Our trip to Ireland in September was supposed to be a one day trip for a concert of my favorite band, but it turned out to be a six day vacation and a visit to the two major cities on the island. Nothing wrong with that, right? 🙂

The biggest city in Northern Ireland and second biggest on the island after Dublin is Belfast. It has long been the scene of heavy disagreement, and you probably think of it a war city. This was, probably the reason for the Californian band Incubus first ever performance in Belfast.


A concert was held in the Ulster hall that by no means resembles a rock concert hall at all, but it was perfect for this occasion. Great sound, beautiful interior and quite small venue so I had a perfect view on the lead singer 🙂

The Ulster hall was designed by William J. Barre and build in 1859. Today the hall serves as a venue for various concerts, classical recitals, craft fairs and political party conferences.

According to the 2011 population census, the metro area of Belfast has around 600 000 inhabitants, which is half of the total population of Northern Ireland.


Northern Ireland originated from the Ulster province divided in 1921 after the Anglo-Irish Treaty and despite the physical separation from the United Kingdom the country still belongs to The Crown.

The Crown bar
The Crown Bar is one of Northern Ireland’s best-known pubs designed in Victorian style. The legend says the owner was a Protestant, whose Catholic wife initially opposed the name of the bar. She agreed on the bar’s name only under one condition: to have the British crown on the floor, where everyone would step on it while coming in.
A pint and a green tea at the Crown bar
Primark building that burned couple of days prior our visit

The history of Ireland is far more complicated than the Croatian one. In short: wars, divisions and discrimination had a lot to do with it. For a better understanding I suggest a cartoon version of the short history about Northern Ireland.

The first inhabitants of Ireland were Celts (the Romans never settled here, suppose it was too rainy for them 🙂 ), after which came the Vikings. Somewhere in between Ireland was Christened by Saint Patrick. When he was not too busy catching snakes.

Clonard Monastery, 1890
Clonard Monastery, interior

Beginning of the 16th Century, Henrik the VIII (the one with six wives) was made a king of England. Very soon, he became the first English monarch to be crowned as a king of Ireland. This is where everything went to shite. Starting from then until the late 17th Century the Emerald island was inhabited by a bunch of Englishmen and Scotsman that didn’t have a lot in common with the local people. The main differences were of religious and political origin. Especially in Northern Ireland.

The City hall lit up with green lights in the evening was built in 1906

Temporary monument for the unknown men that died in the WWI Battle of Somme, fought by the armies of the British Empire and France against the German Empire.

Penal Laws, established in the 17th century, were a series of laws imposed in an attempt to force Irish Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters (such as local Presbyterians) to accept the reformed denomination as defined by the English state. The laws, in practice, meant abolishing almost all basic human rights such as voting, land ownership or borrowing, prohibition of higher education or career advancement.

Saint George church, the oldest church of Church of Ireland, designed by the plans of Irishmen John Bowden in 1816
St. George church, interior
A chair used by King William, when he visited Belfast in 1690, can be seen in St George’s
One of the murals with King William the Orange

Much of the political turmoil was interrupted or at least slowed by the Great Potato Hunger. Ironically, people in the country known for breeding potatoes (and only potatoes) died of potato shortages that were primal people’s nutrition.

Since England was ruling Ireland at the time, it was responsible for the controversial decision to export food from Ireland to Mainland despite the fact that Ireland needed it more than England. It is believed that at least two million people died of hunger, plus another two millions that emigrated mostly in America. Some of them boarded on what was then the largest man made ship in the world.

The model of Titanic

The construction of Titanic started in 1909 and it was led by the Harland and Wolff Company, whose two yellow cranes dominate the city’s skyline and represent the symbol of the city.

Titanic was 269 meters long and 28 meters wide, while its carrying capacity was about 46 000 tones. Imagine the construction the workers had to do build for a ship with a draught of 10.5 meters, a keel-to-command bridge was 32 meters high, and the height of the four chimneys was 56 meters.

