We spent the morning with a local Belfast tour guide, Rosemary. What a hoot she was! Like the rest though, she was also incredibly knowledgeable and full of good humor.
As in Derry, we learned that it and Belfast were the cities most affected by the violence of the uprising in the early 1970s and beyond. It broke my heart to see what are called the "peace walls" in each city separating protestants from catholics in Derry, and British views from Irish views in Belfast.
In contrast, however, there are sculptures, muralled gable walls, reductions in the walls and a Peace Bridge to honor the peace and prosperity that has replaced the violence. In Belfast, Bill Clinton and George Mitchell are considered saints for what they and the Canadian general (I can't remember his name now) did for creating peace in northern Ireland. As Rosemary put it, instead of terrorists we have tourists now and people here are very happy about it.
She joked that just a few years ago conferences began coming to Belfast, but they came almost as a challenge to see if they could survive the conference. I laughed when she said it, but it is was sad state of affairs. Now Belfast has become a destination city and a safe place to visit.
It was also very sad to be on the the street where thirteen people were shot by British police on Bloody Sunday in 1972 in Derry. There is currently an investigation going on because people don't just want an acknowledgment of what they did, they want prosecution.
In Derry, the government said they will tear down those walls in 2017. In Belfast, it's 2023. Let's hope those awful reminders of hate and separation soon go the way of the dreaded Berlin wall.
Young people are more moderate-minded she said and so there is hope for the future. All over Belfast, though, are flags or colors showing neighborhood leanings: British view or Irish views.
She stated that a mere 1% of people caused all the trouble. Bad news leads the headlines. The peaceful people who live here don't get coverage and they are the majority.
It's the same everywhere really. A few brave souls have the courage to make waves and push boundaries for freedom. Some resent them; many are grateful to them, and everyone honors their ultimate sacrifice.
I pray that one day that sacrifice will not be necessary. Anywhere.
On a big side note, the Titanic was built in Belfast and a beautiful building sits on the site. Game of Thrones is filmed here in Titanic Studios and in Northern Ireland. Extras get paid £50 per day and a speaking extra makes £800 per day plus food.
Now, we've said a tearful goodbye to our Indian friends who left us to visit family. Mariam hugged me and told me I was an inspiration. I can't even express how much she touched my heart. I am honored to have touched hers and helped her in some way.
We're on the ferry now heading back to Glasgow. This is our last day of vacation. Larry never bought himself anything. I am encouraging him to get something in Scotland. We leave for the airport at 10am tomorrow.
Thanks so much for reading this blog and for sharing in our vacation. We had such a good time.
I highly recommend taking an organized tour vacation. Seeing sights only provides one dimension of a place. Without the history, stories and characters you can't get the feel of it.
I can't fully express everything I got from this experience, but I can say that it was well worth what we spent. SLAINTE!