Belfast Day 2 — By: Bridget Bartos
Our day began with an amazing breakfast from Established Coffee, a coffee shop around the corned. Emily and I stumbled upon the trendy shop after taking a wrong turn on our morning adventure walk. I ordered yogurt and granola with peach and basil compote (very fancy and delicious), and a latte. Emily ordered honey and coconut porridge with peach and banana chips. We both happily walked back to our hotel and ate in the lobby, waiting for the tour guides for the morning to arrive.
We took the Black Cab tour starting from our hotel. The guide came at 10 am, and told us a little background about our upcoming adventure. We were going to be traveling through the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, and to the peace wall where we would be highlighting the tensions held and improvements made during the Northern Ireland Conflict. Each cab held eight, so we all piled into the cabs and headed off to the Protestant neighborhoods.
The second we left the city center, you could feel the atmosphere change. The beauty of the city buildings were replaced with wires, fences, and gates as a method of protection from the other side.
We went to the Protestant side first, where we learned about their martyrs, flags, and side of the conflict. They were the majority side in the issue, having about 70% of the land and population. They are part of Great Britain and loyal to the Queen. The streets were uneasy and dark, and houses were covered with flags and murals showing off their standpoint on the issue. I was getting harsh and unwelcoming vibes (maybe because I am Catholic, and felt like I stuck out) (even though I didn’t).
Next we headed to the Peace Wall, or the wall separating the Catholics from the Protestants. The wall was thick, made of concrete and metal. We were able to sign the wall, showing our stance in peace. I felt weird signing something that was supposed to symbolize peace but was actually seperating two different worlds.
The Catholic side of the tour was the most emotional for me. We went into the little neighborhood (only 14 streets) where the conflict memorial was held. All over the walls (and back of the peace wall), there were the faces of people who volunteered to fight. Their names were on a large plaque in a small garden like area, along with names of innocenct people from the neighborhood who were involved in the conflict. Children who were only 4 and 5 were caught in this terrible mess, and that scared me. We also got to see the rubber bullets that were shot at innocents, which freaked me out SO much.
The whole thing was crazy to me, I cannot believe people live in a world that’s so separated by an old war and old ways. I felt like I needed to leave the whole time we were there. I now understand why my great grandma left at such a young age for freedom… I would have done the same.
After doing a quick city hall tour after the emotions, we all decided today was a perfect day for all of our favorite thing…retail therapy!