A Travellerspoint blog

Northern Ireland

Insane Belfast

overcast 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:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jul/14/belfast-riots-real-ira-blame
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gp6UW1fDAkX96n9BTR_z9ikWFNUw
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!
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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!
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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.
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To finish off the tour we looked at the Catholic murals, and were taught a little bit more about the Catholic's side.
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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!
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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!!

Posted by kmcveggie 11:22 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged shopping Comments (2)

Beautiful Belfast: Carrick-a-Rede Island & Giants Causeway

sunny 18 °C

Well, highly unfortunately, the bachelor-party bus never showed, so I had to race to the other side of town to catch the last bus to Belfast. They must have changed their plans. But I did get a very scenic, hilly, green, 7-hour bus ride to Belfast, through Sligo and Enniskillen.
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I got into my hostel at around 9, and there was a crazy commotion going on outside. First off, the hostel is on a sketchy road, hence it being super cheap. Second, there was a sign on the door saying “DO NOT open door for ANYONE under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. ONLY staff can open the door.“ Third, there was NO ONE out in town. So all a very good start to Belfast. I hopped on my computer by the entrance door and next thing I know the doorbell is ringing like mad and the staff are trying to filter guests in and keep this crazy, drunken old Irishman out. There were 7 cops there escorting him away, a couple with HUGE military guns. Me and the girl next to me keeping looking at each other like “Holy crap!“ and “What the HELL is going on!“ Good times! A few minutes later 3 guys from my last hostel walked in. I had met them at one of the breakfasts in Galway, and properly introduced myself. Brett, Donny, and Adam were from Pennsylvania, and were all super cool guys. Brett wanted to stay in for the night, but it was Adams birthday so we decided to head out for a drink. We walked down the street and saw a beautiful city hall, amongst other things (Timmy's Ho's doughnuts anyone??), but it was DEAD. Nothing was open, no one was in the streets, and apparently some “Orange Day” holiday was going on, and there were going to be bonfires set around the town for the holiday. Also, the cop cars here are hilarious! This one actually stopped and "posed" for us haha, but they are ridiculous looking! The rubber at the bottom of them are to prevent the petrol bombs being thrown under them from the "troubled times" as everyone calls them, when the Catholics and Protestants were really fighting.
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The bonfires were starting at midnight, so until then we stopped at the one open bar we found and had a drink and watched some live music. Then we headed out to one of the bonfire sights. Apparently the Irish know how to do a bonfire; there were hundreds of pallets stacked up into a huge pyramid, with Republic of Ireland flags all over it and signs reading “Fuck the I.R.A.” and the like. Some religious holiday! We didn’t know then, but the holiday symbolizes when the 6 northern counties of Ireland joined the UK in 1690. It’s a very Protestant holiday as they are the ones who want to stay separate from the south, so the Catholics don’t come out on this day. There is still so much religious separation over here it’s crazy; I couldn’t imagine participating in something like this! It felt very eerie and cult-y and hateful to me, especially after being in Dublin and hearing their side to the separation and the wars and rebellion and stuff. Lots of people were out and wearing the union jack and the UK colours. And just after midnight the fire started and the tri-colour Irish flags burned away, and everyone yelled and chanted! It was crazy.
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The heat off of the fire was unbelievable. Everyone had to stay really far back, and we felt like we were being burned by the sun! It was so hot that the streetlights near the fire were curling downwards and melting. Unreal!
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This morning the three boys and I went on the Giant’s Causeway tour. I woke up at 7:55 and we were leaving to get breakfast at 8 so good times for Kelsey! Literally ran downstairs! Got some breakfast and headed out to Bushmills on the bus. Our first stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It was a GORGEOUS day out so the pictures were outstanding. The rope bridge was 4 pounds, but the views were totally worth it.
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One little clutz move: I fell down these stairs and cut my leg and foot… highly embarrassing in front of the boys! But something I would do for sure lol.
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Our next stop was the Giants Causeway. We took the long way around and got some beautiful photos. It was suuuuper hot out so we had a really nice walk around the cliffs and hills, and got some good pics.
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We walked down to the Giants Causeway next. It was really neat; they were formed by volcanic rock like 55-61 million years ago when the pressure from underwater tsunamis forced the rocks upwards in these weird formations. It totally looked handmade but it’s not! Also got some greats photos here, and met a really nice girl, Heidi, from Las Vegas, who’s on her last week of 3 months of travel.
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I also got some pictures of some of the fields in Ireland and some sheep. Normally I'm on a bus so I don't get to take the pics but here they are.
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The last stop on our trip was in the town of Derry. The boys and I opted out of the guided tour to grab a very late and needed lunch. We stopped at one of the only places open and got some food.

Tonight I’m definitely going to take ‘er easy! Nothings open, there’s crazy people and parades and madness going on outside, so I’m staying in. Actually the tour group in Derry said that they watched police stopping people from throwing petrol bombs! I can hear the parade from the room, as well as two very drunk men yelling at each other outside. It’s a touchy subject and a big deal to these people, so I figure I’ll stay out of the way and I’ll wait till the mall’s open tomorrow, thank you!

Posted by kmcveggie 12:22 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (8)

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