We recently got back from a trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland and it was only with my researching into Ireland that I found out that they are two very different countries.
I would like to think that I am a fairly well traveled person, and although in Australia we have heard of Ireland’s struggle for independence I didn’t realise that in the end they ended up two very distinct countries.
Ireland is a country of its own located in Europe that has managed to gain it’s independence from England with a very long battle for freedom and independence. With familiar towns like Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Cork.
Ireland is a Republic, with a President, A population of about 4.9 Million. Ireland ranks among the top ten wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, it is a member of the European Union.
Whereas Northern Ireland is a member of the UK and commonwealth. It has a population of about 1.8 MiIllion, and most notable towns are it’s capital Belfast and Derry.
Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, has the queen as their monarch.
Northern Ireland still has a real political divide, between unionists, who wish to see Northern Ireland continue as part of the United Kingdom, and nationalists, who wish to see Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of Ireland, independent from the United Kingdom. This is something that is evident even as a tourist in their beautiful city.
Northern Ireland capital is Belfast, and recently has been getting even more media coverage due to the huge HBO hit Game of thrones choosing many of the iconic landscapes and castles of Northern Ireland as film locations, as well as many of their main sets being filmed in Titanic studios in Belfast.
5 things I learned when visiting Ireland and Northern Ireland.
1 – They have different currency.
As Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, they utilise Pounds and English Currency.
Ireland is a part of the Europe and use Euros for their currency
Many people in our group actually got caught unaware on this one with many people rushing to the currency exchange at Dublin airport to swap their currency over.
2- The mailboxes are different colours
In Ireland the postboxes are green and I found that really fascinating, when I wandered over the ‘border’ to Northern Ireland the post boxes went back to the traditional red postboxes that we are used to, as a member of the commonwealth.
3- There is no real border crossing
Whilst Ireland and Northern Ireland are two distinct countries, you can easily travel between the countries without needing to show your passport and go through immigration.
However the towns on the border definitely have a different feel to them.
In the Town of Derry buildings were full of amazing and poignant street art showcasing the fight for independence as well as memorials to lives lost in the independence.
4- The political undercurrent is still there
What surprised me the most is how current the tension is still in the air in towns like Belfast. Whilst we were in Belfast there was a huge amount of people waving the English flag and others firmly against it.
As you walk around the streets daily we saw anti riot police trucks in the area.
5- The Architecture is very different
Dublin is a much older city, and so is the architecture, the buildings range from 14th century onwards. It had a real relaxed feel. Cobblestone paths, old bridges, and you can really imagine the city hundreds of years earlier.
Towns like Galway have done a fantastic job of keeping the history of the area with many new buildings having to keep the old structures as well.
Belfast is much younger and for those who have travelled to Melbourne and seen buildings like royal exhibition buildings, flinders street station it is very reminiscent of that. whilst the buildings are still a couple of hundred years old, there are also a lot more modern buildings, shops scattered around.
5. Pubs are everywhere.
The one thing that stood out in both Ireland and Northern Ireland was that they both love a good pub.
In Both Dublin, Galway and Belfast the main place to have a meal would have to be a pub.
Traditional restaurants were few and far between and instead every second or third store front was a pub.
Have you visited Ireland and Northern Ireland?
What did you learn on your visits?
What was your favorite place to visit.