07.14.2009 15 °C
Have you people been watching the news? I came to Belfast at a crazy time. I really didn't realize I was in the middle of a religious war zone! Here are some links to some of the stuff that's been going on the last couple of days here:
I'm fine and no need to worry at all, it's just a huge religious holiday that I walked into. But anyways, more on that below!
Yesterday morning I got up and did some laundry for the first time this trip. I lucked out because you can actually do your own in the hostel; normally they'll do it for you for an arm and a leg, or you go to a laundromat. Anyways that took up the whole morning, then I went out shopping! I didn't make it too far within the city, but I headed out on a main road and to the newly built Victoria Center which was massive and awesome. I bought a couple of things, but could have bought a lot more!
A girl from my hostel and I have been trying to recruit more people to join us on a Black Taxi Tour, because if you don't have at least 4 people it costs you more, so we finally found 5 more people and booked our tour. They go around the Protestant and Catholic areas of Belfast and tell you a little bit about the history, and they go through the different murals that are painted all over the communities from both sides of town. It was an unreal tour, very insightful, very unbiased information. First we went to the Protestant side and looked at their murals. All beautiful, some chilling; the blue one with the gunman on top is soo creepy because it was painted so that wherever you are the gun is pointed at you. Like I walked past it and the painting moved and the gunman followed me it was unbelievable and very creepy! The protestants are the ones who want to stay a part of Brittain so they all had the Union Jack flag and colours displayed.
Next we stopped on the Protestant side of the gates that seperate the two sides of the city. The gates were built in the seventies and rarely, rarely opened to let people go from one side to the other. Now the gates open from 7-7, Monday to Friday and are closed on weekends. It is unreal that the gates still operate! The people here are still that divided, they don't even go to the other side unless they have to, for work deliveries or something. They all have different schools, post offices, businesses, etc. The businesses are said to be fair labour in that they have to have an equal mix of both sides, so they are getting better. The other thing they got 10 years ago when the peace movement came in was unbiased, uninvolved police. The police are fair anywhere, are said to not have a religion, or at least not while they are working, and if not they would lose their job immediatly. I just cannot believe how divided this city is, and that I had no idea about it before I came here!
Next we went to what is known as the Berlin Wall of Belfast, because I guess it has some resemblence to the Berlin Wall. Lots of graffiti and a new peace sort of design done, with people all over the world commenting about the troubled times. Something to see!
Next we went through the gates, and there were kids throwing rocks at each other from both sides. The driver said he normally would have stopped but that it wasn't safe. The kids weren't just playing they were actually doing it out of hate it was unreal! I didn't think it would be like this at all! It's amazing what religion and politics can do to a place!
We then went to a memorial garden dedicated to remember those Catholics who were lost due to battles and bombings and fires and raids, etc. The houses right next to the dividing wall had bomb guards, and all the windows are made of plastic so they won't break. Just veru recently the city put up a higher fence above the original wall because people were still throwing rocks, pop bottles, bombs, etc. over the wall. Unreal! I asked when the last time someone was injured because of the division and he said a man was beat to death just a couple of weeks ago! The Catholic side didn't have any colours displayed or anything, but both sides were very uneasy feeling and chilling. Everyone on the tour could feel the uneasyness in the air, it was something else.
To finish off the tour we looked at the Catholic murals, and were taught a little bit more about the Catholic's side.
I got back, made some dinner, and when V, a guy in my room from New Zealand came back with some more guys staying here who were on his day trip tour, we all went to the store to get some booze, and we hung out in the common room all night and chatted. It was relaxed and fun!
Today I went shopping (suprise!), got a couple of pins of Northern Ireland to add to my small but growing collection, and basically just walked around for hours soaking up the gorgeous weather and the old party of the city. Off to Glasgow bright and early in the morning!!