By Holly Harestad
It was hard to know what to expect when entering into a completely new country and territory. On the plane, I got to thinking how different the culture and history would be from what I am used to knowing and experiencing. It wasn’t until I was off the plane, in line to go through customs, that it hit me how different things would be here. I was more than excited to learn more. The first place I got a taste of Irish lifestyle and culture was on our first taxi ride over to our hotel. He explained to us how much the Irish love their beer, some terms that they use that aren’t in America, and showed us the best pubs to stop by. I noticed how friendly and genuine he seemed as well as the other Irish people helping us to get accommodated and settled in. The next morning, we woke up and walked over to St. George’s Market, home to the best weekend only food you will ever lay your eyes on. Between the healthy quinoa and the free salted caramel brownie samples, it quickly became my new favorite Irish spot.
That is until we discovered the pub “The Dirty Onion”, then it became a close second. The next day, we traveled on our first bus tour! It felt exactly like I thought it would being on top of an open top tour bus, traveling through Europe (except for those 30 mph winds on the highways). They took us by the Parliament, explained that this used to be one of the most bombed cities during the War, and other interesting facts and sites. I was just in total shock that some of the hotels and buildings we were five feet from, used to be attacked so heavily. It really is kind of hard to wrap my head around. It is an eye opener because I couldn’t name one place that I have visited in the United States that had any sort of history, especially bombings as recent as theirs. And that is why I think that it was such a crazy thing to hear and think about. We woke up early the next day to hop into our black cab tour, as I mentioned before, every Irish person we had encountered were extremely lively and all had such positive outlooks to them. What I wasn’t ready for, was the separation between Protestants and Catholics that still lives in the city of Belfast to this day. How could people that are so happy and lively, be so divided at the same time? As we carried on with the tour, our guide explained more in depth and showed us murals of famous hitman that have died murdering others for their beliefs. I really have never seen anything like that. How could someone who is said to be religious, be praising someone who has murdered others? We were then taken to a three mile, brick, fenced off, and “mandatory” peace wall. The peace wall was to mandate the hatred between the two religions.
Although it represented a really conflicted division, the writings on the wall were some of the most inspirational and moving quotes I have ever read. They came from all over the world, from the famous to the non famous, everyone seemed to have the same common emotion towards the wall, take it down and keep the peace. Easier said than done though, I’ve learned. The bricks, golf balls, bullets, etc that are thrown over, at, and directly for the peace wall are all events that still occur to this day.
Already, this trip has been more fun, more eye opening, and more adventurous than I could’ve imagined. I can’t wait to see what the next six weeks have in store for me!