Tourism in Londonderry
Londonderry is a city different from all others and it also attracts an atypical audience. No bus loads of Japanese people here and no Indians playing pan flutes. There are no obvious tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower or the Big Ben. But tourists still find their way to Derry and the youth hostel I am staying in, is fully booked on almost every day during summer. I am wondering what drives people to Derry and find myself chasing tourists in the streets.
My first target is an easy one. Bonny (28, from Australia) is staying in the same youth hostel and I bother her with my questions over breakfast. She is on a two-year trip through Europe and Ireland is one of the countries on her list. Before coming to Derry, she visited Belfast and she is now on her way to Donegal. Like many of the people I will meet during the day, she simply travels around the Irish island and Derry is just another stop on the way. Her attention was futhermore drawn by the fact that the city centre of Derry is built on the inside of a huge fortification.
..come to Ireland in big numbers, all aiming to improve their English
That fortification is very helpful to me today, because all tourists gather on the city walls. I speak to people from all over the globe. It quickly becomes clear that most people are not staying any longer than a day or two. Many of them and/or they primarily visit Londonderry because it lies on the route around the island. Derry is full of Spanish people at this time of year (photo). Many of them travel to Ireland to improve their English language skills but they too do not tend to stay in Derry for a long time.
Apart from the many Spanish people I walk into, I also meet Erika (27, from San Marino) and Mauro (30, from Italy). They are travelling together and are interested to find out more about the troublesome history of Derry. Herbert (55, Switzerland) is travelling with his wife. They tell me about anarchism in their country. I never knew such things were going on in Switzerland and kindly thank them for the information.
I join a group of tourists on one of the three free city tours that are organised today. The story we are being told during the tour is one of blood and terror. After all I heard yesterday in the Bogside, I would say that those stories were biased and so are today`s ones. Everything seems to be biased in Londonderry in some way or another. Both camps, loyalist and republican, feel treated in an unfair way, if not today then at least throughout the course of history. That message is secretly transmitted to ignorant visitors and I hope everybody will have enough time and energy to listen to both sides of the story. In the end, there is less violence than there used to be, and the reasons for fighting lie hidden in the past. They are no longer really there but a small group of people are keeping them alive through symbols and rituals. My ideas are confirmed by Bill (46) and Diane (43) who are from Northern Ireland themselves and have come over to the city of Derry for a day visit. They are the last people I interview for today`s article. I conclude that Londonderry is an interesting place for people who want to learn about nationalist conflicts or for people who pass it on the way. All others may want to wait a bit longer and let tourist industry to develop a little further before they join the party.
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