Today, after many decades of "darkness", it is possible to say that Belfast's "criminal" record is truly in the past. And not only because the paramilitary groups like IRA, INLA and others from the Irish side and UDA, UVF and others from the unionists side declared an end to armed campaign in 2007, and English army dismantled its observation posts and concludes withdrawal of forces, but probably most significantly because the ordinary people on both sides ceased to support them, people at last understood one old and simple truth - the violence leads only to the violence without ending and they say now very firmly: “Enough is enough!”.
A bit of history... the bloody epic of Northern Ireland began in 1571, when the royal troops on the order of the English Queen Elizabeth I (interestingly she was only female pen-friend of notorious Russian tsar Ivan the Terrible) begun the colonization of Ulster, carrying out multiple atrocities, basically exterminating the Irish population. More than 400 years were required, in order to stop this confrontation, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast on 10 April 1998.
I recall my first visit to Belfast in 2001: the armored police vehicles were patrolling the deserted evening streets, up in the air, just above the city center was steadily cruising military helicopter, there was such feeling, that this city is gripped by the fear and is under siege. Although the policemen to our request to make a photo with them, answered with friendly smile and were ready to make us happy.
Now it all seems to be in the past and Belfast is in no way different from any European city. In 2007 it even got its own observation wheel (approx. 13 min. trip costs 6 pounds), one of the cabins is called V.I.P. and it costs as much as 63 pounds, DVD and the bottle of good champagne included! (The Wheel was temporarily shut on 11 April 2010)
Belfast has its own Pisa tower as well - the Albert Memorial Clock (in the honor of English prince Albert), the deviation from the vertical line is 1,25 m.
Who did not see the film “Titanic"? But probably not everyone knows that the largest passenger steamship in the world was built here, at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast (the ship struck an iceberg and sunk on 15 April 1912). About 14 people from county Mayo, set sail from Queenstown, Cork for a new life in America - three of them miraculously survived!
I would definitely recommend to join the Causeway Coastal Route for one-day excursion, you will never forget those striking views! The bus-driver makes the regular stoppages (even there where he shouldn't!) just to let people to take picture-postcard photos. And of course you can’t miss a World Heritage Site, the Giant's Causeway - interlocking, mostly six-sided columns, created by a lava flow some 65 millions years ago, a total of about 40 000!
Next stop is famous Old Bushmills Distillery (1609) - the oldest whisky producer in the world! In local pub you can taste a unique blend (matured for 16 years), which is sold only here and nowhere else.
By the way, the driver of the bus appears to be a guide as well, he tells stories and basically talks non-stop, it's just one problem with this - for people not familiar with strong Northern Irish accent, his speech could be absolutely unreadable! Ulsterbus organizes this trip for only 15 pounds.
Next to the bus station is located the hotel “Europe”, and is known as "the most bombed hotel in Europe" - 43 times!!