When I arrived in Belfast, I wondered if I was in a new country. I was advised by my various couchsurf hosts in the Repbulic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that I could safely count each Ireland as its own country, since counting Northern Ireland as a UK visit was like counting Scotland as the same place as England, and saying there’s only one Ireland is opening a whole can of beans that I dont know enough about to defend.
I had the greatest host of all time in Belfast, Rob, who knew how to play the Irish flute and Irish dance and spoke with the greatest Irish accent. He had another couchsurfer from Romania at his apartment the same weekend I was visiting, and we went out to an Irish pub to listen to a session, a live music night where a bunch of random musicians come together to jam on their various instruments. There was a couple flutists, a fiddler, a guitarist, and some sort of percussionist I think. They played happy, catchy folk songs that made you want to tap your foot and slap your knee, and out of the guinness drinking crown, a guy stood up and started river dancing impromptu.
Later that night we talked to the river dancer, and turned out he was actually a river dancer, having toured with the River Dance show for ten years. He was “retired” from the show, at only 30-something years old, and was actually a Quebecois Canadian descendant from Ireland. Then Rob and him had a dance off as the bar was closing, and the bouncers had to stop their feet from clapping despite the few people left in the pub cheering them on for more.
The next 36 hours I basically lived on Robs couch, having contracted some serious food poisoning or some stomach bug that crippled me with bouts of vomiting and the inability to eat for 2 days. He took care of me and checked up on me every hour, making sure I stayed alive and force-fed me some water and white rice. Needless to say I didnt get to see much of Belfast, missing out on a rugby match and an Irish dance social, but on my last day there I mustered up the energy to take a walking tour of Belfast. I strolled through the western districts and saw the politically and historically charged murals of Belfast. I also walked through downtown and Royal Avenue to see the impressive city hall.
Finally I boarded my bus to the airport that took me on a scenic drive through the outskirts of Belfast, through rolling green hills and farms in the countryside, and I couldn’t help but notice how stereotypical it was for everything in Ireland to seem a bit greyish except for the fluorescent green grass that managed to grow everywhere, as lively and vibrant as a summer field in a scene from Green Acres.