Aug 30


Yesterday was a travel day. I believe we used all main forms of transportation except an airplane. We took a taxi from the Hilton to as close to the train station as the driver could get on account of the construction. We walked to the station and boarded a train for Ayr. Once we got off in Ayr, we bought tickets for an hour and 15 minute bus ride to the ferry terminal. I got a bit bus sick and so did Ryder; the bus was so full we didn’t get seats together. Luckily both of us slept a bit which helped me avoid being actually sick all over the girl next to me. We arrived at the ferry station, bought some lunch, and boarded the ferry to Belfast, Ireland. The ferry ride was about two and a half hours in total, and boy was it rocky. By the time we had reached our port, both of us were feeling a bit queasy.

We got into Belfast at about 5:45pm and caught another taxi to our hotel. Our taxi driver, and his taxi, were an interesting experience. He told us he likes Americans but hates America…luckily it was a short taxi ride. We checked in, got dinner, and settled in for the night.

Today we got up a bit late and walked down a few streets from our hotel to a nice coffee/sandwich shop for lunch/breakfast. After eating our fill, we decided to take a tour of the city recommended to us by the hotel staff called the “Black Taxi Tours.” We booked a taxi and were picked up at our hotel by Frank in blue taxi. Go figure. The tour lasted about an hour and took us into the heart of Belfast and the turmoil surrounding the Catholic and Protestant communities in the city.

The tour took us through the first of five gates through the peace wall that divides the two communities, built in the hope of stemming the violence that began in the mid 1980s. We started on the Protestant side, viewing the many murals of fallen “volunteer” soldiers for the Protestants, and digesting a quick history of the fighting during that time leading up to today. I was struck to my core to see the number of people who died, especially children, during the first outbreak of violence in the area where the two communities mixed. A large memorial was in place on the Catholic side of the wall in honor of those who died. It was so horribly sad that so many young men and women lost their lives over two religions that teach peace. We took a moment at one of the stops to sign the peace wall and then toured a bit more of the Catholic side.

Our driver took us to another mural that was full of rows upon rows of images and dates for those who were murdered during the various uprisings. He pointed out two people who he knew intimately, one a friend from school and the other his wife’s cousin, who lost their lives not so very long ago because they were Catholic. The entire experience was very sobering and reminded me of the other acts of violence all over the world because of religious differences.

We were dropped off at the end at the second oldest pub in Ireland where we went in and got a drink (one Guinness each!). The pub was VERY ornate with a tiled floor, carved ceiling, pillars, and stained glass everywhere. We drank our beers, taking in the old, musty pub smell and snatches of the irish accent. After, we headed out to the brand new Titanic Exhibit that just opened in Belfast.

The Titanic exhibit was really very great as far as museums go. We were able to view the shipping yard where the Titanic was actually built. The museum provided background into the maritime history of Belfast and the events that lead up to the creation of such a huge and inspiring ship. There was a small ride (like in Disneyland) through a bit of the museum and lots of interactive boards. At the end of the museum was a massive screen (think IMAX) with a looped recording of the sunken ship at the bottom of the Atlantic. All in all, probably the best museum I’ve ever visited!

We headed back to the hotel for some chow and settled in for the night!

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