The museum looks like a replica of the construction site
During the visit you’ll get the chance to experience the replica of the shipyard with personal stories of the workers

Despite bearing the name “the safest ship of its time”, it wasn’t even close. At least for two thousand passengers that lost their lives when the ship hit an iceberg. It sank only four days after the departure. About 20 Croatians were among the victims.

Making a museum based on a sank ship has no sense at all, but Belfast did it brilliantly. Opened in 2012, Titanic Belfast, is located in the neighborhood of the same name, in the same shipyard where the original Titanic was built.

The Titanic sailed from this very spot

The museum tells the story, not just about shipbuilding but also about the rich industrial history of the city.

At the beginning of the 18th and 19th Century Belfast was the leading trading and industrial center of Europe. Numerous factories and employment opportunities made it the largest city in Ireland for some time.

The industry primarily depended on the manufacture of linen used in fabrication of canvas and navy ropes (paradox two: for the construction of the Titanic they used steel ropes). Many workers also worked in the factories that made ovens for domestic use, ovens for drying tea, tobacco factories, shipyard. And whiskey distillery. Because whiskey was consumed daily.

The largest whiskey manufacturer in Belfast was Dunville & Company who opened the Royal Irish Distilleries in 1870

The French Huguenots who settled in Northern Ireland at the end of the 17th century brought the knowledge of flax processing that grew in the area. Traditionally women and children prepared the flax and spun the fibers into thread while the men wove the thread into linen cloth. The brown linen was taken to markets to be sold for bleaching and finishing, then usually exported, mainly to England. In the mid-19th century, at the height of the industrial revolution, Belfast exported over 12 million pounds of linen yarn a year. Over 99% of total Irish linen was exported from the Belfast docks.

The Lagan river

Despite leading industry, Belfast has never had a good political foundation and it has been hard on him for the next hundred years.

The conflict began during a campaign to end discrimination against the Catholic/nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist government and police force. The Troubles happened at the same time as the movement for human rights in America in the sixties.

The Civil Rights Movement advocated cessation of discrimination in employment, housing, voting, police reform because majority of the police were Protestants etc. Nationalists and Republicans, mostly Irish Catholics whose desire was the unification of the two Ireland, were in the minority against the Unionists and Loyalists, who were mostly Protestants and considered the Brits, and they were eager to stay within the United Kingdom.

The Shankill Road, that runs through the working-class, predominantly loyalist area is one of the main roads of west Belfast but during the Troubles, the road and the the Shankill area were a center for loyalist paramilitarism. Given the slow changes (the peace agreement was signed 20 years ago) the area visually looks like blast from the past. With small taxi boots were you can wait for your ride or pretty simple commercial graphic design. Not the mention window accessorizes. They ALL look the SAME!
// photo by: blueheelerhr39

The wall that divided Belfast in Catholic and Protestant area was built in the late sixties. The peace line, as it’s actually called, is a series of separation barriers made of iron, brick, and/or steel. The wall stretches over three miles (5 km) and is up to 25 feet (7.6 m) high and some of the walls have gates that allow passage during daylight but are closed at night.

Although there were some discussions about knocking down the wall majority of the people that live in Belfast thinks it would be a bad idea. The wounds are still fresh, and there is still someone that lost someone in the Troubles.

If you take the Black taxi tour you’ll hear most tragically and disturbing stories ever, but to point fingers to the perpetrators would be wrong. Everyone’s has the blood on its hands.

The wall will stay here for some more time, apparently. But maybe it’s good that way because that’s the main reason for the tourists that come to visit Belfast.

The real attractions are numerous murals on the wall that were first painted as a representation of the Troubles, but lately artists begun to concentrate more on peaceful and environmental themes.

The city was unbearable place to live twenty years ago before the sign of the Good Friday agreement, but slowly things are coming into place. The young and the old that have left the city for a better life are returning with skills and knowledge full of hope and love for their city.

