We made the journey to Belfast in Northern Ireland, UK. We have enjoyed the beauty of the surrounding area, and learned much about the region’s political history. To be honest, the past troubles of the area brought a heaviness that I haven’t yet experienced on the trip.
We flew into Belfast on July 14, one day after a “Marching Season” riot took place in the city. For some background, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (with England, Scotland, and Wales). Northern Ireland has a majority population of Unionists and Protestants, who seek continued union with the United Kingdon, and a minority of Republicans and Catholics who seek to join the Republic of Ireland. Each year during the “Marching Season,” the Unionists march to celebrate the victory of the Unionists over those wanting a united Ireland. Sadly the 2015 celebration resulted in clashes including fire bombs, fires on the street, and confrontations with police.
We took the bus from the airport to the city centre, and then walked to our hostel. While looking around we saw smoldering fire piles from 2 nights ago. The size of these fires must have been huge to smolder for two full days. We saw the very large wall that separate the Republican and Unionist sections of the city. After seeing the rough state of the city on our walk to the hostel, Jon and I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.
To gain a deeper insight, we hired a local cab driver, Peter, who lived through the past conflicts of Northern Ireland. I won’t go into the details here, but Peter discussed The Troubles that erupted into a near civil war in Northern Ireland. A peace agreement was made in 1998, which set up a strong roadmap to peace for the region. Peter personally lost close family members in the conflicts, but has a strong hope and belief that the situation is and continues to become much better.
Aside from the riots on the 13th, the region continues to be a peaceful and beautiful place. The people that we have met in Belfast have been very welcoming, and are committed to the ongoing peace in this beautiful region! Today the two sides have laid down their arms, and express themselves in artistic murals throughout the city. While some are rather intense, they provide a unique insight into the region’s past. Check out the photos.
Enough with the heavy stuff! Yesterday we had an amazing day trip out to the Giant’s Causeway. This is an amazing sight of natural beauty, with 40,000 basalt columns that form into hexagonal (six-sided) columns. There is a very interesting geographical explanation for how this happened – feel free to Google it for more details! The 40,000 columns go along the coast cliffs of Northern Ireland – a truly beautiful site. The photos are quite fantastic!
The natural beauty of Northern Ireland is astounding. I’ve never quite seen such lushness in the greenery! If you can make it out to Northern Ireland, I highly recommend it. Tomorrow we hop a bus to Galway City, in western Ireland. Onward and forward!