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Destination Dublin

Ireland - Dublin

semi-overcast 19 °C
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Having finished up the sights in Belfast in the morning, we made it to the bus station for our onward travel to Dublin.

The trip wasn't originally going to include the Irish capital, but with it being pretty easy to get to as well as pretty cheap, we decided to include it on the end of the trip. It would also give us the opportunity to cross the border again, as well as fly back to the UK without needing to go through immigration.

Unfortunately, despite the bus being pretty empty, some irritating children sat right behind us the whole journey; but with it being just over two hours it didn't take too long before we would be free of them.

Emigration Museum

Emigration Museum

Arriving in the late afternoon, we headed just around the corner to the Irish Emigration Museum, where I might find out more about my Irish heritage, whilst Chris hoped he might find out he has some too. The museum seemed to capitalise on anyone with any Irish blood in them - even though the state probably wouldn't give citizenship to half of them.

After a little time looking around, we headed out into the city, and headed to a restaurant for dinner before we headed to our hotel on the outskirts of the city centre.

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

The following morning we made a tour of the city, beginning at the government buildings, before heading through the Temple Bar. Unfortunately with our trip being pretty busy, we didn't get chance to stop there the night before or today. However it was very pretty with the flower boxes and cobbled streets.

Guinness Factory

Guinness Factory

We then continued on to Dublin Castle, before heading out of the heart of the city to the St. James's Gate at the Guinness Factory. This whole area felt like a hyper-reality you'd expect in a theme park, as it was clearly Victorian, and yet was very well kept, unlike most similar Victorian factory areas.

Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge

After this we headed back into the city to cross the Ha'penny bridge over the Liffey, before our final sight - the Garden of Remembrance.

Garden of Rememberance

Garden of Rememberance

After a quick tour of the city it was now time to make our way home, heading to the airport after a busy trip away in a surprisingly sunny and warm Ireland.

Posted by kmmk17 12:27 Archived in Ireland Tagged river bridge city ireland museum border Comments (0)

Sectarian Saturday

Ireland - Derry & Belfast

semi-overcast 20 °C
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After the first day of exploring the northern coast, today we spent the morning looking around Derry itself before making our way to Belfast.

After a well earned sleep, we had breakfast in our B&B before we headed into the city. Parking up beside the River Foyle, we then began our walk around the city, heading first up the hill towards the City Walls. As we made our way, we entered the only unionist area on this side of the river - the Fountain estate. This was unlike anywhere I'd ever seen. Not only Union Jacks flying, but the kerbs were painted in Red, White and Blue, and there were several political murals.

Fountain Estate

Fountain Estate


Derry Walls

Derry Walls

Walking just a bit further up, we walked through a gate and headed onto the walls themselves. These are some of the only intact city walls never to have been breached in the world. As we walked around the walls clockwise, we soon saw the fence separating the Fountain estate from the rest of the city. Not too much later we had a great view over the Bogside area - the main nationalist area of the city.

Bogside

Bogside


Free Derry

Free Derry

We then took a walk down into Bogside, past an Irish cross, before arriving at the Free Derry sign, a remnant of the three year autonomous area formed in the early 1970s. We took a walk around the area, past the many murals commemorating the Troubles, including those of Bloody Sunday, as well as more recent signs about interned community members and anti-Brexit/pro-unification messages.

Bogside

Bogside


Peace Flame

Peace Flame

We then headed back up the hill to the walled city, buying some souvenirs, before heading towards the peace flame and the Peace Bridge over the Foyle. Having now seen all the sights in the small city, we stopped by the local shopping centre before heading back to our car to head back to Belfast.

Peace Bridge

Peace Bridge

We dropped the car back off at the airport, before getting on a bus bound for Belfast, which after around half an hour arrived in the centre of the city. After grabbing our two day transport tickets, we got on a bus bound for the west of the city, where we would see the Peace Lines.

