This weekend I went with Sabrina and the international student society to Belfast. We took a ride on the Paddywagon tour bus and drove up north about 2 and a half hours. About the same time it takes to drive to Fort Wayne from Lafayette but with a lot more hills and sheep to look at :)
The countryside around Northern Ireland is beautiful. It gets pretty hilly by Belfast and there are two mountains really close to the city. I learned all about the history of Northern Ireland from our tour guide on the trip but I can't remember too much of it! I do remember that the trouble between Protestants and Catholics started in the 1600's when England sent a lot of Protestant people over to live in Ireland and slowly change public opinion in support of them. There were lots of battles and fights so I don't remember all of them.
We learned that unlike in the republic Northern Ireland has a fully armed police force with big armored vehicles. I think that came about from all the bombings in the 1960's through the 1980's. They have a really big wall dividing the Protestant housing district from the Catholic one. It's higher than the Berlin wall! We got to see it during a tour of the city but more on that later.
Our first stop was the almost brand new titanic museum by the docks. I didn't realize it but the Titanic was actually built in Belfast. The building is huge and covered in steel panels. It is engineered to be the same height as the Titanic itself, 90 feet! I learned a lot about the history of Belfast and of the Titanic. My favorite part was learning about the various industries involved in building the Titanic. The museum even had a little ride in it where you could learn about how people built the Titanic in the dry dock. Here's the pictures!
Sabrina and I found a mural of Martin Luther. Just had to take a picture!
After that we drove to the peace wall (the wall I told you about earlier) and we got to write our names on it. I didn't get a picture of it but it was really high concrete with barbed wire on top. We drove through one of the gates and entered the Catholic side. The murals here were made similar to those in the Protestant section but with the opposite viewpoint. They were proud of the IRA members especially those 10 who died in a hunger strike trying to be classified as political prisoners instead of terrorists.
After the tour Sabrina and I wandered around with a couple of exchange students so the second group could join the tour. Belfast isn't very fun to walk around. It feels a lot dirtier and more unfriendly than Dublin. We did walk to the top of a dome at the mall and looked out over the city.
After the dome we walked to see the leaning clock tower. Apparently this tower started leaning years ago after it had been built. They spend exorbitant amounts of money trying to straighten it but they didn't even succeed in moving it a cm. So sad but it makes for a good picture!
Once we were done wandering we loaded up into the bus and drove back. It was a really long day and I had fun. Though I don't think I want to go to Belfast again. It's not a very pleasant place to wander around because of all the filth and graffiti. I much prefer to wander Dublin's streets than Belfast's. Once we got back to campus I made Sabrina pose with me by the Paddywagon bus. It has a sheep on it too :) Sabrina got mad because it's a really bad picture of her but I'm posting it anyway! Thanks for reading and I'll write more soon.