A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend in Belfast with my fellow students. The minute we passed the border, I understood that this was a much different place. One of the first noticeable differences was the currency. When we arrived, many of us went straight to the ATM machine. It was odd that we were not that far from Dublin, but would need Pound Sterling instead of Euro. I began my weekend with a tour of Belfast, and was educated on the religious clash between the Catholics and Protestants. The several murals across the city were a clear indicator the amount of history that has taken place here, and the religious and political tension that still exists within the region.
We visited the Parliament building, where we took an extensive tour around the structure, and even sat in the Senate chamber. As much as I wanted to experience the Titanic museum, this was extremely beneficial, since I was completely unfamiliar with the government in Belfast. Seeing the Parliament building firsthand helped to bridge some of the gaps in my understanding why the country is politically divided.
The next day, we traveled to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giants Causeway, which was my favorite part of the entire weekend. The scenery in Ireland seems to be infinite, as I was able to experience another set of amazing views into the coast and mountains. I was even able to see the coast of Scotland from one of the areas in which I was standing.
Lastly, we traveled for a day trip in County Derry, and took a tour which involved the historic and unforgettable site of ‘Bloody Sunday,’ which killed 13 innocent individuals during a protest. The emotional tour guide gave me a true sense of how the locals in Derry feel towards the incident, and how they are in hope of justification in the near future.
Overall, I had a memorable time in Northern Ireland, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my experience abroad. The London-esque environment was a pleasant change of scenery, with British flags, a new currency, and curbs painted red, blue, and white to signify British dominance. I hope to be able to visit Belfast and all of Northern Ireland again, so that I may experience more of its beauty and build on the knowledge that I now have regarding its history.