Where Irish ‘Troubles’ Began, the Arts Heal
BRENDAN SPIEGEL is a travel writer for the New York Times.
“SUPPORT OUR POWS. END TORTURE IN MAGHABERRY. RELEASE MARIAN PRICE,” scream the block-letter graffiti messages lining the 400-year-old stone walls that surround the historic center of Derry in Northern Ireland. Ascending the long staircase leading to the walls, I paused and looked back down the hill at a sign reading, “You Are Now Entering Free Derry.” Behind it, a somber mural depicted a gas mask-clad young man enveloped in a battle scene. At a glance, one might think I had stepped into a war zone.
In fact, this once hotly contested city is far from it. As I wandered under an archway and into the walled city, I was a bit taken aback by just how far.
The notes of a classical piano piece rang out from the First Derry Presbyterian Church, the clomps of an Irish step-dancing class echoed loudly through the narrow streets, and a chorus of enthusiastic buskers belted out tunes for passing shoppers. A rainbow-colored tourist trolley swung a busload of photo-snappers around the corner....
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