Video: Understanding and Empathy at a Northern Ireland Wall

We’ve been leading tours through Ireland for more than 20 years, and as a matter of principle, I’ve never had one of our Best of Ireland tours not include a trip through Northern Ireland. Ireland needs to be understood as a whole. And for our group, the last couple of days in Ulster has been an emotional highlight.

It’s a happy and hopeful time right now, as “The Troubles” that wracked the country in recent decades are essentially over. But there is still deep-seated tension ― as this so-called “Peace Wall” (built to separate the two sectarian communities) illustrates. Wherever travelers encounter walls ― whether between Palestine and Israel, San Diego and Tijuana, or Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast ― it’s a thought-provoking experience.

Our guide, Declan, made a point to stop at this wall, and he gave us all pens to leave our hopes and prayers for peace in Ireland. Our Rick Steves’ Europe Tours program, with the support of our tour guides, works to help our American travelers hear both narratives and gain empathy for societies where there is tension and strife.

This is Day 74 of my “100 Days in Europe” series. As I travel with Rick Steves’ Europe Tours, research my guidebooks, and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences across Europe. Still to come: England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, and more. Thanks for joining me here on my blog and via Facebook.