Same Island, Different Country

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The Nomadic, a tender ship for the Titanic.

Despite sharing the same small island, Belfast is surprisingly hard to get to. From Galway we had to take a 2.5-hour bus ride east to Dublin, and then another two hours north to Belfast. During that time we left the Republic of Ireland and entered Northern Ireland. The main hint that we were now in the United Kingdom was the difference in the style of the buildings – instead of the small, colorful houses of Galway, Belfast mostly consists of endless brick apartment complexes connected together down winding streets.

On Saturday the tour group we were with had planned for us to see the Titanic Museum, but it turned out to be a bit of an ordeal for us to get there. I heard the leaders say we were supposed to leave at 2pm, but Renee heard 1:45, so we arrived back at the hostel lobby at 1:30 only to find it empty. Apparently the bus had left at 1:15 and we had no way to get to the museum. Getting left behind from tour groups seems to be a running trend in my life, and it brought up some suppressed memories about the time I was left on Liberty Island during a middle school trip to New York City, but Renee and I managed to stay calm and find a taxi that would take us to the museum for only a couple euro. When the taxi driver asked my name and where we wanted to go, he was incredibly amused that someone named Rose wanted a ride to the Titanic Museum, and declared amiably, “maybe I really shouldn’t take you there! It might not end well for you.”

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Columnar basalt at the Giant’s Causeway.

He got us to the museum all the same, and it turned out our leaders had gotten the wrong time for our tour anyway, so we even had time to kill before we could see the exhibit. The museum is very well done and focuses on the construction of the ship since Belfast is where that all took place. It was fascinating to learn about the lesser-known details of such an infamous story.

We headed further north on Sunday morning to the Giant’s Causeway. I already knew the scientific explanation for the causeway thanks to my incredibly intelligent and enthusiastic geologist father, but experiencing the actual place is an entirely different matter. Octagonal columns jut up at different heights, creating a beach of rising and falling blocky little hills. These rolling stairs are made up of columnar basalt that formed 50 million years ago due to volcanic activity. When the lava cooled, it cracked in rigid blocks that then formed the staircases today (right, dad?).

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Another explanation for the otherworldly shoreline is the legend that the causeway was created – you guessed it – by giants. The legend says that a giant named Benandonner challenged another giant to a fight named Fionn and, in order to settle their argument, Benandonner built a stone bridge across the water. But when Benandonner showed up for the fight, Fionn hid in his baby’s crib. Benandonner assumed Fionn must be massive if his baby is the size of an adult giant, so Benandonner fled back across the causeway and destroyed it so that Fionn could not follow him. It’s up to you to decide which explanation you believe.

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Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

We ended the trip at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The bridge began as a flimsy little place for fishermen, and I’m sure it is completely safe now, but it didn’t seem like much had changed in the 300 years that it is assumed to have been in use. I’m not a fan of heights, and I’m not a fan of bridges that swing in the wind, but the stop was well worth it. The sun was starting to go down behind the tops of the bluffs, illuminating the water below and the grassy hills on the other side. It is always good to end a trip on something exciting, and slightly scary, and we did just that.

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