Apr 22, 2009
In the meantime, the two of us arrived in Belfast by bus and with the help of a really friendly couple we found our Holiday Inn on Ormeau Avenue. In the morning, after a huge Irish breakfast, which is actually the same as English breakfast, we headed for Falls and Shankill Roads, which was supposed to be an easy stroll, but it took us quite a long time on the empty streets of the Belfast suburbs, which didn't make us comfortable at all. There were not many sightseers in this part of town, and those who were there, were on a 'Black Taxi' tour. I believe it's the best thing to do if you want to learn more about this troubled neighbourhoods of Belfast, because the cabbies are the locals who know a lot about the area.
I had printed a map with the exact route to see all the murals in both the Catholic and the Protestant area, together with the so called Peace Line on a road in between. Unfortunately, the map was somewhere in London with Zoran, so I asked at the nearby newsagent's about the way. I just couldn't believe my ears when the newsagent and a customer suggested I shouldn't go there because it wasn't safe, since the people on that side were not as friendly as they were. We went in spite of it, but felt ill at ease all the time - for no apparent reason but prejudice. It's a country still troubled so much by its past. I feel so sorry for them. We didn't see the Peace Line because we just couldn't find it anywhere. But never mind, we always keep something for next time.
The way back to the centre was an easy and a peaceful one. The centre of Belfast is a different story, or at least it seemed to be more cosmopolitan, unprejudiced, open, modern, and oh so full of shoppers - my kind of people and I felt like I was home.
Another really wonderful thing that will always remind me of Belfast was the friendliness and helpfulness of a Holiday Inn receptionist. I didn't know whether I was going to Derry or to Dublin, whether I was going to rent a car in Belfast, Derry or Dublin, if at all, I had so many questions about so many other things concerning our stay in Ireland, but he patiently and kindly answered all of them, made a thousand phone calls, let me use the hotel phone for my private calls without any charge, all with witty remarks to keep me going. And I don't even know his name!