A troubled city reconciled
Belfast is a city in transition. The capital of Northern Ireland bore the brunt of the violence during the decades of "the Troubles," and only since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 has it begun to pick up the pieces. Some parts of the city, such as Laganside, the Cathedral Quarter, the City Hall area, and the leafy, quiet Queen's University district, have seen significant regeneration: beautiful old buildings have been restored, the barbed wire has been cut down, and there is almost no sign of the city's violent past. In other areas, such as the divided Protestant and Catholic zones of West Belfast, the conflict is still in evidence and has even become a tourist attraction in itself. In these areas you can take a guided taxi tour of the colorful, powerful murals put up by the various sectarian militias and their supporters; seeing the ubiquitous images and slogans of violence and hatred that children here grew up with, helps an outsider understand how such an ugly incestuous conflict could go on for so long. The city is quite safe now, with several attractive areas and an emerging restaurant scene, and it is much cheaper than most major British cities. However, the legacy of "the Troubles" will continue to define Belfast for some years to come.