There is a lot of recent terrorism history in Belfast. It wasn’t until the early 90’s that there was a “truce” and things began to quiet down. The two sides were the Protestants and the Catholics. I had heard of bad feelings between these two groups but fortunately in the US it is not an issue. It is prevalent over here.
The main disagreement is more about nationalism and less about religion. At least that is how I understand it. The Catholics are more “Irish” and want to be independent. The Protestants are mostly from England, have roots there, and want to stay part of that. They both want to keep their heritage. This is why they have 2 sections on the island. The small northern part is called Northern Ireland and is part of the United Kingdom. The larger southern part is called Ireland which is an independent country.
The above picture on the left is a street in the Catholic section of town. I don’t think you can see the Gaelic words written under the English. The picture on the right is through a bus window and is the Europa Hotel. It was once the most bombed hotel in Europe. The Europa was where most of the journalists would stay and the bombers wanted the attention.
The city today is rebuilt and has many glass buildings. The tour guide said this would never have been 40 years ago but is today because of the peace.
There are many peace memorials painted on the buildings as you ride around. The pictures above show 3 different examples. Many innocent people died and there were about 10 that went on a food strike and died.
I know that there is improvement because they don’t have bombings anymore. But talking to the cab drivers and other random people we met they said there is still a great divide. I am not sure I really understand it. The only thing I can relate it to is our Civil War in the US.
While we were there one of the “big wigs” in one of the parties was gunned down on his way to work. He was thought to have called a hit on a man years ago and this was a revenge kill for that death. So, even though it is a safe city, there is still an underlying tension for those who live there. I didn’t feel it or wouldn’t have known about it except for those who told us about it.
There is a black cab tour that drives tourists around the city and explains all the memorials. I wish we had done it but the day we were going to it was rainy. Anyway, the cab driver that explained it to us said that when you sign up you may actually get a cab driver that had been involved in the bombing or killing of someone. He said that in the peace pact many prisoners had to be let out of jail and the cab industry loosened their requirements so these men could get jobs. Therefore, some of the drivers had personal experience with the conflict.
More tomorrow on Belfast……
Sunday afternoon we left Dublin in time to make our ferry across to Scotland. We stopped for gas and realized there was smoke coming out of the bonnet (hood). Kent looked at it and realized that a small hose connected to something important (he knows the details) had a cut in it. We taped the hose and hoped it would be a solution until we got back home.
We were waiting in the line of cars to get on the ferry and Kent and the guys decided to check the hose. When they took the tape off the hose to re-wrap it, it broke apart in 3 pieces. We couldn’t move. We were stuck in Belfast until we got the car fixed.
We don’t need to go through the wonderful details of trying to get a 10 pound (money) part on a Sunday night with a bank holiday on Monday with nothing open. Or trying to figure out how we were going to get the car to someone to fix and a hotel to stay in without a decent internet connection.
Needless to say, we got to tour Belfast and see it until Thursday night! There were 4 Ford dealers in Belfast but none of them had the part. But, let’s put all that aside. It’s over now. We actually enjoyed ourselves after we realized we weren’t getting home. We made the best of the situation.
We learned a lot and Belfast has an interesting history that you may remember as I share what I learned. So, tomorrow I’ll write about Belfast, Ireland.
Sunday was our last day in Ireland (so we thought- more on that later). The weather wasn’t great- should that surprise me? so we did a hop-on hop-off city bus tour. We finally got to see a more rounded Dublin since we hadn’t really spent much time there. It was a nice city and had so much more than we gave time for.
We got off at the stop for the Guinness Brewery. This beer is very popular especially since it is brewed and began in Dublin. Guinness (the founder) had inherited 100 pounds from his godfather and that began his career in the beer world. The tour was informational from everything to how it’s made to marketing and transporting it. We learned how to pour a perfect glass and stood at the very top of the building for panoramic views of the city.
The pictures above really don’t make Dublin look as nice as it is. The weather really makes a place look good or bad. It is May and I am still wearing a winter coat. It has stayed mostly in the 50-60’s (a few 70’s) which I am having a little trouble with. I am a warm/hot weather person- being cold and having strong winds in my face makes me grumpy.
Oh, a little new info. Our guide told us that there are many places in Ireland that start with Kil—- such as Kilkenny, Kildare, Kilbride, Killarney. Kil means “church of”. So you would just say it was at “church of Kenny.” I hope I am remembering this right.
I wish we had gotten to stay in Dublin a little longer because we hardly saw it. But, we had a ferry to catch back north in Belfast Sunday night so we had to leave Dublin around 4:00 to get there in time.
More on our surprise situation next…..
The picture above is on the ferry crossing over the Irish Sea . I learned a lot about Ireland. The Island is called the Emerald Isle because it is so green. The island is actually made up of two different countries. The lower 26 counties is the country of Ireland and includes the city of Dublin. It derived it’s independence from England and they have a strong independent, nationalist pride. There is predominantly a Catholic background in Ireland. They speak English, but they also speak Irish (Gaelic).
The upper 6 counties of the island are Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. Both countries have all denominations but Northern Ireland is mostly Protestant. There is an obvious divide that I had heard about but never seen. I will talk more about this in a later post.
We got to Dublin Friday night and decided to go to the Cliffs of Mohr on the eastern side of the country the next day. It was beautiful. I took some pictures but they really don’t show how pretty it really is. It was cold and windy so I didn’t stay out there too long.
We then drove along the coast to Galway. Along the drive the landscape went from lush and green to rocky and barren. They call it Burren and it is a National Park. This area was where a lot of the Irish died in the famine. Our tour guide told us quite a bit about the famine and it was so sad. He said the people were sick and literally starving to death. They didn’t believe in charity here at that time so in order for you to be given anything you had to work for it. So, they had the people go on the Burren and build rock walls that had no purpose except to say they had done some work for food. Those walls are still there going up and down the Burren. He told of one child who stole a piece of bread and was given 2 weeks hard labor for the punishment.
This is a picture from the bus so you really can’t see the walls farther up the hill. We arrived in Galway and just walked around for a while before heading back to Dublin. It was a long day but the scenery was so diverse for such a small area. I think it probably only takes about 2 -3 hours to drive across Ireland as well as Scotland.
Galway from the bus. Next post will be Dublin.
Kent’s parents came over to see us a couple of weeks ago. Dotty really wanted to visit Ireland so she and George flew over last Thursday morning. We decided since we are so close that we would drive over there on Friday. It is very easy to get to Ireland from Scotland- we are on the East coast so we drove 3 hours to the West coast and caught a ferry. The ferry ride lasted about 2 hours and took us to Belfast, Ireland. The above pictures are the drive into the ferry and down in to the bottom where the parking for cars was. The top was very nice and looked like a cruise ship. Once we got to Belfast we drove south to Dublin which took about 2 hours.
The next few posts I’ll share about our time in Ireland…..