Being interested in history, culture and everything Irish, we made sure to tour areas in Belfast that were the hot spots during the toughest years in the “Troubles” era. That is not to say that it is over, because there is still a feeling of tension in the air, but my truest hope is that violent hostilities decrease over time. The neighborhoods in Belfast that are most affected aren’t glamourized or depicted in a museum type setting. The walls have murals, almost on every block. There are memorials almost as often, within view of walls the separate neighborhoods and chain-link fences. There are still vacant and bombed out homes mixed in between well maintained ones. If they don’t allow you to understand the fear and chaos, ask the families who live next door to them.
I don’t pretend to understand the deep rooted feelings that exist there, but I try to listen and learn. We took in each story, painting and monument, from a thick Irish brogue which carried years of resentment, frustration and awe. Since we started exploring late in the day and as winter had already set in, night fell fast. I couldn’t digitally capture a good portion of the history that’s so painfully written on the walls, but the experience is burned into my mind.