“You boys want some whiskey?” asked Freddie, the South African front desk attendant at our hostel who was as tall as his accent was thick.
The vote: a unanimous “Hell yes” from the Brothers Erving. Zak and I had arrived in Belfast only a few hours earlier, and I had already become transfixed – and the free booze (not to mention the lovely Australian from the airport) sure didn’t hurt.
The air here is different; it’s deep. It’s not carefree, but it’s by no means heavy – although it thickens quickly when Irish is spoken, and cries for a United Ireland ring out at an old IRA pub.
Yet, within the last decade and a half, Belfast has risen from being a warzone to a city of undeniable beauty, culture, and history. And, despite the tumult of the last half-century, Belfast has learned to bare its scars. Not all are worn with pride, but the rising Belfast is now a city to be proud of.
Belfast made me a pilgrim – it was the catharsis I never knew I needed. Looking back, although my troubles are laughable compared to the murderous and bloody Troubles of Ulster, I found that, like the city, I was cut in two. I arrived as a runaway from a series of shitshows, but here, my life didn’t have to be together. And although I will never be able to understand the Troubles that haunt the once nameless streets, being in the presence of something much greater than myself – a city that overcoming something more black than sin – healed me to my core. And I never even asked for it.
Over a year later, I know that I need to go back and thank it…and get some whiskey, of course.