Peace Lines

Peace Lines

These lines are some of the worst examples of the sectarian violence in the city during the Troubles - a big metal fence separating the unionist and nationalist communities. We headed to Bombay Street, on the nationalist side, where the fence sits just metres from the back of houses, which have glass barricades over to prevent any damage from any objects thrown over the fence. This grim reality however almost seemed lost on a generally happy atmosphere walking through the area.

We then headed back and took the bus to the Titanic Museum - a museum celebrating the brilliant engineering achievements of the city that resulted in a ship it built sinking on it's maiden voyage! Nevertheless it was a very good museum, even if it was a bit overpriced, with lots of information and examples of what the ship was like.

Titanic Museum

Titanic Museum

By now it was already getting late, so we headed to a pub for dinner, before finally making it to our hotel on the outskirts of the city.

The following morning we headed back to the city, seeing a steam train pull through the local train station before we made our way to Stormont - the parliament buildings of the Northern Ireland assembly. This grand building sits imposingly on a hill over a grand park on the outskirts of the city, with an avenue leading from the road.

Stormont

Stormont

We waked up part of the road before heading back to the city, and took a wander around before our onward travel, stopping off at some of the shops, the docklands around the River Lagan, and taking a look inside the City Hall.

City Hall

City Hall

Inside City Hall

Inside City Hall

We then headed to the bus station for our onward travel over the border to Dublin.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:02 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged park city ireland old border Comments (0)

Following Finn McCool

Ireland - Causeway Coast

sunny 20 °C
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With Northern Ireland being the only part of the UK I had yet to visit, it has always been on my list as somewhere to visit. And with Brexit just around the corner causing uncertainty as to how this tense and unique part of the country will look in the not too distant future, we decided to quickly pay a visit and literally walk out of the UK at an unmarked border whilst we still could!

With the weather always being unpredictable, expecting rain constantly, we were pleasantly surprised to arrive to a warm and sunny morning at Belfast Airport.

With the first part of the trip being about seeing the north coast and the Irish border, we hired a car from the airport, being much cheaper than taking our own over on the ferry, and after picking it up we headed out to our first stop, just up the road in Antrim.

We stopped by the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. The legend states that Finn McCool (or Fionn mac Cumhaill), a legend in Irish Mythology, was fighting with a Scottish rival, and scooped a bit of land to throw at him - missed, and this formed the Isle of Man, whilst the missing earth flooded and created the lough. This seems highly unlikely, but nevertheless it was a nice spot to stop after getting used to the car, looking over the lake, which was so big that the other side could not even be seen.

Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh

After getting back in the car, we then stopped by the Tesco in Antrim to stock up on some supplies, before we made the decision to head up to the north coast today.

After an hour or so driving through the Antrim countryside, we made it to the port town of Ballycastle, where surprisingly the beautiful blue skies had disappeared amongst the mist clinging over the town. worrying, as our first site was on 15 minutes down the road, where we had hoped to obtain views over the Straits of Moyle in the North Channel over to Scotland. As we drove around the hilly rural roads towards Torr Head, with the weather clearing, we found a good vantage point, where it was just possible to see the Mull of Kintyre. Guessing that it would likely be no better down the road, we decided to stop here, enjoy the views, and then continue on our way along the Causeway coast.

Straits of Moyle

Straits of Moyle


Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Our next stop was just half an hour up the road - the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The bridge is a modern version of the traditional bridge in use for almost 400 years to connect a rocky island just off the coast to the mainland, at 30 metres above the sea level below. Upon arrival it was quite busy, being a major stop of the tourist trail, and as we walked the twenty minutes down the beautiful coastline we passed many tourists - mostly Germans and Spanish.

Causeway Coast

Causeway Coast

When we got to the bridge itself there was a little wait, as only 8 people can cross at once - however it didn't take too long before we made it to the other side.

Crossing the bridge

Crossing the bridge

After returning back to the car, we headed out for another 20 minute drive along the coast towards the jewel in the crown - the Giant's Causeway. However as we left the car park we were stuck behind a German tourist coach, then then proceeded to take the same roads as us, clearly taking the Germans to the causeway too.