The seals are often to be seen in the Lagan river

Our guide Sean that took us on a There’s more to Belfast than walls tour told us a bunch of interesting facts and stories while guiding us through the back allies of the city.

The Entries are narrow streets and arcades that connect the main shopping areas in the center of Belfast. From the 17th Century to the modern times it has been linked to the social and economic growth in the city. They were known as places of serious business and some less serious business, if you know what I mean? 🙂
The big fish or Salmon of knowledge is a huge sculpture made of blue ceramics. Each of the tiles tells a story about Belfast and the spots, that everybody thought it was a mistake, represent the blood of every victim of the Troubles. It was made in 1999 by an artist called Jonh Kindness

Sean was a huge punk fan so he took us to the place that once was a very popular bar with live music. People tell it smelled like piss but everybody loved it.

It was a home to some of the most famous punk bands of the era. You probably heard about this one:
Sharky was a lead singer of the Belfast punk band called The Undertones. Pretty cool, right?

Despite the tragic history and bad reputation we will definitely come back to Belfast. There was so much that we didn’t get the chance to see including the hill above the city.

The hill was a very popular hiking place so, if you looked  from the distance with people on top of it, it resembled small people stepping on the giant’s head. A perfect inspiration for a book called Gullivers travel by Jonathan Swift.

I had a plan to visit the hill, but the farther we came was a Belfast castle with quite nice view over the city.

The Castle was built in the 19th century for the 3rd marquise of Donegall, but today serves as a conference room for weddings and funerals.

The garden of the castle was once a home to the white cat so they installed nine replicas of the cats for kids to look for. Kids. And casual adult 🙂
The streets on the Catholic side bears both English and Gaelic names

Alberts clock, a clock tower erected in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband, was built in mid 19. Century on wooden piles on marshy land around the River Farset so the top of the tower leans four feet off the perpendicular
Washing the sins 🙂
Better than money, right? 🙂



Naš rujanski posjet Irskoj trebao je biti samo jednodnevni izlet na koncert mog omiljenog benda, ali to se na kraju pretvorilo u šestodnevno putovanje s boravkom u dva velika grada; Belfastu i Dublinu. Nije da se bunim 🙂

Crkva. I ja sretna. Ova je katolička crkva svetog Patrika

Najveći grad u Sjevernoj Irskoj, a drugi po veličini na otoku poslije Dublina, Belfast, dugo vremena bio je poprište teških razmirica, a većina ga i dan danas pamti kao ratni grad. Razlog je to što je kalifornijskom bendu Incubus ovo bio prvi nastup u Belfastu.

U donjem desnom kutu dobro oko može spazit Debelog i mene kako skačem 🙂

Koncert se održao u Ulster dvorani koja svojim interijerom ni malo ne podsjeća na rock ambijent, ali je odlično poslužila svrsi.

Dvorana je sagrađena 1859 prema nacrtima Williama J. Barrea i danas služi kao dvorana za koncerte klasične glazbe, razne sajmove ili političke konferencije.

Prema popisu stanovništva iz 2011 šira gradska jezgra ima nešto više od pola milijuna stanovnika što je polovica ukupnog stanovništva Sjeverne Irske.

Sjeverna Irska nastala je iz provincije Ulster koja je podijeljena 1921. nakon Englesko-irskog sporazuma te unatoč fizičkoj odvojenosti od Ujedinjenog kraljevstva pripada Kruni.

The Crown bar
Interijer Crown bara u viktorijanskom stilu
Legenda kaže da je vlasnik Crown bara bio protestant, čija se supruga katolkinja isprva protivila nazivu bara. Pristala je samo pod jednim uvjetom: da na podu bude britanska kruna, po kojoj bi svatko gazio pri ulasku u bar.

Povijest Irske komplicirana je gotovo kao i hrvatska povijest. Od prvih dana otok su obilježili ratovi, podjele i diskriminacija. Podijeli i vladaj, stara narodna.

