Turmoil and suspicion in the north.
Belfast Travel Blog› entry 2 of 26 › view all entries
Heading into Northern Ireland was very odd. Once again my police ID helped smooth the way as I went through the border. The country is still in the grips of terror and I saw several graffiti slogans as the train came closer to IRA country.
Belfast must be the quietest city in the world. No public vehicles are allowed in the centre and this means the only traffic noise is from the busses as they circle the streets and drop off people bundled against the cold. Nobody I saw said a word as they wandered about the streets to do their shopping.
Above the main street the dome of city hall had a banner proclaiming "Belfast says NO to violence" but to get into the centre one must negotiate police checkpoints.
The one-way system is guarded by gates and tipping barriers.
I decided I needed some gloves and went in search of a store where I could purchase a pair. I came across a Scout shop that I knew would be just the place.
I couldn't get into the Scout Shop to do my shopping and I thought they must have been shut , yet I could see the place was well lit and figured they were away at lunch. I was even more confused when just as I was about to leave the door was unlocked for me. The shop assistant then escorted me around the shop, helped me with finding and purchasing my gloves then unlocked the door to let me out.
What a way to live!
I decided to find somewhere for lunch and found a quiet little cafe where I had a cup of coffee at a table by the window.
After taking my photo I finished my coffee and decided eating on the run might be the best option. I purchased a salad roll and headed off with thanks in my heart that I didn't have to work in this town.
As I enjoyed my roll I wandered quietly along doing some window shopping. I was wandering through a covered arcade and turned away from the glass shop front to be startled by a soldier creeping through right beside me. I guess I was still a bit worried about my spying but I jumped mostly because I hadn't even heard him.
Then I noticed his mates, there were 5 soldiers all about me, doing their patrol of the center. As they approached the end of the arcade they took up positions of point where they were able to offer cover to each other as they were collected by their armoured Land Rover.
It crossed my mind that they believed they could be ambushed right here and that I was only a 1/2 dozen paces behind them. Now that was seriously freaky!