s Causeway. According to the handy tour book I bought for three pounds, the Giant’s Causeway is “a natural pavement of huge rocks projecting into the Atlantic Ocean on Ireland’s north coast formed about 60 million y

ears ago by volcanic eruptions followed by lava cooling to form a hard rock called basalt” and is regular in shape because “when able to cool slowly and evenly, this type of lava forms columns with regular sides.” It also links Ireland with Scotland, and apparently was caused by a giant, Fionn Machuil.

The picture of me standing on weirdly-shaped rocks is of the basalt that cooled prematurely, forcing it to crack and then form these right angles that you see. Most of these columns have five or six sides. According to the legend, Fionn Machuil, once a high king of Ireland (and also apparently a giant) wanted a Scottish giant named Benandonner to come and fight him, so he built the stones in the picture. When Finn actually saw the giant coming across, however, he got worried and his wife dressed him up as a baby and put him in a giant-sized cradle. The Scottish giant retreated upon seeing the cradle with the logic that if the baby were almost as big as himself that Finn, the father, would rip him to shreds. Thus, the giant ran

away and pulled up most of the stones that connected Ireland to Scotland on his way out.

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