If you put aside its political and religious tension, Belfast might appear an ‘exemplary’ European city. Although it has no mega attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum, there is one remarkable ‘BUT’ Belfast is known for: it is the city where the notorious Titanic was built. Many travellers visit this city with the ultimate goal – to see the shipyard where the Titanic set sail for her fatal maiden voyage in 1912. Belfast and the surrounding area have a lot of attractions,which we have also visited and describe in more detail below, but the Titanic Museum remains the ultimate tourist destination.
The construction of the Titanic began in 1909 at Belfast’s Harland & Wolff Shipyard. The shipbuilders and owners proclaimed overconfidently that “not even God himself could sink this ship” because 15 waterproof walls in the lower hold would have made her unsinkable. The space between the bottom and the inner-bottom planting was divided by transverse and long walls representing the most advanced shipbuilding technology of that time.
When completed, the Titanic was the largest ship ever made and was designed to become an exceptionally luxurious ship for travelling. Although the Titanic must have been equipped with 64 lifeboats, the ship left the port with 20 lifeboats on board only. In addition, the ship had no flares to send a distress call. The shipbuilders might have been overconfident in their ship and ignored lifesaving items for her maiden voyage. When the Titanic began sending out white distress flares, the only flares available on board, the closest ship did not respond mistakenly taking white flares to be fireworks on board of the most luxurious ship. The Titanic’s interiors were inspired by those in the Ritz hotel in London.
The Titanic started its first and the only voyage on April 10, 1912. Nothing meant trouble, the sea was calm, and passengers enjoyed their voyage. There are many versions why the ship crew did not notice an iceberg. Some talk about key-keeper’s fault to leave a key to a case with binoculars,and, due to his fault, the crew had to rely on their own eyes in total darkness. Others say that wireless operators might have been very busy with sending telegrams from rich passengers and missed a number of wireless messages from other ships warning about icebergs on their path. Furthermore, when the captain learned about an iceberg on the Titanic’s way, he didn’t slow down the ship and didn’t even try to change the course as he was absolutely confident in the Titanic’s unsinkability. There were even some mysterious forebodings. It is considered bad luck when a bottle of champagne used to ‘christen’ a ship fails to break when swung against the hull at launching. Moreover, the mysterious Hope Diamond known to bring death to its owners was on board.
Today, it is less important who was guilty in the distress of the largest ocean liner of that time. The Titanic struck an iceberg on April 15, three days after starting its voyage. The ship broke in two and sunk sending 1,496 passengers into the ocean. Only 712 were rescued by the Carpathia, the closest ship. Today, the wrecks of the Titanic lie at a depth of more than 3,500 m. The interest to the Titanic does not die out today, and the ideas to raise it are still under consideration.
Interestingly, the Titanic took human lives long before she was completed. There were 8 deaths and more than 250 injuries recorded during the ship’s construction. The first Titanic’s victim was a fifteen-year old boy whose death was carefully concealed by the shipbuilding company.
The Museum Titanic Belfast opened in 2012 on the occasion of the centenary of the ship’s launching. Titanic Belfast is located on former’s Harland and Wolff’s shipyard. The height of the building equals to the Titanic’s height from keel to deck. Moreover, the Museum may host at a time as many visitors as the legendary Titanic could host passengers – 3,457. You can get a ticket to explore the original shipyard where the Titanic was built to understand the scale of this giant ship. Take time to visit it – the experience is unforgettable.
In Cavehill Country Park, there is a fascinating Belfast Castle located at the root of mountains, 120 m above sea level. The castle is owned by the ancient lineage Donegal. The white cat is known as a patron of this lineage. Try to find 9 cats in the English garden around the castle. The Irish believe those who could find all cats would be successful and happy. For the Celts, a cat is a sacred animal, a symbol of freedom and independence.
You can freely enter the territory of the park near the Northern Ireland Assembly and approach the building of the Assembly. It is a very large and tidy park you enjoy walking in.
Notably, the capital has introduced very strict cleanliness policy with high fines waiting for you if you fail to clean up after your dog or do not throw litter in a dustbin. Fines for public drinking are incredibly high, especially when you bear in mind GBP to UAH exchange rates.
There are many historical monuments and buildings in the surrounding area of Belfast.
We were lucky to see a small photogenic dolmen nearby (Legananny Dolmen).
We have also visited quite a strange place known as the Giant’s Ring, a large ring with a dolmen in the centre. The purpose of this ring is still unknown. You can hardly shoot its scale from the land, but I found a good picture from above.
The surroundings of Belfast also feature the famous Scrabo Tower in country Down. It was erected in memory of Charles Stewart, the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry. The tower was closed but it is overlooking scenic golf fields, grazing lands and sheep.
To sum up, Belfast is a very nice city with unique history. Strongly recommended to everybody!
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