the Albert Memorial Clock Tower in Belfast honors the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria (like every other Victorian-era monument anywhere in the British Empire). completed in 1870, it was built on wooden piles on marshy ground over the River Farset just before it joins the River Lagan. consequently, it leans four feet, which you can’t quite tell from these pictures. at one point, the base of the tower was quite popular for a certain character of women to offer their wares. it’s a straight shot down to the River Lagan, over the weir to the docks, and a large plaza to the west next to the customs house. there’s a large fountain in the plaza to the east of the tower (the kind that shoots water up at different heights in different patterns) and as we walked by there were a pair of sisters playing in the water, tempting fate to get a soaking.
on my walking tour of Belfast, since it was early afternoon, we popped in to the Duke of York pub, just around the corner from St. Anne’s Cathedral. the area surrounding the pub was once the hub of newspaper publishing in Belfast. the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News, and Sunday World are still located in the area and paraphernalia from the old presses hang on the walls of the Duke of York. (see the first photo)
they also have quite a collection of whiskey signs, most notably here, Old Bushmill’s, which is distilled on in Bushmills on the Antrim Coast.
the Crown Bar Liquor Saloon over the road from the Hotel Europa is also quite something to behold, and worth a look if you’re in Belfast. it has the best snugs I saw anywhere in my travels, and they were all filled up when I stopped in for dinner. because it’s just across from the Hotel Europa, it suffered repeated damage from bomb blasts. but through it all it survived and provides a visual feast to go with your pint of Guinness or tumbler of whiskey.
one of the many pubs claiming “oldest” something, this one in Belfast.
many of the older establishments are hidden in back alleys, for reasons dating to initial phases of settlement and plantation. because of the proximity to Scotland, many of the earliest non-native Irish settlers to Northern Ireland were of conservative Scot persuasion. with them, these Scots brought certain ideas about the display of vices. in other words, the enjoyment of spirits had to go on in back alleys where nosy neighbors or religious leaders wouldn’t spot you succumbing to vice. as an additional consequence, often situated next to these pubs were gambling halls. immediately to my left as i took this picture was a Paddy Power betting spot. (which, i just discovered, is the official betting partner of RTE, Ireland’s national television and radio broadcaster.) stand in front of a pub pretty much anywhere and there’ll be a betting hall within sight.
more to come …
i may be back from Ireland, but never fear, dear readers, anecdotes are yet to come. and this time, with pictures! first up, Belfast.
murals became an opportunity to express political opinions, to vent frustration, and to honor those who died during The Troubles. they’re painted on the ends of buildings all along Falls Road (Republican), Shankill Road (Loyalist), and Sandy Row (Loyalist)
this first one, painted on the end of a row of houses that also hosts a Sinn Fein bookstore in Falls Road, honors the memory of Bobby Sands, an IRA activist and MP who died while on hunger strike in 1981. the protest arose from the end of Special Category Status–a policy wherein political prisoners were treated similar to those of war and not required to do certain chores or required to wear prison garb. ultimately, 10 people died while on hunger strike in 1981 and Thatcher was not moved.
this second photo, also along Falls Road, illustrates more contemporary political themes. whereas the murals in Derry are more artistic in nature (illustrating specific events and completed by artists), those in Belfast are more subject to change to address political issues, particularly those of disenfranchised or repressed peoples. the ones along this wall included one on Cuba, one on the Basque region in Spain, and a protest of racist treatment.
this final picture is as you enter Sandy Row, a unionist stronghold nearer the center of Belfast. (Shankill Road radiates west, Falls Road roughly southwest). it echos the mural in the Bogside proclaiming Free Derry (more on that to come).
finally, a mural from Shankill Road honoring members of the Ulster Volunteer Force. the hand in the middle (seen here in both red and gold) is the symbol of Ulster. you’ll often see flags depicting the red hand of Ulster on a white background with red cross as a symbol of unionist sentiments. all along Shankill Road this day, in addition to flags with the red hand of Ulster, there were Union Jack banners running between street lights.
there may be peace, but, as i mentioned in a previous post, that doesn’t mean that problems are solved or wounds are healed. there is still occassion to have the “peace wall”, which runs through the middle of neighborhoods along Falls Road and Shankill Road.
today was one for comparisons. after exploring the city centre this morning and popping in to the St. George’s Market, i took the bus out to Milltown Cemetery in the Falls Road, or the heart of Republican West Belfast. there is a memorial to volunteers who have died in action, accidentally, however, as well as one to the people who died in 1981 while on hunger strike protesting the fact the classification as ‘terrorists’ rather than political prisoners. later in the day, i took a bus up Shankill Road, which is the heart of Loyalist West Belfast. murals all over the place in both areas, which are divided by a metal fence called the ‘Peace Wall.’ also took a rather comprehensive walking tour of historic Belfast.
and now i’m out of internet time.
more to come … eventually. 🙂
survived my flights. the guy sitting next to me on the flight from ORD to FRA was Muslim and took time out and prayed twice during the flight. the Frankfort airport was unlike anything I’ve experienced in Europe before, but maybe I just don’t travel enough in Europe (many of the gates are just ‘gateways’ and you take a shuttle out on the tarmac to actually board the plane — more like what I experienced traveling to Venezuela).
took an earlier bus to Belfast, so I walked around the city centre while waiting to meet up with Nico. the City Hall is still under renovation, so there won’t be a tour tomorrow. the bus centre is behind the Hotel Europa, which is/was the most bombed hotel/building (the language is upstairs at the moment) in Europe during the Troubles. Wouldn’t necessarily know it now, though I didn’t go inside. the two French girls staying in the same room as me say that central Belfast is pretty standard as far as city centers go, and it’s once you get out west of the city that things get more interesting — Shankill Road, Sandy Row, etc. saw one Loyalist mural near the bus depot, and i’m planning to head out to Falls Road for a bit tomorrow.
went to the bus centre to meet up with Nico at the time the bus i was *supposed* to be on got in. waited about 50 minutes but she didn’t come, or i didn’t see her. caught a cab down here and booked a bed. the place is clean, but more ‘hotel-y’ than ‘hostel-y’, as the French girls observed. they spent 12 days traveling from Derry to Belfast by thumb and it sounds like they had a great time. not necessarily something that i’d ever want to do, but all the positive things they had to say about all the people they’ve met give me cause to think this will be a great two weeks.
hasta … ?