The memory of “the troubles” in Northern Ireland’s not-so-distant past is ever-present in Belfast, like the lingering tang of copper in your mouth after losing a tooth. It’s not dangerous or angry anymore, and tour guides constantly make sly references to it, some frank, some teasing, but it’s still there on everyone’s minds.
Belfast was probably my favorite solo trip. I stayed at a super chill youth hostel in the student quarter. I made friends at the hostel and we went out and saw an Irish band perform everything from “Galway Girl” and “Molly Malone” to a very Irish “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” And I had some really delicious fish’n’chips in Belfast.
My new friend Anna and I spent the next morning at the Titanic Museum. As it was built to be the same height as the Titanic, it was really, really immense. The exhibit was interactive (meaning it wasn’t boring), and it even had a small ride through the building of the ship.
Murals. What I had been most looking forward to about Belfast. The tour bus took us down Shankill and Falls roads and the wall dividing the heavily Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, as well as the Gaeltacht (the area of the city where the Irish language is being revived) and other neighborhoods. There are still intimidating murals with masked gunmen in loyalist neighborhoods, but far more prevalent are murals promoting peace in globally and in local neighborhoods.
I found Belfast to be a vibrant city with a fascinating history, and besides that, lots of fun.