February 21, 2012

If you ever want to raise the ire of the Irish people, just mistakenly categorize them either 1) with the British, 2) from the United Kingdom, or 3) from Northern Ireland.


I definitely knew the details about the Irish conflict at some point in my life, but it had all become very murky in my head up until a few weeks ago when I learned this the hard way…


Kidding! Just being dramatic. I got the scoop from the friendly bus driver of our Belfast bus tour who told us the incredibly interesting history behind the religious and political conflict on the Emerald Isle.


So technically, this little trip was my first international trip during my semester abroad! I was so excited about crossing the border where they even use a completely different currency! POUNDS!

…until 5 minutes later when I realized that I couldn’t buy anything, and the high exchange rate was a pain in the butt.


Anyway, Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, which is a separate country from the Republic of Ireland (capital Dublin). Northern Ireland is part of the UK and largely Protestant. The rest is the Republic of Ireland and mostly Catholic. Contrary to popular belief, Ireland isn’t all jigs and shamrocks and brilliant literature. The island has a long, sad history of conflict, British dominion, and the Irish quest for home rule.

And the Irish will be quite upset if you get these facts mixed up.


Although the town was honestly a little bit lackluster compared to the hustle and bustle of Dublin city, the historical background was so rich and intriguing. Like this church!

It houses the head of St. Oliver Plunkett. Right there. In the case. That’s his head.

I know.


After our pleasant meeting with St. Oliver, we found ourselves at this early Irish monastery that dates over a thousand years old.


This original Celtic cross of the monastery is the largest one still intact (I think).


As I’ve said before, one of the most awe-inspiring things is coming across these ancient landmarks and ruins in Ireland that make everything in young America pale in comparison.



This monolithic Dolman structure dates from the Stone Age! Baby Stonehenge?


Dividing the border between the Protestants and Catholics in Belfast is this peace wall, which really surprised me as a feature that still stands and still continues to serve the same purpose today.




And then there were more new things to be learned! Unless I am the only one who is tragically uninformed…the Titanic was built in Belfast!


Hello famous White Star Line building!


This is the dry dock where it was built. The sheer magnitude of this giant hole in the ground was impossible to capture on camera. Apparently, there are life size golden figures that mark the scale. You can try to find them if you want, but I couldn’t.


Belfast City Hall



Thanks for having us, Northern Ireland


Next stop, London!

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