Nola Nerd Couple went on two study abroad during our grad school days. We are going to try writing about those days even though our memories aren’t that fresh. Luckily, we have pictures and those are the best parts about travel blogs anyway! This particular study abroad was to Scotland and Ireland in 2014. The previous blog in this series is located here.
My first impressions of Belfast were formed by movies particularly, In the Name of the Father and The Boxer. In those movies, Belfast was a violent town. It could erupt in a rage in seconds. It seemed super industrial and cold. A place the sun might visit but wouldn’t stay. However, the city, even in this fictional but based on a true story terms, fascinated me. It was a city torn apart by civil war in a developed country. A city, and a region, which was still fighting over Protestant and Catholicism in my lifetime when everywhere else both of those faiths were fighting just to survive. When our study abroad to Ireland and Scotland had Belfast on the itinerary, we were both excited.
Most of the group we traveled with came of age after the Good Friday Agreement. I remember seeing Belfast being war torn on the news. I remember the IRA being presented as a terrorist group by the media in America (which it was, if you take the idea that one group’s terrorist is another groups patriot).
To say, I was apprehensive about going to Belfast is an understatement.
Time changes things.
It was a beautiful, windy day in Belfast. The sun was proving me wrong about my misconceptions of Belfast as soon as we got off the train. The sun was shining and it was chilly for a group from Louisiana. We met our tour guide, Professor Crawford Gribben of the Queen’s University in Belfast, at the Belfast Town Hall. The hall is an impressive structure in and of itself. We then toured the Belfast Library and some other downtown establishments before heading to where the Protestant murals are located.
The murals were often propaganda pieces during the troubles between the Protestants and Catholics. However, the story of the troubles could often be gleaned from the murals. Today, positive images have replaced most of the images of war. There is still a strong pro-British identity in these neighborhoods. (Click the pictures to make them larger!)
We didn’t have time to go to the Catholic neighborhoods. However, we did get to visit Queen’s University and the Ulster Museum. The museum had a fascinating section on the troubles including some films symbolizing how it felt during the troubles. One exhibit, in particular, struck a chord with me and led to me researching the Bloody Sunday bombing in Derry for a later class.
We stopped at a pub and had a few drinks and talked with the locals about New Orleans and Belfast before taking the train back to London.
I wish I could remember more of what we did that day, and by that I mean the conversations we had with Professor Gribben and the people in the pub. However, Belfast is a city I want to visit again and for longer. I say that about most cities but this one is near, if not at the top, of the list.
The city has more stories to tell, whether it is about the Troubles, the Titanic, or Game of Thrones. Belfast deserves to be seen as the city that we saw that July day.