We arrived in Dublin safely, on time, without a hitch at all, from a smooth and empty flight and into one of my favorite things: misty, fresh air. Nothing feels better after a long flight than stepping out of the airport and in to Ireland. It is truly one of my favorite moments in my whole life.
By 5:40 in the morning, we had coffee in hand, in our rental car and were speeding North in the pitch black morning, remembering that in Ireland, it doesn’t get light out until after 8:00 am in winter!
I have been to Ireland over a dozen times, in addition to my study abroad there, but I had never crossed the border into Northern Ireland, a place that has seen its share of tumultuous political and religious issues, sectarian violence, and for parts of its history, been a war zone, disputed over its rightful ownership.
My husband, on the other hand, had been to the North in his youth, and with memories of soldiers with machine guns on every corner, looked forward to visiting a Belfast at peace.
Our first stop was the shipyard of Harland and Wolff to view its massive cranes, Samson and Goliath. You will see the H & W on the yellow crane in the background, known for the most famous vessel built there, the Titanic.
After we checked out the launching site of the Titanic, we wandered downtown Belfast, had a cappuccino, and enjoyed the mix of history and cosmopolitan charm the city has to offer.
And before we left town, we drove through the Falls Road area of Belfast, a predominantly Catholic, republican area of the city and one that, even at first glance, is extremely depressed. This area is known for its political murals, and while I have read and studied Irish history throughout my life, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the weight of the history that is still going on in this place.
Falls Road is a rough area, and I did my best to capture photos without being obvious.
Some murals remembered hunger strikers like Bobby Sands.
Others called for the youth of the country to rise up.
And others remembered the victims of the years of violence. These murals were across the street from peoples’ homes. Eric and I wondered what it would be like to be faced with this every time you leave your home.
I have always had my own opinions on the situation in Northern Ireland, and as someone who grew up in Ireland, my husband has always had his own as well. Unfortunately, as we were driving out of Belfast, we learned that the peace we had spoken so hopefully about, peace that seemed to be making progress, had been disrupted just hours earlier with a bomb placed on one of the very streets we had driven down. Hours later, we learned of a second bomb and counted our lucky stars these did not go off.
On our beautiful drive further North, we listened to the BBC on the radio and to discussions from both sides on the issues of Northern Ireland. It is such an incredibly complicated situation that I just do not know what to say.
We had a weighty but also beautiful and life-changing first day to our holiday. There is so much more to come. . . I hope you enjoy my guest posts in the meantime!