Wow. The last two days have been really intense and very enjoyable at the same time.
We left Dublin and drove up to Belfast. I have learnt a lot about this island since arriving here. I was excited to see what the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland looked like. Turns out there is very little to signify the crossover.
This is the Republic:
This is Northern Ireland:
Yes, that’s right Sherlock! The road lines are different. There is also a sign that says your speed will now be measured in miles per hour. That’s it. That’s all that marks the crossing of the border. Now, with all the political turmoil (The Troubles) I would have thought there would have been a bigger deal. Maybe a flag, or a sign welcoming travellers to The UK, but that’s just me.
We then arrived at our fancy pants hotel, The Fitzgibbons, aka The Fancypants Hotel. I was pretty stoked upon inspecting the bathroom.
We then embarked on the most terrifying cab journey of my life.
In Belfast, ex activists and cabbies at the time of The Troubles act as tour guides. Our driver, Tony, drove us up to the murals around Shankill Road. We stood in a kind of park surrounded by community houses that had these murals painted on them. We were in the Protestant community of Belfast. These people are unionists. They believe, and support, the British taking over Northern Ireland and for this part of the island being a part of Great Britain.
I gotta say, I was scared. It was quickly becoming dark and the more I learnt about these people painted on the walls, the more chilled I was feeling. These kids on bikes and skateboards were coming towards us. They must have been under 12 years of age. One of them rode straight through our little group, almost knocking me over, yelling at us the Irish word for Catholics with a rude word in front of it.
The next place we stopped was the Peace Line. This is the massive wall that segregates the Protestant community and the Catholic community in a section of Belfast. The wall has been ‘decorated’ by famous street artists from all over the world, including Banksy.
We then hopped back in the cab and crossed to the other side. There we heard stories of the people who had lost their lives defending their homes and what they thought was right. These people largely wanted Ireland to be its own independent country. Plus they really hated whatshisface on the other side of the fence. I really shouldn’t make light of it because it is really really horrible what both these sides went through.
We stopped at The Garden of Remembrance in The Falls where the names of the fallen during The Troubles are on the wall. I looked at the houses lining Falls Road mainly. They looked just like the houses on the other side. We could tell that the cabby was a Catholic as he was very moving in his stories and retelling of the history at this site. I was just so…for want of a better word: touched. I was scared. I was astounded. I was angry. I was sad. I was deeply disturbed. I was shocked.
I knew so little about these times in such recent history. I always knew there were problems in Ireland, in Belfast. That there was a great deal of unrest and violence. I had no idea what it was all about though.
We piled back into the cab and drove to another set of murals, this time bringing in International issues. Freedom fighters from around the world made their murals on this road.
I learnt so much and I am now really fascinated, can you tell?
Anyway…after the tour we went to The Crown which is this ye olde gorgeous pub across the road from The Europa Hotel which is apparently the most bombed hotel in Europe.
Then back to the hotel for delicious fancypants dinner followed by lovely fancypants bath and bed.
Today we went to the Titanic exhibition. They built their own exhibition centre for the Titanic exhibition and, I have to say, it was the best exhibition I have ever been to, and I’ve been to a few! It was interactive enough to keep you really engaged (there was even a cool ride that took you through the ship building yards) and there was a great deal of information too. I really liked how they focused on the context of the building of the ship, Belfast at the time and the reports in the aftermath of the tragedy. I thought it was going to be like being on James Cameron’s movie set and I am glad to have been wrong. Well worth going to.
We hopped on the bus where I was laughed at and ridiculed by these girls up the back for taking this photo:
Given that the riot police dudes were on the streets of Belfast TONIGHT expecting trouble from protesters about a council decision to limit the flying of the union flag, I think it’s a relevant photo so there shut up bimbos.
So yes, Belfast…tick.