A group of nearly three dozen Eureka College faculty, staff, students and friends are currently on a 10-day tour of Ireland. We'll share their stories, experiences and reflections throughout the trip with occasional updates at eureka.edu and EurekaRedDevils.com.
Abigail Hilton (Aug. 10)
Moving into our third day in Ireland, we started the day early as we took a train to Belfast. We arrived around 9:45 a.m. in Belfast and began the Troubles Tour which consisted of walking around the city for about three hours. Though it was difficult at times to hear our tour guide, I still enjoyed learning more about the history when I could hear.
Along the way, I began to think about the differences between Dublin and Belfast since these cities are considered to have a grudge against one another after fighting between those who supported the Irish and those who supported the British broke out. Our tour guide at one point discussed how the city really does not have any color, such as bright flags, hanging unless it is the working class. I began to really observe my surroundings and pay attention to what was hanging in different neighborhoods.
Within minutes it was obvious that there was no color other than that of brown and red bricks used for homes in many neighborhoods. Thinking about this, I began to compare how the city of Belfast uses the color to signify a class, while Dublin has color spread throughout the entire city. Yet, even with very little signs of color for the first hour, one of my favorite sights was seeing a wall which was covered in graffiti that was considered to be art. We had the opportunity to sign the wall where ever we wanted to in marker to leave behind our marks and create a fun memory for all of us on the tour.
After another hour on the tour, a citizen interjected and began to speak his mind about what he thought was true compared to what our tour guide was informing us. It was interesting to see a different point of view while on the tour; however, after we continued the tour for a few minutes our tour guide began to speak more about the divide within the country and how what he had been saying was misunderstood. Listening to our tour guide, the division could be seen throughout the city as we passed by walls which were built to prevent fighting between Catholics and Protestants; however, after viewing the citizen interjection first hand I had a better understanding of how divided the country is.
After about another hour we completed the tour and had the opportunity to spend a couple hours shopping, eating, and enjoying the city of Belfast. I stayed with the women's basketball team and we went to get food to go so that we could eat on the lawn of the city hall of Belfast. Once again, I had an enjoyable experience as I learned more about the history of Ireland and the divide of the country.
Amos Arbogast (Aug. 10)
Day three in Ireland started early. We met in the hotel lobby at 6:30 a.m. to catch an early train to Belfast in Northern Ireland. The trip took about two and a half hours by train, but we were treated to some amazing views up the coast and of the country side along the way.
Once we arrived in Belfast, we headed over to city hall and met our tour guide, William. He was an older gentleman who had a wealth of knowledge on the history of Belfast, as well as a great depth of firsthand experience during many of the tense years of conflict within the city. As he guided us along and showed us many of the historical sites and landmarks such as the "Peace Wall", but he also intertwined much of the political unrest and personal impact it had on his life.
Along the way, he told us stories of friends he knew that had been murdered. He also told us how he was a police officer at the time, which had made him the target on an IRA assassination plot. He said that men came to his home intending to kill him and his wife but he fought them on his doorstep and wrestled them away. Only later did he learn that when they fled, they had dropped a radio in his yard that was rigged with a bomb that was supposed to go off inside his home when more officers were to come and investigate his death.
Despite all the bitter and violent history, he emphasized a message of hope and peace for the future. This message was put to the test when unexpectedly another older man came upon our group and overheard what our guide was telling us. He listened for a few moments before interrupting William and aggressively confronting him about what he believed to be inaccuracies in his story. Those few minutes were intense as the man shouted obscenities at him, but William diffused the situation and the man eventually went on his way. The incident made the history of bitterness and anger very real and proved that while things have gotten better, the seeds of conflict were still ever-present.
After the tour, we walked around the city and visited some more sites including some of the historic pubs the city has to offer. While sightseeing, we also had a good scare as Micheal Hammerstrand was nearly hit by a bus when he briefly stepped off the narrow sidewalk to avoid a group of people standing. Luckily, a local man saw what was happening and grabbed him by his backpack pulling him back to safety. We had a good laugh about it afterwards, but we are very glad nothing serious happened.
Tomorrow we load up in vans and get to drive on the wrong side of the road. We will leave Dublin and head west for more sightseeing. We have been very fortunate to have had great weather thus far, so hopefully that can continue!