We left our apartment at 6:40 am today and walked to a Starbucks near Trinity College where we and at least a dozen others got on a tour bus at 7 am bound for Belfast. In Belfast our group split up into taxis to tour the city while a few others in the group chose instead to tour the Titanic Museum. The Titanic was built at the shipyard next to the new, expensive museum.
When I say those of us in the taxis toured the city, we really just went a couple places to see and learn about The Troubles. The hatred between Catholics and Protestants/Republicans and Loyalists runs deep here…so deep that in the cemetery outside of town there’s a wall underground to separate Catholics and Protestants even in death, according to our bus tour guide, John.
Within the city, a high wall about three miles long separates Catholics from Protestants. There are gates (“gits,” as our taxi driver Pat pronounced it) through which people can pass during the day, but they’re locked at 6 pm each day for everyone’s protection. Each side has their own recreation centers and schools. Never the twain shall meet. One of our guides told us that British Prime Minister David Cameron was dismayed to learn that there are more fences and walls now than ever. They have kind of a vague goal of dismantling the walls by 2025, but the people in Belfast feel safer with the walls and want to keep them.
Below: We all signed the Peace Wall.
Below: It’s hard to tell, but that’s a Palestinian flag waving from that house. There are also messages of support for the Palestinians in Gaza and the Basque separatists in Spain on different walls in the city.
Then we got back on the bus and drove up to Giants Causeway on the northern coast. The wind was blowing really hard, and the rain started pelting us so hard it was funny, and we couldn’t move. We walked (with the wind at our backs) to the nearby hotel and ate lunch in our soaking clothes. The sun came out, but then it was time to get back on the bus and go to the pedestrian rope bridge which ended up being closed because of the wind.
Below: Giants Causeway
Below: the rope bridge area…breathtaking