Northern Ireland has had a recent history of violence. I’m not writing my opinion about their past but instead I am just going to tell you what I experienced (saw and learned) while visiting Northern Ireland. I did not know much about Northern Ireland. I only knew about the Titanic, that it’s part of the UK, and that there’s been a lot of conflict there; people would tell me that Belfast is unsafe. But, I wanted to experience and see the country for myself, so I woke up before the sun (5 am) to begin my adventure. Thankfully, the bus ride was 5 hours, so my earphones started to shuffle as my eyes closed.
“Get out your passports,” the bus driver said; you could hear the sarcasm in his voice, but a few people around me started to FREAK trying to find their passports. But you didn’t need them, you didn’t even know you crossed the border, except that the signs were not in Gaelic, and the yellow line was back in the middle, splitting up the sides of the streets. We were in Northern Ireland.
Fact: Titanic Museum opened in 2012 bringing tourism to North Ireland that helped initiate the changes to North Ireland.
The museum was filled with information about Belfast and how, during the time the Titanic set sail, Belfast was a booming city of industry, including ship building. The Titanic helped build the dream for the Irish people to go to America. Spoiler alert: the ship sank. Throughout the whole walk through the museum, I just wanted to sit down, yet there were no benches any place I looked. What if I was 90 years old? So I sat on the floor, and just listened to all the thrilling things and watched as people’s eyes began to widen with a “this is so fascinating” look on their faces. But, all I could think of was how I NEEDED food and how I would eat anything, even if it were on the floor.
It was dark and grey as we walked through the city center; it was like there were still ghosts haunting the streets of Belfast. A wall divided the city, reminding us of what had happened and what is still happening in this dark city. The city not only had a wall dividing it, but there were murals painted everywhere reminding everyone of the turbulent past. But, as I looked closer at the paintings I could see that even if the conflict is not quite over, it seems that Belfast’s future is bright.
Side note: the peace wall was where you saw the hope and people’s desire for change.
As I walked around the city and we came upon replica of Big Ben, but it was only about 6 feet tall and was leaning to the right, I couldn’t help but notice all the different people standing around me. When you’re in a place you’ve never been to before, you do not blend in, you look like a tourist. But, you also notice how others stand out, too. I love to see how people from other cultures dress. For example, I’m use to low pants, cut off shirts, sweatpants, or dressing in businesses wear. But, as I looked around me some women were wearing jumpsuits, while others’ clothes were more classic. I also noticed all the school kids in their Harry Potter looking uniforms, running around the streets, which shows how different Europeans are from Americans. After school I would always go straight home to do homework. It seemed that Europeans were teaching their children to be independent at age 10.
The only city with two names. “It wasn’t all trouble….I wouldn’t change a thing,” our tour guide told us, as he began the tour. He knew people came here to learn about the dark history of Derry; he was 14 years old when bloody Sunday happened. He took us all over the city. He showed us places where the history happened, like the location of bloody Sunday. He also explained to us that the people of Derry are open minded. He told us about a Pastor who was involved in the war (he was the man waving a white flag in the mural); the tour guide explained that the Pastor would often come by and would want to learn everything about each one of us, which is why we would be there all day. “He wouldn’t care about your religion, just about you,” he said. The man explained that even if the people of Derry have their sides, Derry is a welcoming city. He said something that helped me believe that the conflict will end; he said that even if there are different sides the people of Derry are welcoming to everyone and they will not push religion, or their own beliefs on anyone because what you believe is yours. That’s acceptance.
Derry was my favorite part of the tour because of what this man showed us. He was passionate about wanting us to understand that the murals we saw throughout the city represent the changes that are happening in Derry. There was a mural with a picture of a little girl who had died. She was a reminder of the innocence they had lost, but he also pointed to a mural of the Brooklyn Bridge; the bridge seemed random, but he said that the people of Derry were just as strong as that bridge. He helped me understand that despite their differences the people wanted peace, they wanted change. He said how people come to hear about the dark times but there were good times in his beautiful city, and things were looking up, especially with tourism (tourism is allowing things to change).
I recommend going to Belfast and Derry to experience and to understand what was and what is becoming of Northern Ireland.
Besides Belfast and Derry I got to see the coastline of Northern Ireland; it is only 13 miles from Scotland. It, like of all other parts of Ireland, was breath taking. I love being on the edge of the world, surrounded by rolling hills of green, being able to see all kinds of nature (we went from beach to forest green in a day). I loved it.