Belfast Hide and Seek
Updated: Mar 21, 2020
So I got up at five a.m. today (BST), and slipped out of the house while my flatmates were all sound asleep. I slipped out to figure out my way around. I've done this before, where I go out early and take the bus, ride around and find my way around the new place I'm living. I did the same thing back in New Hampshire, but this was more fun. This time, I posted pictures to my Facebook.
I started out by trekking over to the bus station, managed to find the pedestrian entrance near Sandy Row, and then was able to figure out the basic bus schedule from there. I was able to get a day pass, and the bus driver, once I explained that I was trying to figure out the buses, let me ride the bus during his route so that I got used to it.
By the time the bus dropped me off, I found myself down near the courthouse. The interesting thing about the courthouse is that there is a high wall around the courthouse to protect it from bombings during the Troubles. Apparently, it is now closed.
I then found the River Lagan; now, I have seen a river before, but I've never seen a river of this size, cut through a city like this, that's still used. There is a wooden walkway area that has a set of steps leading up to the porch-like area, and I was so enthralled by the sheer size of the river, that I tripped over my own feet. I ended up scraping my knee and ripping my tights. A couple guys hurried over to help me, and I told them I was fine, but that it was my own fault for not paying attention. I've just never see that much water before because I live in a tiny town in the middle of a desert. Granted, yes, there is Walker River, Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake and the like, but River Lagan is so much bigger, that it almost makes Walker River look like a trickle.
Not far away from the River Lagan is this gigantic stone fish, called the Salmon of Knowledge, and it tells the story of the city of Belfast, through etchings on the tiles of various areas of the city. Apparently, from what I've been able to figure out, the Salmon of Knowledge comes from Irish mythology; it comes from Fenian Cycle- the third cycle- of mythology, which centers around a body of prose and poetry about Fionn mac Cumhaill, a warrior-hunter from the Isle of Man.
The Salmon of Knowledge was, in Irish legend, a seer known as Fintan mac Bóchra, the Wise, who was could turn into a gigantic Salmon. He is connected to the Bible, interestingly, in that he is said to have accompanied Noah's (yes, THAT Noah with the Big Boat and two animals each) granddaughter to Ireland before the Great Flood hit. It's interesting, that a mythological figure from paganism has ties to Christianity- it shows that all religions are related in some way, no matter how other religions try to deny it. Well, I find it interesting.
The story in regards to the Salmon of Knowledge, locally known as The Big Fish, is that if you go up and kiss the fish, you will gain a little bit of its knowledge. It was created to celebrate the return of salmon to the River Lagan in 1999.
I've found that not far from The Big Fish, are these huge seal heads. After asking around, I discovered that the giant seal heads are known as Sammy the Seal- they reside in the pavement near Donegall Quay (or Donegall Wharf for those in America)- and they were created in honor of the real family of sea-lions that live in the estuary of Belfast Lough, the area where the River Lagan meets the Irish Sea.
I managed to find the Titanic Quarter, which thrilled me to no end. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love anything and everything to do with the Titanic (I'm sure my mom blames James Cameron's Titanic) so to find out that there is an entire quarter dedicated to the unsinkable ship was huge for me.
The Titanic Museum is this huge silver-colored building that looks like the hulls of two ships- meant to mirror the Olympic and Titanic, the two biggest ships of the White Star Line at the time. And directly across from it, is the last surviving White Star Line ship, S.S. Nomadic. I spent an hour wandering around the ground floor of the museum, and I stopped at the gift shop, picking up a few postcards and a couple books.
The Titanic Museum has this huge metal sign spelling out 'Titanic' in front of it, that people take photographs in front of, so I did the same. It was cold, but so worth it. I absolutely loved the Titanic Quarter, and there was so much to see; I'm definitely gonna have to go back soon.
I spent way too much time in Titanic Quarter, and I gave myself a time limit- home by five p.m. I like to give myself a time limit, just so I'm not out past dark, especially if I'm in a city I don't know well. I left around about three or three-thirty, heading back towards downtown to catch the bus back.
At some point, I got lost in Victoria Square, and ended up near the yellow gazebo- well, I call it the yellow gazebo. I'm not sure of the actual name, but I will find out what it is, and when I do, I will let you know.
I ended at City Hall, near the Titanic Memorial. Now, Titanic is HUGE here, mainly because the Titanic was built in Belfast. The men who built the ship were mainly from Belfast. The stokers that filled the ovens with coal on the ship, that went down on the ship, were from Belfast. Around City Hall, there are memorials for various people, and this is for the people who died in the sinking.
It's a statue of the of Death, or Fate, in female form, holding a laurel wreath out to two mermaids who are holding a drowned sailor out of the water towards her. Eight years after the disaster, the families of the stockyard workers, stokers and the public to be erected in 1920, with an inscription that reads,
'Erected to the imperishable memory of those gallant Belfastmen whose names are here inscribed and who lost their lives on the 15th April 1912, by the foundering of the Belfast-built R.M.S. Titanic, through collision with an iceberg, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
Their devotion to duty and heroic conduct, through which the lives of many of those on board were saved, have left a record of calm fortitude and self-sacrifice which will ever remain an inspiring example to succeeding generations.'
'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'
It is the only memorial statue to the victims of the Titanic, and resides near the Titanic Memorial Garden in the small courtyard of City Hall.
All in all, I'd say the day was a success.