GRAND: Belfast city hall was very beautiful, especially when the Christmas decorations were in place. In the surrounding park Roman-inspired sculptures and arches were on display. Really something to be proud of, and perhaps something we in Norway could let us inspire from?
Northern Ireland, Belfast, Londonderry, IRA. Household names for decades in many countries. Names commonly linked to terror bombs, violent riots and bitter civil war. On our passage from the Caledonian canal through to Isle of Man, we had to seek shelter for a gale force 10, and Belfast was the nearest port. As we entered the marina in nearby Bangor, large containerships lay at anchor in the bay, waiting for the storm to hit. As we sailed past them, we knew that we had done the right thing. This storm was going to be a fierce one. And it was. We were safely berthed behind the break-waters, and spent our time conducting some minor repairs to our rigging, filling water and bits and bobs.
NORTHERN-IRELAND: Whenever Belfast is mentioned, most people think about George Best, IRA, irish whiskey and more than 80 years of bloody civil war. But did you know that the Titanic was built here? We had to seek shelter in Belfast from a storm, and discovered a city with strong contrasts and close ties to its recent history.
Christmas carols in Belfast
BELFAST BY NIGHT: Sailing on a long journey means a lot of toil, stress and frustrations. But we have not only suffered, and we have taken the time to enjoy a pint or two in one of the Meccas of ales, in all modesty of course. Or, as you can probably read in our faces: We feel terrible, and miss our mums a lot. CHEERS!
Every afternoon we went to Belfast, curious of this city that we had heard so much about. And Belfast is a city of contrast. But it is also a very beautiful city, with lots of cafes and pubs that you can drop in to for a pint or a cafè latte. Following the signing of the Good Friday-agreement in 1998, a fragile peace has existed between the unionists and the republicans in Northern-Ireland. The resistance movement, known as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), has given up their arms after 80 years of fierce guerilla warfare aimed at freeing Northern-Ireland from Great Britain. This also shows on Belfast. Gone are all the British soldiers, the check-points and armoured vehicles. The crime rates are low, according to the tourist information. Nonetheless we were warned by locals we met to stay out of certain areas of the city after nightfall, as you risk getting shot. And the day after we left Belfast, a man was arrested for trying to blow up the entire parliament!
Isle of Man 23.11.2006
WORLD SENSATION: Rudolph and Santa Claus have been to Belfast and gone through a sex change operation in the deepest of secrecy, and we were the first to photograph them after the (extremely) successful operation. We have been very good boys this year, Santa!
BALACLAVA AND AK-47: 80 years of civil war has left its mark on Belfast. Even though a fragile armistice was introduced following the Good-Friday agreement in 1998, and the British soldiers have disappeared from the streets, barb wire, armed police and grafitti paintings still dominate the streets. Here from a wall in the centre of the city.

# Norhern-Ireland is part of Great Britain, and the capital is Belfast.

# Approximately 1,6 million people live in Northern-Ireland. 275,000 live in Belfast.

# Beef production, service industry and shipyards are the main industries.

# A state of civil war has in reality excisted in Northern-Ireland since 1912. The battle rages between the unionists, who want to keep on being united with Great Britain, and the republicans, who want to go back to Ireland.

# In 1998 the British government and the guerilla organisation the Irish Republican Army (IRA) signed a peace treaty. The fragile peace has held through so far, but the situation remains vulnerable to this day in many places.

# Bank cards are accepted in most shops, and there are ATMs everywhere. The price level on food and drinks is half of that in Norway.


CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS: The Christmas decorations were lit already on the 21st of November in Belfast, drawing thousands to the ventre. It reminded us of Christmas at home, except for the armed police standing on every street corner.
REFLECTIONS: It was dark and rainy in the streets during our stay in Belfast. We played around with our cameras, and took our the artists in ourselves.
EVENING MOOD: The British have high standards of decorating their public areas. This fountain is situated just outside the marina were we were berthed in Bangor, near Belfast.
DAY AND NIGHT: The days were spent onboard, doing minor reparis, and in the evenings we went to Belfast, went to cafes and photographed in the streets.

IN OUR FACES: Also in Great Britain Christmas starts in mid-October. We could feel a longing for home as we listened to the Christmas carols and saw all the beautiful decorations in the streets and in the shops.
Norhern-Ireland is the only place in the British isles were the police carry firearms. We saw many things that reminded us of Belfasts troubled past. Barbed wire fences, armed police and grafitti depicting militant slogans and guerillas wearing hoods and carrying assault rifles on the walls of buildings were potent reminders of the recent history of the city. Did you know that Titanic was built in a Belfast shipyard from 1909-12? You can still find portraits of the mastodont in cafees around the city, where she carries the name "Pride of Ulster"! In Belfast people tend to focus on the fact that she was the largest manmade moving object of its time, not that she sank like a brick stone, taking 1,512 people with her into the freezing cold abyss on her maiden voyage.

But the thing the people of Belfast are most proud of, is the diseased soccer player George Best. They have named their airport after him, and are issuing a 5-pound note carrying his portrait. Soccer is not something to be taken lightly in Belfast! On our last evening in town, there was a large celebration of the lighting of the Christmas decorations, and a lot of people in the streets. We could feel a certain longing for home that night, knowing that Christmas is approaching, and that we are already far away from home.

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