We arrived early in the morning in Belfast, Northern Ireland (pronounced Norn Iron by the locals), a city with a turbulent past referred to by it’s people as “The Troubles.” The troubles were primarily from 1968-1998 when horrendous bombings and assassinations occurred between the Protestant “Loyalists” who were supportive of a British controlled Northern Ireland, and the Catholic IRA “Republicans” who were supportive of a free and unified Ireland. There has been religious conflict between the Protestants and Catholics well before this time, but this is the period when armed conflict was escalated and a wall was built to keep Nationalists and Loyalists apart known as the “peace wall.” These walls divided communities and peoples many believe exacerbated the problems.
Our incredible BnB host Walter (favorite host and accommodation ever, and Mom’s crush even without the kilt, but they do say the Northern Irish accent was voted the sexiest accent in the world ) gave us a quick driving tour through town before our free walking tour downtown. Walter was born in Belfast and lived through all of the troubles as a Catholic in a Republican neighborhood. He told us how they would leave their backdoors open in their homes
to allow people to run through and escape the police and military, how they would be woken up in the middle of the night during raids by whole neighborhoods banging pots and pans in the streets so that all could bear witness in the streets. He pointed out sniper roosts and locations of bombings which seemed to be on every block, of the same locations bombed dozens of times, countless memorials and murals to the over 3,600 lives that had been lost during that time. 52% of those killed were civilians, 32% British security forces and 16% paramilitary groups. Regardless of which side you were on the toll it took on this city was brutal and immense and the effects are still felt today, however the future is hopeful and bright with “mixed” (Catholic and Protestant) neighborhoods and education becoming more commonplace and peoples opinions by and large moderate.
We took our walking tour starting at city Hall and ending near the TItanic Quarter. Our guide discussed more of the “troubles” pointing out famous locations such as the Europa Hotel having been bombed 33 times, earning the title as the “most bombed hotel in the world” because it was
frequented by journalists . Nearby was the famous Crown Bar, a beautiful Victorian bar with the Queens crown in tile in the foyer, which you can opt to wipe your feet on upon entry.
After the tour we did a quick walk through of the Titanic museum. The new museum is rated one of the top museums in the world. It is at the location where the Titanic was built and launched for its fateful first and final voyage on this day in 1911.
That evening we had a few drinks while chatting some more with Walter in his pub amongst a collection of buildings he built to resemble a wee village.
The following day we went on a Game of Thrones tour up the Antrim Coast in Northern Island. Most of the show is filmed in Titanic Studios in Belfast and around the coast and countryside. The tour covered many famous filming locations, but also the famous sightseeing spots as well. Mom has no interest in the show but had a great time nevertheless enjoying the sites and scenery, especially the Giants Causeway and Dark Hedges Rd. We amazingly got the first rain of
our trip, which was brief but justified the lugging around of our raincoats and umbrellas for 2 weeks.
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