Belfast, at last

Belfast Travel Blog

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City Hall
A day's worth of buses, ferries and always more buses, carried me to a flooded, dark and dripping Belfast without any clue as to where I'd be staying. Whether or not my couchsurfing efforts were in vain remained a mystery after a full day of traveling without access to internet. Luckily, for the first time on my trip, I was traveling with an guidebook in tow, thanks to the guy from the Dublin hostel that left it in my care. A new world of information unfolded before my eyes. Instead of simply standing and gawking with the other tourists, taking pictures because that's what I was supposed to do, I knew what, exactly, it was that I was gawking at. And, more importantly, why it was worthy of gaping. The book also reimbursed me for hauling around its weighty bulkiness (or bulky weightiness, if you fancy) by providing the numbers of hostels.
Sean, my host
One quick phone call and I was off to Arnie's Backpackers and out of the rain.

I only had to spend one night at the hostel because a couchsurfer had indeed written back. Sean is a Belfast-born but New York City-raised Irishman and my host for the next few days. It coincidentally was a stressful, busy week for Sean, but I did alright to go about the city alone by day and join him for dinner and never-ending conversations by night. My last night there also happened to be his birthday, so we celebrated with a little ice cream and cake. It was the least I could do. Despite his stress, we seemed to click well and I was (as usual) grateful for a comfortable place to stay and interesting person to meet.

Belfast itself is also historically very interesting, as a city that sits in limbo between the Irish and British worlds.
The Peace Line
"The Troubles," technically, ended 10 years ago when the Catholics and Protestants signed the Good Friday agreement and most of the major acts of violence were put to rest. Evidence of the civil division still remains, however, like the political murals that fill the Catholic republicans' neighborhood along Falls Road or the Protestant Loyalists' of Shankhill Road. And the two infamous neighborhoods are separated by a wall, ironically dubbed the "Peace Line."

I'm fascinated by historical events that my own generation has experienced, and being able to talk to people in those regions about them. Like the countries of the former Soviet Bloc, there's a level or surreality that comes with visiting a place I can remember thinking as a girl would forever be off limits to me.
The Titanic was built by those cranes


The murals and territorially-painted curbs are limited to certain neighborhoods, and as you walk down the main shopping streets of the center, you can almost forget that there was ever an issue. But there's still something ambiguously coarse about the city. Maybe it's the kids. I'm not going to lie, they scare me a bit. They collect in little gangs outside of storefronts and on street corners. Wearing their track suits (the manufacturing of which, I'm convinced, has been kept alive by residents of the UK) and bellowing curse words at another little gang on the other side of the street.

There's a mysterious large, berry type of fruit that grows on bushes lining the river walkway and around the city. I now know they exist for the sole purpose of giving these little hoodlums ammo and had the personal pleasure of seeing one or two whiz by my head as I walked away. I luckily escaped, however, without a direct hit and could drop the internal debate on the appropriateness of clocking a little kid.
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City Hall
City Hall
Sean, my host
Sean, my host
The Peace Line
The Peace Line
The Titanic was built by those cra…
The Titanic was built by those cr…
Mural on Catholic side of main IRA…
Mural on Catholic side of main IR…
Leaning tower of Albert Memorial C…
Leaning tower of Albert Memorial …
political murals
political murals
painted curb in a Loyalist (protes…
painted curb in a Loyalist (prote…
mural on protestant side
mural on protestant side
protestant side
protestant side
Belfast
photo by: vulindlela