Prvi stanovnici otoka bili su Kelti (Rimljani nikad nisu došli do Irske, valjda im je bilo prehladno 🙂 nakon kojih su došli Vikinzi, a negdje između Irsku je pokrstio sv. Patrik. Kad nije bio zauzet lovom na zmije.

Clonard samostan, 1890.
Clonard samostan, 1890., detalj
Clonard samostan, 1890., orgulje

Početkom 16. stoljeća kralj Henrik VIII (onaj sa šest žena) okrunjen je za kralja Engleske, a ubrzo je postao i prvi engleski monarh okrunjen za kralja Irske. I tu je sve otišlo vrit. Od tada pa sve do kasnog 17. stoljeća zeleni otok naselilo je brdo Engleza i Škota koji s domaćim ljudima nisu imali puno zajedničkih interesa. Barem ne onih vjerskih i političkih što je bio uzrok razmiricama. Pogotovo u Sjevernoj Irskoj.

Gradska vijećnica, 1906.
Privremeni spomenik poginulima u Somme bitci u Prvom svjetskom ratu

Kazneni zakoni uspostavljeni u 17. stoljeću nisu pridonijeli ljubavi između kršćanskih starosjedilaca i protestantskih doseljenika. Kako i ne bi, kad im je namjera bila prisiliti kršćane i lokalne prezbiterijance u prihvaćanju protestantskih pravila. U praksi to je značilo ukidanje gotovo osnovnih ljudskih prava poput glasovanja, posjedovanja zemlje ili uzimanja zajmova, zabrana višeg obrazovanja ili napredovanja u karijeri.

Crkva Sv. Georga, najstarija crkva Irske Crkve, napravljena prema nacrtima Irca Johna Bowdena 1816.
Interijer crkve Sv. Georga

Velik dio političkih previranja prekinula je ili barem usporila glad poznata kao i Velika krumpirova glad. Paradoksalno, ljudi u zemlji poznatoj po uzgoju krumpira (i samo krumpira) umrli su od nestašice krumpira koji je tad bio primaran u irskoj ishrani.

Obzirom da je Engleska tad vladala Irskom, Engleska je bila odgovorna za kontroverznu odluku o izvozu hrane iz Irske u Englesku usprkos tome što je u Irskoj vladala glad dok u Engleskoj nije. Smatra se da je od posljedica gladi umrlo barem dva milijuna ljudi, a gotovo isto toliko ljudi ih emigriralo, većinom u Ameriku.

Dio njih ukrcao se na, što je tada bio, najveći prekoocenski brod na svijetu čija je gradnja počela 1909.

Model Titanika

Gradnju je vodila belfaška kompanija Harland i Wolff čija dva žuta krana dominiraju gradskom vizurom i predstavljaju simbol grada.

Brod je bio dugačak 269 i širok 28 metara, dok mu je nosivost bila oko 46 000 registarskih tona. Zamislite konstrukciju koju su radnici morali napraviti da bi napravili sami brod čija je dubina gaza bila 10,5 metara, visina od kobilice do zapovjednog mosta 32 metra, a visina do vrha njegovih četiriju dimnjaka 56 metara.

Inženjeri. U odijelima, (foto: EPA)
Brodogradilište danas. Mjesto s kojeg je isplovio Titanik

Usprkos nazivu ”najsigurniji brod”, za preko dvije tisuće putnika, Titanik nije bio ni približno. Potonuo je samo četiri dana nakon isplovljavanja, a među žrtvama je bilo i oko dvadesetak Hrvata. Nas jadne nesreća uvijek zadesi.

Napraviti potom muzej na osnovi potonulog broda po kojem vas svi znaju nije baš najbistrija ideja, ali gradu Belfastu je i te kako uspjelo.

Titanik muzej, otvoren 2012. godine smješten je u istoimenoj četvrti, a nalazi se na samom brodogradilištu gdje je izgrađen brod.

Muzej govori priču, ne samo o gradnji broda, već i bogatoj industrijskoj prošlosti grada.

