Two weeks in Belfast have just flown by. It’s true what they say that time seems to pass faster and faster. While I was there I had my 25th birthday, so that was interesting. A few of the people who like me had longer stays in the hostel ended up taking me out to one of the nearby pubs for a drink which was a bit of a laugh. An Irish girl bought me a half pint of Guinness for my birthday which I managed to drink about an 8th of before getting too full!
On the weekend I jumped on a bus tour that took us all around the north, to a rope bridge that used to be used by fisherman many many years ago, to the Giants Causeway and also to Derry/Londonderry which I’ve already spoken a bit about. It was extremely interesting seeing the history of Northern Ireland and learning more about the troubles that have happened.
I was really lucky with the weather while I was over there, I got quite a few sunshiney warm days and not too much rain either. Even when I went on tours over the weekend, the weather was predicted to be cold rainy and miserable but instead it was predominantly sunshine with a little bit of light rain. When we got to Giants Causeway it did pour down with rain when we first arrived but it didn’t keep going for long. I’ve got a photo somewhere (yet to be downloaded) of me walking down near giants causeway all wrapped up in my waterproof jacket under an umbrella. It is about a ten minute walk to the causeway from the carpark up the top and you can get a little shuttle bus down there if you want to spend a pound each way, but its not really worth it. It is a very easy walk. I got a bit cranky though at one of the bus drivers though because he specifically drove into a puddle (a very very muddy puddle) and covered me in muddy water. I’d managed to avoid getting wet in the rain and then he did that so yes I was slightly annoyed about being covered in mud!
The causeway itself is pretty cool. Legend has it that I think Neil McFinn (don’t quote me on this) was a man with a bit of a temper and looking for a fight he went over to Scotland to start a fight with this Scottish man (lets call him Scotty McLaren for want of a better name). Anyway he got over there and realised that he was much much bigger and that he was going to lose the fight so he kind of ran back home. But because he’d caused so much of a fuss, this Scotty dude was a bit riled up and decided to come over to teach Neil a lesson. Neil then told his wife what he’d done and she said she’d sort it out. So they dragged in a wooden boat that they had outside, dressed Neil up like a baby and put him inside it. Soon enough Scotty comes over and he’s mad, and Neil’s wife tells him that Neil is away, so he is welcome to wait inside the house for him to come home. While he’s waiting there inside the house, he notices the “baby” in the cot and thinks to himself that “how big is the father, if that’s the size of the baby?” makes his excuses and runs home, but in his fear he rips up the road between Northern Ireland and Scotland and the Giants Causeway is all the remnants left of that road.
On the Sunday I decided to explore a bit of Belfast and jumped on a black cab tour with some other people staying at the hostel. They are quite good tours, basically they are local guys from Belfast who were around during all the troubles and they take you around showing you the different murals and telling you the history of the city. I found it really intriguing about the gates in the city which divide the Catholic and Protestant areas. At first I couldn’t get my head around how they worked because I was thinking that someone would be locked in, but no its actually the gates are locked on all the major roads, so it is possible to get in and out of town no matter where you live, but it takes longer and is more difficult. The gates which are like 20 feet high I think or something like that, were brought in to help cut down on the violence and shootings between the different religious groups, making it more difficult. Apparently, before shooters would go into the opposite side, do their thing and be able to get back into their own area within a couple of minutes. With the introduction of the gates, it would take 15-20 minutes to get back to a safe zone so they are exposed for a much longer period of time. The houses on either side of the gates have got cages over the backyards because people used to throw rocks and things over the wall. The people of Belfast were asked in the last few years if they would like the gates to go down, but the majority voted in favour of them remaining as they felt much safer with the gates there.
One thing I definitely did notice while working in Belfast was how almost everyone went to church, that was different and quite cool for it to be the norm in the workplace. It is a different culture to be working in from what I am used to, and quite surprising to be hearing your colleagues to be talking this and that about their church during lunch or tea breaks.
Photos to follow.... (when I get around to downloading them!)