When you visit a new place, you don’t really think about some of the things that happened in the past for that place to get to where it is today. No knowledge of the hardships, the pain, or the suffering that people went through. Today, I learned about those hardships, I learned about the pain, and I learned about the suffering that Belfast, Northern Ireland experienced.
Today, my classmates and I went on the black cab tour. There we were; 21 students piled into 3 cabs. I didn’t expect any of what came when we first got out of those cabs. The cab took us to the Protestant neighborhood (Shankill), and the Catholic neighborhood (the Falls). The neighborhoods are divided by a HUGE wall known as the Peace wall which stretches over 21 miles. The Protestants and the Catholics did not get along; they had different beliefs and views. They killed each other, threw rocks and bottles over the wall in hopes of hitting someone or breaking a window (this still happens today), and so much more. Our tour guide told us about a Catholic woman who walked to the convenient store and was shot not once, not twice, but five times (1 to the stomach and 5 to the face). They shot the Catholics in the face because they have open casket funerals. Many others were shot and killed with plastic and rubber bullets (these bullets are not meant to kill people).
In both the Protestant and Catholic areas, there are murals painted on buildings and walls to honor the fallen heroes that died during the time of The Troubles. What was crazy for me to think about was how a hero to a Catholic was an enemy to the Protestant and vice versa.
The Peace wall is filled with graffiti and signatures of people from around the world giving their support for peace between the neighborhoods. Even celebrities like Justin Bieber and Bill Clinton signed the wall! Us students were able to sign the wall which was awesome. It warmed my heart reading all of the support that people gave to this city. The wall was once plain concrete and looked depressing, so people starting to fill it with art/graffiti. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful some of these messages were; it gave these people hope.
The black cab tour changed my whole outlook on Belfast; I had no clue what this city went through. With locals filling the streets, the pubs, and the shopping centers, I assumed Belfast was a nice small city with friendly people. I am honored to have been able to hear the stories of what went on in the past, and to have been able to gain some knowledge on Northern Ireland. I only hope that one day they can take the wall down and stop dividing one another, but rather join one another. They aren’t lying when they say “don’t judge a book by its cover”, that’s forsure.