By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #27
Belfast was particularly interesting. We arrived there on July 4thamid the unrest that takes place annually during the first couple of weeks in July. Demonstrations take place among Catholics and Protestants, each demanding the right to march through the other's neighborhoods. As we came through the city we were stopped at a road block by a Protestant demonstration. The demonstrators did not want to let us through. We were soon surrounded by a bevy of flack jacketed policemen and an armored truck was moved in. After a period of about 25 minutes, the police sergeant in charge was able to persuade the demonstrators to let us through.
On a tour we passed back and forth between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. We were told that each year violence begins early in July with street demonstrations, which as we mentioned, we personally encountered. Murals are painted on houses and walls by both persuasions, each side celebrating their struggles against the other side, and featuring martyrs and armed force. The buildup in passions continues through July 12, which marks the anniversary of the the landing (invasion) of the Protestant Prince William of Orange and the subsequent Battle of Boyne around 1680, where William of Orange defeated Oliver Cromwell's British Army (Catholics). We observed open lots piled high with wood in preparation for the traditional bonfires which are lit at midnight of July 11/12.
So, we saw first hand the sober side of Belfast. We were shown the Hotel Europa, the most bombed building in the world (blown up 33 times). By pure chance we were passing the Sinn Fein headquarters when we spotted Jerry Adams (leader of the IRA) getting in to his car with his driver (bodyguard). We were about to take his picture, when he covered his face with a brief case, so we chose discretion and decided to forego the attempt.
We saw a number of interesting places in and around Belfast, including the shipyard where the Titanic was built. On the morning we went to catch the ferry for our passage to Scotland, we encountered the remnants of the previous night's demonstrations. Along several of the roads leading to the ferry terminal there were overturned, burned out automobiles, and piles of debris everywhere, much of it either still burning or smoldering and barely enough space for traffic to push its way past. Certainly these conditions give substance to the advice we had been given prior to our arrival in Belfast, which was "Don't consider visiting Belfast in early July."
We admit to experiencing a sense of relief as our ferry pulled away from the pier in Belfast, bound for Scotland. Shortly after our arrival we decided to go "off route" and customize our travels to experience a part of Scotland different from what the rest of the bike group had planned. Our off-route activities took us first to Edinburgh, then by a series of ferries and stopovers, to the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, and then to Bergen Norway to rejoin the group.
We loved Edinburgh, and rate it as one of the top couple of cities we could fantasize living in (Barcelona is the other). Having toured the city (and castle) we have some interesting recollections to share:
Walking through the new Law Court, located in Parliament Hall, we observed everyone there to be dressed in stunningly formal attire; the judges all wore wigs. All conversations between lawyers and clients and among lawyers are carried on while the parties to the conversation are strolling through the elegant common hall. We are told that the reason for this constant movement is that if the conversations take place in a sitting venue, unwelcome ears can listen to confidential business being discussed.
Continued on Update #29
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