We steamed into Belfast harbor this morning. After breakfast, we took a bus into the city for a tour, starting at the Belfast City Hall on Donegall Square. A young red-haired Irishman called Liam took us through the main lobby, the chambers and the dining hall. The city officially became the capital of Northern Ireland in 1921.
After walking around a few blocks we stopped at McHughes’s pub, established 1711 said the front sign. I had a Harp lager. The harp is one of Ireland’s national symbols, maybe more so than the (sometimes silly) three leaf clover. After that the official excursion was done, and we were left to our own devices to walk around the city. Besides the very old buildings that survived World War II and ‘The Troubles’ (the ethno-nationalist conflict that reached its bloodiest year in 1972), there is not a whole lot of eye-catching architecture to be seen, to be honest. Many of the buildings are plain, utilitarian, some downright ugly. There is not a lot of car traffic in the city; lots of buses, though. To be fair, it is not a city on a par with Dublin or Liverpool as far as size goes. Belfast’s population is only about 280,000; all of North Ireland’s population at about 1.8 million.
P.S. Happy Fourth of July to my American readers! The cruise ship seemed to roll out all its red-white-and-blue decorations that it had, and put up a display of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the Statue of Liberty, and painted portraits of prominent US presidents. They blasted out Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ from 1985 over the closed circuit TV in the staterooms this morning. If I can say : it’s not the best Fourth of July song. Springsteen’s point with the song was that in spite of being born in the USA, many people (and especially war veterans) are having a very tough time these days.