Did this title give you a sinking feeling? Not to worry, plenty of good things to come…
After leaving the Giants Causeway, we motored on to Belfast. As it worked out, this was one of the more scenic sections of our tour.
Ocean views, populated both by near-empty beaches and rugged cliffs.
Hills, populated by cows who seem to face either uphill or downhill. Saves them having to have legs shorter on one side.
The greens and grays of a landscape, soon to drink again from the sky’s fountain.
The fountain, getting ready to drop the hammer…
… resulting in the emerald green the Emerald Isle is known for.
Incidentally, the name “Emerald Isle” is generally accredited to poet William Drennan for coining the phrase in his 1795 poem When Erin First Rose. However, our guide suggested the name goes back much further than that.
In 1154 the one and only Englishman to become Pope, Nicholas Breakspeare, was elected as Pope Adrian IV. The next year he presented Ireland to the English king, Henry II, as a papal fief or lordship, with himself remaining overlord.
John of Salisbury, one of the few reliable historians of the Middle Ages, wrote: “It was at my prayer that he [Adrian IV] have and conceded to the illustrious King of England, Henry II, Ireland, to be possessed by hereditary right; for by ancient right, according to the Donation of Constantine, all islands are said to belong to the Roman church. Through me, too, did the Pope transmit a golden ring, decked with a single emerald, with which the king’s investiture was to be completed.” Ergo, the Emerald Isle.
And ever since, the English and the Catholics have tried to treat Ireland as if they owned it.
Once arriving in Belfast, a mysterious building was pointed out.
Behind these doors, carefully guarded, is the set for Game of Thrones.
Since it was carefully guarded they wouldn’t let riff-raff like us in, we had to settle for Titanic, Belfast.
Titanic, Belfast is a massive tourist attraction, built on the site where the Titanic was built. Multiple floors of exhibits give a background of some of the folks who built the Titanic or took that ill-fated trip.
I don’t believe there were any artifacts recovered from the Titanic, but exhibits did show samples of what passengers might have carried. There were also exhibits showing and discussing the process of building the ship.
Outside of the building we found the slipway, an unremarkable patch of concrete with a few rails embedded. Off to the side was the Nomadic.
The Nomadic was a tender. Tender what, you might ask?
In this case, tender means fancy water taxi. Since the Titanic was so big, it didn’t fit in a normal boarding slip, it anchored offshore and the Nomadic brought first and second class passengers out to it.
I’m not sure how the third class passengers got out there. Swim, maybe?
Of course, there’s more to Belfast than a Titanic exhibit. In the evening, we walked a bit and found a few interesting spots.
Murals are popular in Belfast. Many are political in nature, but some are just fun, topical art.
And somewhere, there was a magical alleyway that took us back in time…
… to a tavern tied into the way back machine.
However long they’ve survived, the beer was tasty.
We would be remiss if we ignored the elephant in the room. For some time, Belfast was ground central in the clash between the Brits and the Irish Republican Army. I still remember my first trip to Ireland and the European mainland back in 1980. I did the United Kingdom portion of that trip getting from point A to point B via the power of the outstretched thumb. Getting through Belfast back then gave me pause. When some of the vehicles traveling through town were armored troop carriers, complete with gun barrels pointed out armored slots, it seemed wise to simply walk.
We’ve already touched on the Troubles in the Derry or Londonderry post, we will not revisit them. However, there is a wall in Belfast that bears visiting.
Segregation between the Protestants (Nationalists) and the Catholics (Unionists) contributed (and still contributes) to the distrust or even active dislike between the parties; it’s easier to hate someone on the other side of the tracks than the neighbor you see most days. A wall ran down a dividing line between the neighborhoods, both contributing to that distrust and making it a little harder to throw bombs over the backyard fence. When the Good Friday accords helped bring some peace, armed checkpoints between the sides were cleared but the wall remained. These days the wall has taken on a new meaning.
Now it’s called the Peace Wall.
Painted up in a series of murals, it provides both a canvas for artistic expression and literal expression. Covering the wall, by the thousands or even hundreds of thousands, are signatures of folks who have come to visit the wall and plead for peace.
Somewhere, on this section of wall, is my own contribution, and that of my wife.
This will be the last post for Ireland and Northern Ireland. Next up is Scotland.
Or maybe not.
I may take a break before I start that series. I may drop in a few posts from the Northwest. I may not post at all for a bit, I’m seriously backlogged on book reading and instructional videos from other interests. The holidays will be taking up some time. I’m gonna play it by ear, so if I’m a bit intermittent over the next few weeks or not responding to your posts, please be patient. As Arnold said, “I’ll be back.” In the meantime, for those of you in the US, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and for the rest, be happy.