Eventually we arrived at the car park for the causeway, and after taking a look at the visitor's centre, we made our way down the coast to the shore, where we could walk along the causeway itself. The legend of it's creation is that Finn McCool (yes, him again) built a causeway to fight a Scottish giant, destroying it upon his return. In reality it's of volcanic origin (with similar landforms in Iceland amongst others) and these are the last bits to remain above sea level, uneroded.

Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Although busy, the area is big enough to still enjoy it in it's full glory, and with the blocks forming steps it was also super easy to get around.

On the Causeway

On the Causeway

As we started to leave the area, we were stopped by a pushy Russian-American who wanted a photo. Before even answering he has given me his camera and directed how I should take the panoramic photo of his family on the rocks. Cutting out the signpost I swooped around, before stopping to cut out the tourist who had just walked into the area. Handing it back to him he then wanted another one, this time wider, and with less rocks - to which his wife smirked "that's what we're here to see". Next thing I was back taking yet another photo for this rude man. Thankfully he didn't want another perfect photo and we quickly made our mistake back up the hill.

As we got back to the car, it was another relatively short drive to our accommodation for the night - a B&B on the outskirts of Derry, close to the border with the republic. We arrived and checked in, before heading out to get dinner. We did however quickly stop by the village of Muff, just across the border. As we couldn't drive across due to the terms of our rental agreement, we parked up just metres away, and walked across the border, where the only sign of the border was a change in speed (km/h instead of mph) and signs welcoming us to County Donegal.

Muff

Muff

We then made our way to the local McDonald's to grab some food, before we went back to our B&B. We then went for a walk just 15 metres down the road where the rural track crosses the border. Even less noticeable than in Muff - just a solitary speed sign at a stream. As we walked back it occurred to us just how arbitrary this really is, and how deeply affected this part of the word is going to become should Brexit not work out well.

Chris over the border

Chris over the border

After a long day, it was now time to finally sleep, and tomorrow we would explore Derry before making our way back to Belfast.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:50 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged hills coast borders lake ireland island border geology geography Comments (0)

The Seoul of Korea

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Seoul

overcast 18 °C
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After a busy few days in Beijing, we were headed on to our second city on the trip - Seoul, capital of South Korea.

Getting up early in order to make our morning flight, we arrived at Beijing Airport to find Air China had seated us in different sections of the plane. Annoying, but at least it would only be for an hour or so. We then found after boarding, that this had happened to numerous people on the flight and we were both surrounded by other people also separated from travelling companions. Ridiculous! Another tick against Air China.

Winter Olympic Legacy

Winter Olympic Legacy

Nevertheless we arrived at Incheon Airport in Seoul by mid-morning, finding it still filled with lots of Winter Olympic merchandise, and enjoyed the free WiFi with our first access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Google Maps in days. After struggling to get cash out from the local ATMs we eventually made it onto the train and headed into the city. Grabbing supermarket supplies we checked into our hotel early, dropped our bits and headed out to explore the first part of the city.

War Memorial of Korea

War Memorial of Korea

Our first sight in the city was the War Memorial of Korea, where military equipment and memorials sit outside the museum. After a wander around the complex, we headed on towards the Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam.

World Peace Gate

World Peace Gate

After a quick walk around the shrines, we headed to the World Peace Gate, at the front of the Olympic Park. Walking past this gate and the eternal flame, we headed to the flagpoles, where the flag of each country that participated in the 1988 Olympic flies. This is particularly interesting as many countries have since changed their flags or disappeared entirely since the end of the Cold War, which are being kept here as a historic record of the event itself, and thus it was possible to walk past flags of the Soviet Union, Zaire and South Yemen.

Flags from the 1988 Olympic Games

Flags from the 1988 Olympic Games

After a long day, the last place on our list was Dongdaemun, the best preserved of the original city gates into the city. Starting at the modern Cultural Park just to the south, we made the short walk north to the gate itself, where I took a short walk up past the city walls for a vantage point over the area. After a long afternoon we headed back to the city centre, completing our loop of the outer city, and grabbed food before bed.

Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun

Having enjoyed our first lay in in days, we eventually headed out for our full day touring the rest of the city, beginning with the City Hall area. With a train just about to leave I jumped on it, to find Chris had got stuck behind some people and had missed it. Luckily the next train was just a few minutes later, and we eventually reunited not long later.

Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies

Leaving the metro station, which like others in the city also serves as an evacuation shelter - with its own food and medial supplies in the corridors, we arrived just in time to see the changing of guards ceremony outside the Deoksugang.

Ceremony at Deoksugang

Ceremony at Deoksugang

We got to watch most of it take place and even had a photo opportunity with one of the guards at the end, before we entered the complex itself to explore.

At Deoksugang

At Deoksugang


Cheonggyecheon

Cheonggyecheon

After taking a look at the City Hall square, walking north, we viewed the gentrified Cheonggyecheon stream, walking past the US embassy where there were a few protests, before arriving at the Gwanghwamun gate of the Gyeongbokgung royal palace.

Gwanghwamun Gate

Gwanghwamun Gate


Bukchon Hanok

Bukchon Hanok

After having a walk around the entrance to the complex we then headed westwards towards the Bukchon Hanok, a traditional Korean village located in the heart of the city. Spending a bit of time walking around the area, we headed to the Changdeokung palace, resting outside before continuing to the Changgyeonggung palace.

Changgyeonggung

Changgyeonggung

We then started heading back, through some side streets in the jewellery area, making our way down to the Jongmyo shrine, before heading to the Insadong shopping street. After having bought our souvenirs, we then headed via the Jogyesa shrine back to our hotel having now toured the city.

Inside the Jogyesa Shrine

Inside the Jogyesa Shrine

The following day was our last in South Korea, and was planned to be spent the DMZ. However a couple of days before we had received an email to inform us that due to the upcoming conference between the leaders of both North and South, in order to prepare, trips to the Joint Security Area were cancelled for the next month or so. A real pity we wouldn't get to see the blue UN huts, but having managed to rebook our tour, we still managed to head to the border zone itself and see some of the other sights.

Heading back to the City Hall area, we checked in for our excursion and boarded the coach. Not long later we headed north, arriving at the first checkpoint around an hour later, and having our passports checked.

Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory

We began at the Dora Observatory, for views from a small hill over the border area. From here we could see not only the border, but the first parts of North Korea on the Kaesong area on the other side - including the North Korean Peace Village, with the huge flag pole. We could also hear the propaganda broadcasts from each side - although when asked, our tour guide stated that due to different dialects she couldn't understand what the North was broadcasting anyway!

Views of North Korea

Views of North Korea

After time to take in the views, we then headed towards the Third Infiltration Tunnel. This tunnel is one of the four that have been found, dug by the North Koreans into the south. Due to its location in this area it is now a major tourist site, being included as part of tours to the DMZ. Unfortunately today the monorail had broken and thus we had to walk down the 350 metres to the bottom before walking the length of the tunnel up to the border line, where it had been sealed with concrete barricades. With Koreans generally being smaller than westerners it was a struggle for myself to walk along the tunnel, and many of the taller visitors hit their helmets on the top of the tunnel.

At the visitor centre

At the visitor centre

After a strenuous climb back to the top, we headed across the road to the visitor centre, to watch a video on the history of the tunnel, as well as see models of the DMZ.

Inside Dorasan Station

Inside Dorasan Station

We then boarded the bus again and made our way to the Dorasan Station, a modern station complex built during the last period of cooperation between both sides in the last 00s. The station in the last on the railway line in the south and if peace is achieved it is hoped that the line will be reconnected to the north. However being located within Civilian Control Area, the only visitors are tourists. The station has a gift shop and many plaques, and we also went onto the platform to see the special DMZ train as well as signs indicating the distance to North Korea.

