Before I even start writing this post, I already feel like I am not going to express myself properly. The day tour yesterday was great and our morning stops were really interesting but our main stop of the day, in Belfast, was so different than I expected and a day later I still feel emotional about it.
Like many people, I have heard of Belfast before of the continued religious war, of the violence, etc. but I wasn’t expecting what I saw. For the most part, Belfast seemed like any other modern city. Many of the buildings are new(ish) as they have been repaired or redone since “peace” was brought to Belfast just over ten years ago. When we arrived, we hopped in a black taxi to embark on a “Black Taxi Tour” in which the driver takes you around on a city tour, talking about the problems Belfast has had. We arrived in an area that was much like the projects in American cities; except this was a Protestant only neighborhood. Huge murals covered many of the walls; in this area was eerily quite.
I was surprised at how scared I actually felt. Even today, in Belfast (and in the rest of Northern Ireland) the Protestants and the Catholics don’t mix. Approximately 97% of the city is either one or the other, with only 3% of the city deemed “nutral”. For the most part, people work separately, live separately, go to school separately, etc. One does not go into another neighborhood, etc. The driver said that “kids grown up, hating each other even though they have never met, never seen each others faces”. The hatred is ingrained in them, they are born with it. Hearing that, even in 2011, this is still happening is unbelievable. Its unbelievable to me that people can hate each other for no reason, that two religions (which are both Christian!) can be at such odds with each other. Terrorists attacks happen on a regular basis in Belfast and people live in a constant fear.
Me + the taxi (trying to smile bravely while watching out for anyone suspicious!):
There is a huge (huge!) wall that surrounds some area of the city and just recently they had to extend the wall because attacks were still happening. Gates are still closed at night, keeping each in their own area.