NORTHERN IRELAND

Belfast: Impressions from a Black Taxi

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What we don’t know about other people could fill the space between us and them.

When I was 14 I visited Ireland with my parents. As we drove around the countryside we enjoyed everything that you are supposed to enjoy on an Ireland trip, namely the beauty of the green countryside. However, things in Belfast, Northern Ireland, while beautiful, are certainly different.

We took a Black Taxi Tour around the city. Our driver had “Love” tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and “Hate” on the knuckles of the other. His face had craters filled with a past that knew the struggles of the city. We drove past a large prison and I’m fairly certain that our driver knew some of the inhabitants.

As we were about to turn onto a street a group of young boys stood in a line in the road blocking us from going straight ahead. I remember thinking that I would die but our driver didn’t make a sound. He just turned around and told us about the next group of murals.

The driver took us to a wall that had separated the Catholic and Protestant sides of the city. Over the years hundreds of people have signed the wall, some with political messages, some with love messages, and some with pictures of breasts. When we got out to take a closer look our driver asked me if I wanted to sign the wall. I said I didn’t because I didn’t feel like I should have been a part of that history. My mom’s family is Irish but I have nothing to do with Irish religious rebellion. This felt the case even more when we got out of the taxi to look at the murals. Faces of the dead live on the walls and at times, it feels, all over the city. You never forget that wars were fought in front of homes.

The city is gray and beautiful.

Written by Rachel Goldfarb

 

Belfast’s Historic Crown Bar: Liquor Saloon

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An absolute not-to-miss stop on any trip to Belfast, the Crown Bar is one of the oldest and most frequented landmarks in the city. Built in 1826, mostly at the hands of skilled Italian craftsmen who had arrived in Northern Ireland to meet the needs of a sharp increase in the demand for the construction of Catholic churches in the area, the bar was constructed with meticulous attention to detail and features eye-catching ornate accents throughout. The bar is still lit by gas lamps which beautifully highlight the embellishments of the bar.

In keeping with Victorian traditions, Crown Bar maintains ten ‘snugs,’ or closed door booths that provide a cozy, secluded nook in which to enjoy a few drinks. The wooden booths are intricately carved with colorful etched and painted glass windows and even come complete with an antique bell system to alert bar servers to your snug when service is needed.

46 Great Victoria Street, Belfast

Belfast: Political Wall Murals

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The sectarian conflict between Irish Catholic Nationalists favoring the unification of the Republic and Unionist Protestant supporters of continued British rule impacted many facets of life in Northern Ireland. The Troubles, as this period of unrest came to be known, literally left its mark on the walls of the city of Belfast. Political murals, serving as both memorials and instruments of propaganda, were put up by both sides. The murals are primarily located by Falls Road, the Catholic area, and Shankill Road, the Protestant area. The easiest way to see the murals is to go on an organized tour, either the more generic double-decker bus city tours or the private taxi tours.