Belfast has a long history — its original settlement was at least 5,000 years ago. Linen production put it on the map in the late 19th century after the American Civil War caused a cotton shortage. It has also been a center for shipbuilding and other industrial uses. It now has a burgeoning film industry with the Game of Thrones filming there. Pictures in this post are from Belfast and the countryside in Northern Ireland.
I studied the Irish language for a while before I left DC, and my Irish teacher recounted her experience on St. Patrick’s Day last year, originally a religious holiday in Ireland. She said after one drink (on a weeknight, no less), her American companions criticized her for not drinking more as an Irishwoman. She was taken aback at this.
Later, when she was telling us the story, she explained how seriously St. Patrick’s Day was taken in its religious context when she was a girl and how it’s been co-opted by American and British party tourism. This struck me as very sad – like when people think Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day or that it’s some sort of pass for shameless Mexican stereotypes (gringo wearing the sombrero, I’m looking at you).
The Irish language itself is a good example of assumptions gone horribly wrong – Irish very nearly died out as a language. This difficult language of warrior-poets almost didn’t make it because the English associated it with low-class people, so no one wanted their children to learn it. It’s seeing a resurgence now, and indeed is the official language of the Republic of Ireland. I’m curious to see what the next 20 years will bring as the younger generations bring it back in the North and South.
Aside: many Americans think the Irish speak Gaelic. The Irish word for their language is Gaeilge, but Irish is a different language than the Scots-Gaelic spoken in parts of Scotland. They are in the same language family (Celtic > Goidelic) so there are similarities, like between Spanish and Italian, but the languages are distinct. Interestingly, the Ulster dialect of Irish is closest to Scots-Gaelic. But again, they are different languages. /aside
Almost everyone in Ireland (North and South) speaks English – there are little pockets of Irish language spoken – these are called the Gaeltacht regions. Visit Ireland and Northern Ireland – see the culture, enjoy the gorgeous countryside, meet the warm and kind people. You won’t regret it.