Last weekend we went to Ireland and Northern Ireland and decided to stop in Belfast for the Black Cab Tour. This tour brings you to the two sides of the conflict, catholic and protestant. I did the tour back in 2000, just after the Good Friday agreements and I remember the eerie atmosphere in the city. Happily to say, this time wounds seem to have healed a bit more. Sadly enough, it looks like it will take at least a couple of generations before the ‘troubles’ are but a distant memory.
When you take the tour, you are driven in a black cab (actually dark green) first to the protestant side where the kerbstones are painted red, white and blue (the British colors). On the sides of many of the houses you will see murals, remembering people and events important for the protestant side. Such as:
King William III was a Dutch prince and stout protestant who defeated his catholic father in law, James II and triumphed in the battle of the Boyne in 1690.
But the references go even further back:
The monk above is Luther, one of the very first protestants. The German text means: here I stand. I can’t do otherwise. God help me.
The murals also depict people who died for the protestant cause:
The next one was painted using a special optical trick you can also observe on some museum paintings where the eyes seem to follow you where ever you walk. Only in this case it is the gun, not the eyes that follow you.
Next, it is off the stop at the wall that divided and still divides certain parts of the city. Just like the Berlin wall, people hope it will one day come down. On the wall you will find messages from visitors all over the world, including Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama.
Behind the wall there are actually people living but not in the best of circumstance. The grills are meant to protect them from Molotov cocktails and other objects that were regularly thrown over the wall.
The tour ends with visits to more murals. This time not linked to either side but to modern day events that effect other parts of the world.
I hope that by the next time I vist (probably 2030) this gate and others like it will have gone.