Saturday, November 15, 2014

Belfast: A City Divided

Our drive from Dublin to Belfast was somewhat uneventful...Julie quickly got back in the swing of driving a standard car...and on the other side of the road to boot!  We may have a driving lesson for me at some point...just not in the city with others need to start an international incident.

Before our Black Cab Political Tour of Belfast, we headed over to St. George's Market for a look around and bite of lunch.  The market was definitely the place to be on a Saturday afternoon.  You can buy everything from meat, seafood, vegetables, wool, jewelry and sweets, etc. 
For lunch we had a very tasty mac 'n cheese and seafood chowder.  All of the food served in the St. George's Bar comes from the market vendors.  Farm to Table dining isn't just in the US.

For your listening pleasures, there was a duo performing.  Here's their very slow rendition of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun".  Personally not sure how much fun the girls they're singing about want to have!
For our tour of Belfast, we met up with Ken Harper for a Black Cab Political Tour...a very popular way to see Belfast.  Ken has been giving tours of Belfast for over 20 years and definitely knows the city like the back of his hand.  Not sure if it's just the friendly nature of the people or if he's that popular but it seemed like everyone we passed waved at him.  Note I did not say the friendly nature of the Irish because not everyone in Northern Ireland considers themselves to be Irish.  The Protestants (Unionists) consider themselves to be British subjects while the Catholics (Nationalists) consider themselves to be Irish.  Thus the conflicts of Northern Ireland (Norn Iron).
Ken drove us around the Shankills (Protestant) and The Falls (Catholic) neighborhoods while describing the history of the conflict.  We stopped at several of the political murals...the Irish definitely feel connected with any one person or group of people they believe are oppressed.

Names above the murals represent Irish rebels
imprisoned in the fight for a united Ireland
Belfast is a city divided philosophically and physically.  Throughout the city there is a "Peace Wall" stretching through a large portion of Belfast (and in other towns) to keep the Catholics and Protestants from mischief mostly in the evening hours.  The wall went up in the late 1960's and was only supposed to last a little while but yet it still stands today and each night at dusk, the gates close keeping the factions at bay. 
Walking through the gates of one section of the Peace Wall, you find the Cross of Crosses.  It has 45 crosses representing the 45 years of conflict in Northern Ireland.  There is a plaque that says "let this be the year the conflict ends".
On the Protestant side of the Peace Wall
looking back to the Catholic side.
An office of Sinn Fein (the political arm of the Irish Republican Army) was closed on Saturday but is active during the week.  On the side of their office is a mural of Bobby Sands.  Bobby was a member of the IRA and died in a hunger strike in 1981 while in prison.  The IRA prisoners said they were striking to gain recognition as political prisoners, however, the Protestants and English saw it as a way for them to gain international publicity.  His death sparked more rioting and enrollment in the IRA. 
We stopped off at Church of the Most Holy Redeemer and what a magnificent church.  The church was built in 1911 and in 2011 it closed for a year to undergo £4 million renovation.

Never hurts to have Jesus, Mary and Joseph
looking over you especially when traveling
Ken dropped us off at our hotel and our intent was to take a little nap before heading to the Christmas Market at City Hall.  Note I said the plan was...well, we ended up sleeping into the late hours of the evening and then early morning.  Oh well, we'll catch the Christmas Market in Dublin.

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