On the platform

On the platform

After visiting most of the sights, we headed to a restaurant outside the immediate border area in Imjingak for Bulgogi, and then taking a look at the immediate area, include the Bridge of Freedom. This whole experience felt very surreal, as the risk of conflict in this area is so high, and yet it was so touristy, with an amusement park and souvenir shops, this could be a theme park!

Overlooking the Bridge of Freedom

Overlooking the Bridge of Freedom

Heading back to the city, we chilled for the rest of our time before our early morning rise and finally heading to Japan the following morning.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 08:59 Archived in South Korea Tagged temple train memorial city tunnel border shrine war olympic eastasia Comments (0)

Capital Swapping

Bratislava

sunny 23 °C
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After two days exploring the Austrian Capital, Vienna, our final day was to cross the border with Slovakia and explore their capital Bratislava, less than an hour away centre to centre.

Although Austria is firmly classed as Western Europe, most of its borders are with Eastern European countries, which even twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall are still much less developed - as I had found when I visited Graz four years earlier.

Arriving by train in Bratislava, it had taken less than an hour, and yet it felt as though we had travelled fifteen years into the past - despite this city being on the border with Austria. Dilapidated, broken, full of trolleybuses and communist architecture, it may have been developed, but it felt a world away from where we had just came.

Welcome to Slovakia

Welcome to Slovakia

Leaving the station, with it's big sign welcoming us to Slovakia, we headed towards our first sight - Slavín, the War Memorial located on one of the largest hills just outside the city centre.

Slavín

Slavín

After a short walk up the staircases and roads climbing up the hill, we arrived at the top for views over the city and of the impressive monument, before we made our way back down and to outside the Presidential Palace.

At Michael's Gate

At Michael's Gate

The next area to visit was the heart of the city centre, and after walking through the Michael's Gate, we arrived in the busy centre full of shops and cafés. Making our way through the city streets we passed busy squares before arriving at the Hviezdoslav Square, outside the Opera House.

Bratislava Old City

Bratislava Old City

By now we had seen much of the city, with our next sight being the icon of the city itself - the castle. Located on top of an imposing hill over the River Danube, we climbed up to the top where it was incredibly windy - so much so that even the courtyard of the building felt like a wind tunnel.

After a look around the grounds, we then made our way back down towards the bridge crossing the River Danube, and with it, I had met the Danube in each of the capital cities along the river, Budapest, Belgrade, Vienna and finally Bratislava.

Castle over the Danube

Castle over the Danube

After photos of the castle over the river, we quickly made our way to the nearest bus stop so that we could catch the next train back to Vienna from the other station on the south side of the river - and the only one on the tiny portion of Slovakian land located west of the Danube.

Running across a flyover to get to the bus stop, we made the short journey to take the train back to Austria in enough time. Once the train left the station, it wasn't long before we headed out of this suburb and crossed back over the Austrian border. Less than an hour later we were back in the Austrian capital - two of the closest capitals geographically, and yet world's apart in time.

After going back to the hotel for a lovely rest, we decided to have a traditional Austrian meal again tonight. After researching we found a restaurant in the city centre of Vienna, and headed there shortly after. Passing some restaurants with queues on the street, we were relieved to find ours was nice and quiet. Traditionally styled with wooden tables, we both had schnitzel and shared a apple strudel, as the restaurant got busier and busier, eventually surrounding us entirely by Asian girls. Clearly cheap traditional food is a staple of any Japanese holiday!

Surrounded by Asians eating Apple Strudel

Surrounded by Asians eating Apple Strudel

After a lovely finish to our holiday, we went back to the hotel to chill and get ready for the flight back the following morning.

The holiday was much quieter than the last few, yet still kept us busy and gave us lots to see - the large Austrian capital as well as a short excursion over the border to it's smaller Slovakian cousin.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 12:22 Archived in Slovakia Tagged restaurant river city hill castle border vienna&bratislava Comments (0)

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