This weekend Champlain Abroad Dublin took a 2-day trip to Northern Ireland. We left early Friday morning and arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland in just a few hours. On our drive up, Dublin staff gave us a mini history lesson about Northern Ireland and its’ tumultuous past. We learned that The Troubles; a violent part of Northern Ireland’s history began in the 1960s because the Catholics felt the Protestants were discriminating against them because of their choice of religion. Not only that, but there were strong feelings on both sides on whether Northern Ireland should stay a part of the United Kingdom or return to being part of Ireland. On both sides there were Loyalists (those loyal to the British) and then there were Unionists (those fighting to keep Ireland whole). Soon, both sides erupted in anger and began protesting and consequently violent uprisings and attacks soon followed on both sides. Later in the 1970s, both sides began bombing the other and soon an infamous event known as “Bloody Sunday” occurred. (Which you may know from a U2 song) All of this history is packed into the city that is Belfast and not only were we able to learn about it, we actually had the chance to witness some of the areas of the city where this history took place.
At our first stop in Belfast we started our day off with political taxi tours of the city. The taxi tours are done by people who lived through The Troubles and the violent events that followed in Belfasts’ history. The taxi drivers took us to different parts of the city, both on the Catholic and Protestant sides. We were able to see memorials and murals that had been created on both sides for those who were killed during violent attacks, bombings, and other terrible events. Each taxi driver had his own story and we were all able to hear about Belfast’s history from multiple perspectives. We also made a stop at the Belfast Peace Wall, where we were able to see the how the city is divided and segregated between Christians and Protestants. The wall is covered in beautiful graffiti art and throughout it there are words and quotes of peace written on it by visitors and locals alike. We all had the chance to sign the wall with our names or a kind word to leave behind.
We spent the second half of our day at the Titanic Museum, which is conveniently located in Belfast, which, fun fact, is where the Titanic was built! Next to the museum there is an area where pillars mark the exact spot where the Titanic was built. Inside, the museum begins with some of Belfast’s industries at the time and progresses to the history of the telegraph and then to the history of the Titanic and the tragedy that happened over 100 years ago. There’s even an amusement ride that takes you through the building of Titanic and what the builders went through every day to create this massive ship. The museum has replicas of what rooms looked like on the ship, videos of the interior of the ship, and plenty of interactive activities to learn more about the people who were on the Titanic and survived the voyage. Even after that there is a theatre room where they show underwater footage of the Titanic and what they discovered from it. Overall the museum was really fascinating and as a history buff, I particularly enjoyed learning more about the history of both Belfast and the Titanic.
Our trip to Belfast was not just another check off the list of countries I’ve visited, but a live history lesson. The political taxi tours we took were extremely eye opening and left me with a much better understanding of Belfast’s history. Along with that the tour of the Titanic museum was a great way to see history relived through such interactive platforms. I learned more this weekend than I could have from reading a book or watching a documentary.
After this weekend, I am definitely looking forward to our next trip, which is all the way to Western Ireland in April!
Until next time!
You can also follow my travels and thoughts on Instagram and Twitter @karisachan
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