As much as I’d love to be able to share my adventure in one blog post, I simply have way too much information, so I think 3 separate posts would make a lot more sense. Hang on tight, because here I go.
Alrighty, so we (my housemate Erin and I) booked a 3 day, 2 night weekend trip through Paddywagon tours to Northern Ireland. We got a pretty sweet deal of only 109 Euros which included the bus, 2 nights of hostel accommodations, 2 breakfasts and a few different sights and whatnot. the bus left from the main station in Limerick, so a group of us took a taxi there early Friday morning where we met the bus. The trip up to Belfast was about 6 hours if not more, not including a stop for food and another for quick refreshments and such.
Our first stop of the tour was the Belfast Titanic Experience. Basically, it’s a big museum in Belfast harbour that sits right on the site where the RMS Titanic was built. In fact, just a block away from the museum are the 2 original cranes used for construction. They are no longer in use, but members of the city protested against them being taken down and now they stand as a historical site for the Titanic. The museum itself was super interesting and had everything from the construction, the launching, the layout and blueprint of the boat to the last radio transmissions and letters found at sea. I think my favourite part of the whole thing was the video room where they showed video footage of the Titanic wreck underwater which allowed a pretty good view of the wreckage and what it looks like now.
After this we paid a little extra and went on a Black Taxi tour of Belfast, one of the main cities in Northern Ireland. Now I personally knew very little about the history of Northern Ireland, but I sure got my eyes opened. For those on the same page as me, Northern Ireland (a separate country from Ireland, and part of the UK) was very much divided by Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Unionists. This segregation is still prominent in Belfast. Belfast is separated by a “Peace Wall” which divides the Protestant community from the Catholic community. The most shocking part to me was the fact that this wall locks up all of the gates that allow transportation through the city are closed every night because both sides don’t trust one another. The amount of propaganda in these communities is ridiculous. There are murals everywhere, some of which are pretty graphic, painted on the sides of houses, on roofs, and businesses that just don’t seem appropriate especially in this day and age. Unfortunately we only saw a few murals, but I did some research and the results are endless. The Black Taxi tour guide taught us about most of the history and the tension that still looms in the city and many other parts of Northern Ireland. In fact, the day before our tour there was a shooting in an area we visited, by two civilians who thought it was their responsibility to take care of this man who’d been causing issues on their side of the wall (no, he was not killed, they shot him 4 times in the leg). This is a common occurrence as many civilians become involved with paramilitary groups such as PIRA, UVF, RHC, LVF, etc. (google them, it’ll be easier) and take control of areas of the communities.
To end the day, we headed to our hostel which was pretty crappy to be honest. Our room had 4 bunk beds (8 people) and terrible lighting. To add, there were also only 2 outlets for all 8 of us to charge up our phones and cameras. We went out for dinner at a little pub called Ryan’s which was pretty good and then called it a day and went to bed.
Stay tuned for part 2 & 3! Cheers!