I’ve been going for a lot of walks in Ormeau Park, which is huge and very close to my Airbnb. Vanessa goes with Heidi once a week, so we let the dog loose to run around getting into mud puddles. There are parts of the park that feel like isolated woods, like wilderness, and a lot of bushes growing all sorts of berries.
Then I decided to walk around the city and hit some of the local sites I hadn’t seen yet, so I started with St. Anne’s Cathedral and did an audio tour, then took a guided tour of Clifton House. The cathedral was humbler than, say, the cathedral in Toledo, which was insanely lavish, but St. Anne’s better fits the vibe of Belfast. It’s a working city more interested in substance than appearance.
To the left is yet another awesome piece of street art. There aren’t many unpainted walls here.
The cathedral is self-explanatory but Clifton House I visited on a whim. It isn’t highly ranked on most of the travel sites, and if I didn’t like weird obscure history, it would’ve been a lame tour. But instead, I learned about this Georgian house, built in the late 1700s as a residence for the poor before things like the Victorian workhouses gained popularity. This poor house was pushed through by Presbyterians, who have a long history in Belfast primarily as promoters of social equality. (For example, the oldest Catholic church in the city was funded mostly by Presbyterians after the law against Catholic worship was lifted. I passed by that church, St. Patrick’s, which is between the cathedral and Clifton House.)
The picture to the left is of part of the neighborhood where I’m staying. I was surprised by a parade I saw one day, happening under all these Union Jacks and the flag for the UVF, the Ulster Volunteer Force. Hardly anyone was standing around watching it. And I feel like that’s the most accurate image I can find to sum up the political atmosphere. A few diehards with bitter grudges (old people, mostly, and young men without jobs) are holding on to the historic causes.
Social media gets blamed for a lot, rightly, but one thing it’s helped to do in Belfast is tear down walls. Literally. There are walls between the Protestant and the Catholic neighborhoods, mostly left over from the so-called Troubles (the locals say that name undermines what was really a civil war). But all of the young people I’ve met here aren’t interested in the old fights.