We split our time in West Belfast in two, spending two afternoons walking along one of each main areas, which are actually very very close together, separated by 'peace walls' of which there are dozens in Belfast, and many of them still get closed down at night to prevent any further trouble between the communities.

Guidebooks told me that I should be surprised by the bad state of things, boarded up houses etc in the catholic area of the Falls, but it was actually much neater than expected. Things changed dramatically as soon as we crossed the peace wall - the only shops open in Shankill are pubs, a few covenience stores and the occasional fish & chip shop. The atmosphere was destinctly different and unlike in the Falls, where nobody really took notice of us, we had people staring at us here, especially at Celine (while I can pass for Irish with dark hair and green eyes, my friend Celine, who is from Hong Kong, cannot ;) ). We definitely did not feel welcome there, and the whole experience made me feel pretty sick.
I was very surprised to see this Martin Luther mural, as the reform of the church in the UK has nothing to do with him, but the crazyness of Henry VIII.

the lion-dog and deer-unicorn of Ulster (they take on different appearances in different images)

I'm sure that's not what Bryan Adams was singing about.

creepyness is a long established tradition in Ulster

Downing Street, a sinking ship?

just your average neighbourhood pub. Yes, it's always decorated like this.
See, I grew up in a protestant family, in an area of Germany that is 90% catholic. I was almost kicked out of primary school because I refused to make the sign of the cross (it was a public, but catholic church with prayers every morning). When I came out as a teenager and my catholic classmates' parents found out, I was no longer welcome in their houses ('It was bad enough that your family is working class, protestant and socialist, but gay?' - is what one mother told me).

In general, I think the UK is pretty rad, otherwise I wouldn't still pay tax there. So I should be able to empathise with the Unionists at least a little, but the extreme display of Union Jacks, the constant marching through the city and all that... fierce British nationalism... sickens me (particularly as a German!) and is one of the top reasons why I'll leave Northern Ireland pretty soon.

We also ended up on Crumlin Road, which is home to a giant old linen mill building, the Crumlin Road Prison, which is still in use, and the burnt-out remains of the Court House. Seeing this building, which must have been one of the most beautiful in Europe at some point in this state really broke my heart. Seriously, the city has the money to build a ten million pound 'Titanic Experience', a gorgeous new art centre and fancy shopping centres, but not to restore this masterpiece of architecture?

breaking the architecture-loving heart
Belfast, you make my very very sad. If you've been, how did Belfast make you feel?

One Comment

  1. I toured West Belfast with an ex-IRA fighter, now offering tours to the tourists... He re-created the whole atmosphere, for him each corner or wall was a bullet or an Irish martyr. Although everything was neat, as you say, it reminded me traveling through a war-torn Bosnia in 1997... and despite everything was quiet, I felt tension in the air and in the eyes of the people... I felt similarly in Cairo on January 14, 2011... just 11 days before the start of the Revolution


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