Početkom 18. i 19. stoljeća Belfast je bio vodeći trgovački i industrijski centar u Europi, a brojne tvornice i mogućnost zaposlenja na kratko su ga učinile najvećim gradom u Irskoj.

Cijeli muzej je poput rekonstrukcije brodogradilipta, s vrlo interaktivnim eksponatima, detaljnim izlošcima i neobičnim vlakićem koji vas vodi kroz ”brodogradilište” dok slušate osobne priče radnika
Replike posuđa s Titanika. Obzirom da brod nije imao prostoriju za pranje veša, morali su spakirati dovoljno stoljnaka i salveta za svu posadu i cijelo putovanje!

Industrija je prvenstveno ovisila o izradi lana koji se koristio u proizvodnji platna i brodske užadi (paradoks dva: pri izgradnji Titanika koristila se čelična užad :)), ali radnici su radili i u tvornicama za proizvodnju kućnih peći, peći za sušenje čaja, tvornici duhana, brodogradilištu. I destileriji viskija. Koji su, naravno obilato konzumirali.

Francuski hugenoti koji su se naselili u sjevernoj Irskoj krajem 17. stoljeća donijeli su sa sobom potrebno znanje o preradi lana koji se uzgajao u okolici. Za izradu lanenih vlakana iz stabljike, tradicionalno, su bila zadužena djeca i žene dok bi muškarci tkali sukno. Gotovo smeđe sukno, potom, bi se izbjeljivalo i slalo za Englesku. Sredinom 19. stoljeća, na vrhuncu industrijske revolucije, Belfast je godišnje izvozio preko 12 milijuna kilograma lanene pređe čineći gotovo 99% ukupne irske proizvodnje lana.

Usprkos vodećoj industriji Belfast nije nikad imao dobre političke temelje i to ga satralo narednih stotinjak godina.

Najveće nevolje ozbiljnije su počele šezdesetih godina prošlog stoljeća. Nekako istovremeno s borbom za ljudska prava u Americi, pobunili su se i katolici u Sjevernoj Irskoj.

Pokret za građanska prava zalagao se za prestanak diskriminacije pri zaposlenju, pri dijeljenju stanova, glasovanju, reformi policije koji su većinom bili protestanti i slično. Nacionalisti i republikanci, uglavnom Irci katolici kojima je želja bila ujedinjenje dviju Irski bili su u manjini naspram unionista i lojalista, koji su većinom bili protestanti i smatraju se Britancima, a zalagali su se za ostanak Sjeverne Irske u Ujedinjenom Kraljevstvu.

Shankill cesta u protestantskoj četvrti bila je poprište brojnim paramilitarnim intervencijama
Zanimljivo je da okolica danas izleda kao i prije dvadesetak godina, pogotovo s vizualnog aspekta (reklame, male trgovinice, taksi stanice, flajeri, oglasi). Masa britanskih zastava naglašava u kojem dijelu grada se nalazite.

Grad je podijeljen na protestanski i katolički dio, a gradnja zida započela je krajem šezdesetih. Zid se, zapravo, sastoji od niza separacijskih barijera što se protežu preko 5 km kroz grad, s tim da su barijere na nekim mjestima visoke i preko 7m.

Zid je građen od cigle, željeza ili čelika s nekoliko punktova / vrata koja se i dan danas zatvaraju između cc 9 navečer i 6 ujutro.

Tragikomično nazvan ”mirna linija”, zid u Belfastu, to nikad nije bio, a najžalosnije je što možda nikad ni neće biti. Iako je bilo nekakvog govora o rušenju zida za stanovnike Belfasta to bi bio nepromišljen poduhvat. Rane su ipak svježe i svatko je izgubio nekog u bjesomučnim i zvjerskim borbama.

Ako odete na vođenu Black taxi turu vodič će vam ispričati priče od kojih će vam ostati gorak okus, ali upirati prst u jednu stranu bilo bi pogrešno i nepravedno. Svi imaju krvi na svojim rukama.

Zid će, očito, ostati barem još neko vrijeme na svojem mjestu. Ali možda i bolje, jer upravo je on razlog brojnim turistima što dolaze u posjetu vidjeti grad koji se poput feniksa diže iz pepela. Zapravo, brojni murali, koji su isprva počeli kao vizualna podrška borbama u gradu, a sad imaju više ”socijalno osviještenu” ili ”umjetničkiju” poruku, glavni su razlog turističkog posjeta gradu. 

Grad kojim je nekad bilo nemoguće proći, a da ne odjekne barem jedna bomba, grad koji je imao samo jedan hotel koji je bio na konstantnoj pobunjeničkoj meti, ako zbog ničeg drugog, a ono da bi novinari imali o čemu pisati, postao je miran (mirniji?) grad koji još uvijek nije pao u ruke svjetskom kapitalizmu.

Spirit of Belfast javna je sukptura umjetnika Dan Georgea, iz 2009. godine. Skulptura nosi nadimak ”onion rings” (prsten od luka), a predstavlja snagu i ljepotu brodogradnje, što je bio značajan dio povijesti grada 

Mladi, ali i stari koji su otišli za vrijeme najgorih dana, polako se vraćaju u grad i obnavljaju ga zahvaljujući znanju koje su usavršili negdje drugdje.

Ogromna žičana skulptura na rijeci Lagan s globusom pod nogama simbol je nade i nastojanja
Bude li sreće i pameti (čitaj: novaca) idemo drito tamo! CUNT!

Naš vodič, Sean, koji nas je proveo po skrivenim uličicama grada, otkrivajući više od toliko razvikanih zidova, jedan je od brojnih koji se nakon dugogodišnjeg izbivanja vratio u grad.

Podzemna. Koja u biti nije podzemna nego samo pothodnik. Ali liči na podzemnu. I zove se podzemna 🙂
Velika riba ili Losos znanja ogromna je skulptura rađena od plave keramike. Svaka od pločica priča neku priču o povijesti Belfasta, a mrlje za koje su svi mislili da su nastale tijekom procesa pečenja zapravo su prave kapi krvi koje simboliziraju sve stradale za vrijeme nevolja u Belfastu, John Kindness, 1999

Sean je bio zagriženi fan punka i otkrio nam je puno o glazbenoj sceni sedamdesetih u Belfastu. Odveo nas je tako do mjesta gdje je nekad bio pub koji je radio danonoćno bez obzira na nevolje u gradu. Svjedočanstva govore da je interijer zaudarao po mokraći,  znoju i ustajalom pivu, ali to nije spriječilo neke od najboljih sjevernoirskih punk bendova da nastupe pred divljom publikom.

Za neke sam čak i ja čula :
Da ne spominjem A Good Heart 🙂

Usprkos tragičnoj povijesti i lošoj reputaciji Belfast je grad kojem ćemo se definitivno vratiti. Ostalo je toliko toga što nismo vidjeli uključujući brdo iznad grada koje je bilo inspiracija za Swiftovog Gulivera.

Cavehill brdo iznad grada popularno je izletište za brojne šetače koji izgledaju poput patuljaka na divovskoj glavi što je Jonahtana Swifta inspiriralo za knjigu Guliverova putovanja

Plan je bio prošetati po brdu, ali najdalje što smo dospjeli bio je Belfast dvorac s kojeg se pruža sasvim dobar pogled na grad.

Dvorac je sagrađen u 19. stoljeću za trećeg markiza od Donegalla, a danas služi za vjenčanja i konferencije te pokojeg zalutalog turista.


Dvorski vrt nekad je bio dom velikoj bijeloj mački, a danas je zanimljiv zbog devet interpretacija ovog četveronošca od kojih sam ja našla pet

Detalj Albertovog sata
Ulice na katoličkoj strani nose i dalje dvojake nazive; na engleskom i gelskom

Vratit ćemo se! Obećavamo!

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